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Thu Apr 27 05:21:50 SAST 2017

Scientists get better view of magma under Yellowstone super-volcano

AFP | 2015-04-24 11:01:59.0
Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic hot spring is pictured in this handout photo
Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic hot spring is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters April 23, 2015. The hot springs are among the park’s hydrothermal features created by the fact that Yellowstone is a supervolcano – the largest type of volcano on Earth. A new University of Utah study reports discovery of a huge magma reservoir beneath Yellowstone’s previously known magma chamber. That doesn’t increase the risk of an eruption, but means scientists are getting a better view of Yellowstone’s volcanic plumbing system.
Image by: HANDOUT / REUTERS

A big reservoir of hot, partly molten rock has been discovered beneath the famed Yellowstone National Park in the United States, but researchers said Thursday there is no added risk of volcanic eruption.

The findings in the journal Science show for the first time that the amount of magma beneath the surface is far bigger than previously thought.

The reservoir lies 19 to 45 kilometers beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano and is more than four times bigger than the magma chamber that is already known to exist.

"For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone," said co-author Hsin-Hua Huang, a post-doctoral researcher in geology and geophysics at the University of Utah.

"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."

Experts say there is one in 700,000 annual chance of a volcanic eruption at Yellowstone, which spans the midwestern US states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

The Yellowstone supervolcano last erupted about 640,000 years ago.

"The magma chamber and reservoir are not getting any bigger than they have been, it's just that we can see them better now using new techniques," said co-author Jamie Farrell, also a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Utah.

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