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Seismologists Obtain First Complete Picture Of Yellowstone Hotspot

Seismologists have obtained a complete picture of Yellowstones magma system

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the United States and boasts a bevy of hotspots in its 3,468 square miles of diverse landscape. Millions of people throng to Yellowstone to see wonders like the geyser Old Faithful, but for University of Utah research Professor Robert B. Smith, the draw to Yellowstone lies deep below the surface.

Previously, Smith and his team of seismologists were only able to get a partial picture of what lies beneath the park. But because of new technology and information, they have recently obtained an image of the mantel plume and the shallow crustal magma body.

“We’ve got a continuous magma system from 1,000 km down to the earth," Smith said. "Clear almost to the earth's surface and if you include the hydrothermal system, you’d say it goes right to the earth’s surface itself.”

Smith said people are concerned that we’re due for a killer volcanic eruption, but he says that’s just not so.

“The 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake," Smith said. "That’s all part of the Yellowstone plateau, 28 people were killed. On that earthquake analysis, if you include all of the big faults that come into Yellowstone, the average repeat time for a large killer earthquake is about 800 to 1,000 years. So compared to one part in 700,000 for a giant volcano, which is .0001 percent per year, that’s a really small probability.”

He said the newly developed model will help them in researching how the deformation of the magma intrusion would affect the fault lines and their impact on the magma system.