Space and Science

Magma expanse under Yellowstone supervolcano more vast than thought

Story highlights

Scientist measured the thousands of small earthquakes in Yellowstone to scan the earth underneath it

They discovered a vast magma reservoir fueling a vast one scientists already knew about

Prehistoric eruptions of Yellowstone supervolcano were some of Earth's largest explosions

CNN  — 

As tourists stroll between Yellowstone’s 300 active geysers, taking selfies in front of thousands of bubbling, boiling mud pots and hissing steam vents, they are treading on one of the planet’s greatest time bombs.

The park is a supervolcano so enormous, it has puzzled geophysicists for decades, but now a research group, using seismic technology to scan its depths, have made a bombshell discovery.

Yellowstone’s magma reserves are many magnitudes greater than previously thought, say scientists from the University of Utah.

Underneath the national park’s attractions and walking paths is enough hot rock to fill the Grand Canyon nearly 14 times over. Most of it is in a newly discovered magma reservoir, which the scientists featured in a study published on Thursday in the journal Science.

It may help scientists better understand why Yellowstone’s previous eruptions, in prehistoric times, were some of Earth’s largest explosions in the last few million years.

The Utah scientists also created the first three-dimensional depiction of the geothermal structure under Yellowstone, which comprises three parts.