The pit of magma beneath the Yellowstone caldera is still an enigma in many ways, but researchers are now closer than ever to understanding how it became the powerhouse of the supervolcano.
A new computer model of the magma plume reveals 7 million years of underground unrest, leading up to the creation of the dual magma chambers that animate the Yellowstone caldera in modern times, scientists reported in a new study.
“This is, for the first time, the numerical look at how magma distributes itself in the crust,” said study co-author Ilya Bindeman, a geoscientist at the University of Oregon.
The researchers hope the new model will explain these odd interactions. The model may also eventually help inform predictions of Yellowstone’s future, Bindeman said.
“This modeling tells you with maybe half a kilometer [about a third of a mile] resolution where the magma is and what is the composition of this magma, how much magma, etc.,” he said. With additional detail, the model could help predict the eruptive potential of that magma, he added. The last Yellowstone eruption occurred 640,000 years ago.