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Scientists explain the magmatic plumbing system that fuels Yellowstone eruptions

Scientists at the University of Oregon successfully projected how the structure and activity of the magma took place under Yellowstone. The step could be a significant contribution to predict future Yellowstone eruptions. ( Bill Schaefer | Getty Images )

New research deciphers the magmatic structure and movements beneath Yellowstone. The finding may advance the creation of systems that could predict the timing of future eruptions.

While the new discovery does not help identify the precise timing of when Yellowstone's next eruption will be, it identifies what fueled the eruptions in the past. . Specifically, scientists decipher the structure of the magmatic plumbing system beneath the supervolcano where this magma originates and how they move and accumulate.

What triggers the Yellowstone blasts?

The last Yellowstone caldera-forming eruption occurred 630,000 years ago, while the largest volume of lava emerged 70,000 years ago.

With the use of computer modeling, scientists at the University of Oregon identified the presence of a thick layer of crust beneath Yellowstone. This layer can control the movement of the magma and propel its surface from the mantle of the Earth to expel it from the mouth of the volcano in the form of lava.

Within 3 to 6 miles of depth of the volcano lies the upper layer of the crust formed by cold and hard rocks. This is also where opposing forces take place. As the forces fight with each other, the pressure will open paths where hot, ductile and partially molten rock can penetrate the upper crust.

These roads can trap the magmas, which causes them to accumulate and solidify in a large horizontal body called the sill. The accumulated magma can accumulate a sill up to 9 miles thick. Even at this depth, the sill could only fill the middle part of the volcano's crust. Above the middle part of the crust there is another form of magma bodies containing the gas rich rhyolitic magma.

"We believe that this structure is responsible for the rhyolite and basalt volcanism throughout the Yellowstone access point, including supervolcanic eruptions," says Ilya Bindeman, co-author and professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the university. .

The structure of the threshold and the middle layer of the crust projected in computer modeling are similar to other supervolcanoes that exploded throughout the world, explains Dylan Colon, the principal investigator for the study.

Predicting Future Yellowstone Eruptions

The research, which was published in Geophysical Research Letters can be used to compare mantle feathers under Yellowstone and mantle plumes found in other supervolcanoes. By comparing, experts could soon predict the actual situation in Yellowstone, says Colon.

Colón, however, clarifies that the computer models of the seismic images could not identify the exact composition, state and quantity of magma found above and below the sill. The images could not explain why and how they formed there.

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