We already knew it was a supervolcano. But now Yellowstone National Park’s volcano is wowing scientists by containing way more magma than previously thought.

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Using 3D modeling called seismic tomography, it revealed the huge amount of magma and let scientists better understand how it’s distributed in the subsurface inside Yellowstone’s magma reservoir. The lava is also flowing closer to the surface than scientists previously realized. Scientists have said the reservoir is more like a snow cone, with solid and liquid components, rather than just a big tank of magma.

Related: Yellowstone had over 500 earthquakes, should we be worried?

In case it’s been a while since geology class, magma is the melted and semi-melted rock flowing under the earth’s surface. It’s extremely hot. When it erupts from a volcano and flows onto the Earth’s surface, we call it lava. To be deemed a supervolcano, a volcano has had to spew out more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of deposits at some point in its history. Volcano enthusiasts love to watch the Yellowstone supervolcano because a major eruption would have worldwide effects and change the global climate.

“We found that it’s likely that Yellowstone’s crustal magma reservoir holds more melt than previously was thought,” said Ross Maguire, assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s department of geology and the study author, as reported by ABC News. By melt he means how much magma versus solid rock. Previous studies estimated the partial melt fraction between 5% and 15%. The new study found it’s more like 20% at shallow depths.

Does this mean we’re all going to blow up in a supervolcano anytime soon? No, we’re still likelier to get barbecued by smaller catastrophic eruptions, which are the more common type of eruptions in Yellowstone, according to Maguire.

While the new research will be helpful for monitoring the volcano, the threat level hasn’t increased. The supervolcano is not showing “increased volcanic unrest,” Maguire said.

Via ABC News



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