Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Fri April 24 2015

Scientists Discover Larger Magma Chamber Under Yellowstone Supervolcano

Destination & Tourism | Donald Wood | April 24, 2015

Scientists Discover Larger Magma Chamber Under Yellowstone Supervolcano

PHOTO: Crowds gather to witness the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone. (Thinkstock)

Visiting Yellowstone National Park is on the bucket list for many travelers, but a recent discovery underneath the park in regard to the existing supervolcano has stunned the scientific community.

According to scientists from the University of Utah, the huge reserve of magma beneath Yellowstone that causes the geysers and steam vents is much larger than any researchers had previously discovered.

Scientists already knew about the magma chamber in the upper crust, but the team from University of Utah used seismic technology to discover another chamber of hot and partly molten rocks 12 to 28 miles below the existing supervolcano.

The newly discovered magma reservoir is 4.4 times larger than the one above it, and the chamber sits in the lower crust just above the uppermost mantle. While there is molten magma inside the chamber, the rock is spongy but mostly solid.

The study was conducted and written about by a team including Hsin-Hua Huang, and he commented on the discovery on the university’s official website:

“For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone. That includes the upper crustal magma chamber we have seen previously plus a lower crustal magma reservoir that has never been imaged before and that connects the upper chamber to the Yellowstone hotspot plume below.”

For a size comparison, the scientists who made the discovery claim the new chamber could fill the Grand Canyon an awe-inspiring 11.2 times. The previously-discovered chamber would only fill the canyon 2.5 times.

While the news of even more fuel for the supervolcano can be alarming, scientists do not believe there is any more danger than before. The discovery simply helps explain why previous eruptions at the site were some of the largest in history.

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