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Imaging Magma Reservoir beneath Yellowstone Park
The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park is one of the world’s largest active volcanoes. University of Utah seismologists Fan-Chi Lin, Hsin-Hua Huang, Robert B. Smith and Jamie Farrell have used advanced seismic imaging techniques to develop a more complete view of the magma chamber beneath this supervolcano, extending the known range from 12 miles underground to 28 miles. For the study the researchers used new methods to combine the seismic information from two sources. Data from local quakes and shallower crust were provided by University of Utah Seismographic Stations surrounding Yellowstone. Information on the deeper structures was provided by the NSF-funded EarthScope array of seismometers across the US.
Their recent study, as reported in the May 15, 2015 issue of Science, reveals that along with the previously known upper magma chamber there is also a second previously unknown second reservoir that is deeper and nearly 5 times larger than the upper chamber, as depicted in the cross-section illustration which cuts from the southwest to the northeast under Yellowstone. This study provides the first complete view of the plumbing system that supplies hot and partly molten rock from the Yellowstone hotspot to the Yellowstone supervolcano. Together these chambers have enough magma to fill the Grand Canyon nearly 14 times. Using resources at the Center for High Performance Computing, new 3D models are being developed to provide greater insight into the potential seismic and volcanic hazards presented by this supervolcano.