Scientists at the University of Utah have recently discovered a large reservoir of magma underneath Yellowstone National Park’s supervolcano.
The reservoir, which is 12 to 28 miles beneath the volcano, is filled with about 11,200 cubic miles of hot, partially molten rock. A previously known 2,500-cubic-mile chamber of magma sits above that, at about 12 miles deep, reports the Smithsonian.
This means that the combined volume is enough magma to fill the Grand Canyon 14 times.
The University of Utah seismologists found the reservoir and chamber by using earthquake data to create a 3D map of what is happening beneath the earth’s surface.
“Every additional thing we learn about the Yellowstone volcanic system is one more piece in the puzzle, and that gets us closer to really understanding how the volcanic system works,” Fan-Chi Lin, co-author of the study published in Science Magazine, said. “If we could better understand the transport properties of magmatic fluids, we could get a better understanding of the timing and, therefore, where we are in the volcanic cycle.”
Three of the last supervolcano eruptions at Yellowstone occurred 2 million, 1.2 million and 640,000 years ago. But there is no need to panic because, according to researcher and emeritus professor Robert Smith, the chances of a supervolcano erupting today is about 1 in 700,000 each year.