Research News

Yellowstone magma discovery

April 23, 2015

NSF-funded seismologists at the University of Utah discover magma hidden beneath Yellowstone's supervolcano

A team of University of Utah seismologists has discovered a reservoir of hot, partly molten rock hidden 12 to 28 miles beneath Yellowstone National Park's supervolcano--enough to fill the 1000-cubic-mile Grand Canyon more than 11 times. The pool is over four times larger than a shallower, long-known magma chamber.

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded team developed a new technique that uses both local and distant earthquake data from the University of Utah Seismograph Stations and the NSF-funded EarthScope array of seismometers. The combined data resulted in a better, deeper and more complete image of the system. The newly discovered reservoir carries hot and partly molten rock upward from the top of Yellowstone's hotspot plume--about 40 miles below the surface.

Yellowstone's plumbing system is no larger or closer to erupting than before. It's just that scientists are now seeing more of the plumbing system than ever before. Yellowstone is among the world's largest supervolcanoes, with frequent earthquakes. The team believes these new models help gain a better understanding of Yellowstone's plumbing system, and may lead to improved estimates of the potential future seismic and volcanic hazards.