Scientists already knew of the existence of a small magma chamber hiding beneath the volcanic system in the Yellowstone National Park. The chamber contains 10.000 cubic kilometers of magma. However the researchers were amazed to find out that beneath the small chamber there is a huge reservoir consisting of 46.000 cubic kilometers of magma.
Together the two reservoirs form the largest magma source in the world. The amount of magma contained in the reservoirs could fill the Grand Canyon 11 times over. If the volcano will ever erupt it will be a disaster which humans have never seen before. The violence of the eruption would be incredible and the quantity of lava ejected will be 1.000 times as much as the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Fan-Chi Lin of the University of Utah said that it is not something definite that this is the biggest magma reservoir on the Globe. However at present scientists have no knowledge about other reservoirs as big as this one.
The discovery does not imply that the risk of an eruption is higher. However it is important that scientists should find out more about this this could turn into a global-scape disaster.
Studies from the past discovered the existence of the small magma chamber from the surface. Scientists assumed this shallow chamber is filled not only with magma, but also with hot crystals. However the chamber is too small to have caused the previous Yellowstone eruptions which ejected so much material.
The discovery of the larger reservoir also explains why there are such high levels of carbon dioxide escaping from the region. 45 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide are discharged daily creating waves of tiny earthquakes. Lin said:
“If you combine the upper and lower crustal magma reservoirs, it better accounts for the amount of carbon dioxide coming out of the ground at Yellowstone.”
Emeritus professor Robert Smith described the volcano as a giant conduit, a pipe which starts down in the earth at 1.000 kilometers.
Geological processes do not have a particular schedule, they are chaotic systems. As the geological stresses shift and distant faults break, the tension builds unexpectedly. The same goes for Yellowstone. The volcano is unpredictable. Although there are no signs that the volcano will erupt any time soon, there is neither any evidence that the volcano is running out of steam.
Image Source: The New Yorker