Researchers Find New Way to Estimate Magma Beneath Yellowstone Supervolcano

Researchers at Washington State University and the University of Idaho have found a new way to estimate how fast magma is recharging beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano. While their findings offer no help in predicting if the volcano will erupt, they can now get a better understanding of a key factor – a pool of basalt magma recharging the system – in how it works.

“It is the coal in the furnace that’s heating things up,” said Peter Larson, a professor in the Washington State University School of the Environment. “It’s heating up the boiler. The boiler is what explodes. This tells us what is heating the boiler.”

Some 640,000 years have passed since the volcano’s last major eruption. But it can be “super,” having produced one of the largest known blasts on Earth and spewing more than 2,000 times as much ash as Mount St. Helens did in 1980.

A major element in the volcano’s power is the explosive, silica-rich rhyolite that break’s through the Earth’s crust during an eruption. Larson and his colleagues focused on the plume of basalt magma heating the rhyolite from below.

“This gives us an idea of how much magma is recharging the volcano every year,” said Larson, whose findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Geosphere.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the researchers “spiked” several hot springs in Yellowstone National Park with deuterium, a stable hydrogen isotope. The researchers used the length of time needed for deuterium concentrations to return to background levels and the temperature of the hot springs to calculate the amount of water and heat flowing out of the springs. Using deuterium for estimating heat flow is safe for the environment and has no visual impact to distract from the park visitors’ experience.

The team found that previous studies underestimated the amount of water coursing through the springs and the amount of heat leaving the springs. The data also allowed the team to estimate the amount of magma entering the supervolcano from the mantle.

The study also has implications for geothermal energy, helping inform how heat is transported to the Earth’s surface from molten rock.

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Author: Mitch Battros

Mitch Battros is a scientific journalist who is highly respected in both the scientific and spiritual communities due to his unique ability to bridge the gap between modern science and ancient text. Founded in 1995 – Earth Changes TV was born with Battros as its creator and chief editor for his syndicated television show. In 2003, he switched to a weekly radio show as Earth Changes Media. ECM quickly found its way in becoming a top source for news and discoveries in the scientific fields of astrophysics, space weather, earth science, and ancient text. Seeing the need to venture beyond the Sun-Earth connection, in 2016 Battros advanced his studies which incorporates our galaxy Milky Way - and its seemingly rhythmic cycles directly connected to our Solar System, Sun, and Earth driven by the source of charged particles such as galactic cosmic rays, gamma rays, and solar rays. Now, "Science Of Cycles" is the vehicle which brings the latest cutting-edge discoveries confirming his published Equation.