Computer models have helped researchers simulate the conditions beneath Yellowstone, North America's largest super volcano, allowing them to discover a zone that controls the movement of magma that flows out from the Earth's mantle during an eruption.

Transition Zone

Researchers wrote new codes for supercomputer modeling to better understand where magma is more likely to accumulate in the crust.

The study sheds light on the magmatic system behind the eruptions, specifically where magma that erupts comes from and where it accumulates.

The results, which were published in Geophysical Research Letters, showed a transition zone 3 to 6 miles below the surface where cold and rigid rocks of the upper crust give way to hot and partially molten rock.

The transition zone traps the rising magmas and causes them to collect and solidify in the sill spanning up to 9 miles thick. The mid-crustal sill separates the magma bodies. The upper one contains the gas-rich rhyolitic magma that can erupt in explosions.

Study researcher Dylan Colón, from the University of Oregon, said that other supervolcanoes around the world may also have similar structures.

Does Not Help Predict Timing Of Future Eruptions

Nonetheless, the researchers said that their work does not help predict the timing of future eruptions but rather provides a never-before-seen look, which can help explain the structure of magmatic plumbing system that fuels volcanic eruptions.

"Overall, this new image of Yellowstone's crustal magma reservoir provides a better understanding of the magmatic volume, melt configuration, and fluid state that control its potential for future volcanism and its joint volcano‐earthquake hazard, as well as a basis for assessing temporal changes in the reservoir properties that could portend new volcanism," the researchers wrote in their study.

Predicting The Next Yellowstone Eruption

Forecasting a volcanic eruption has significantly advanced over the past decades. Most scientists now think that there are observable clues that can offer a hint at the next eruption of the Yellowstone decades before it happens.

The United States Geological Survey said that precursors to volcanic eruptions include rapid ground deformation and strong earthquake swarms, which typically occur days to weeks before the actual eruption.

"Buildup to larger eruptions would include intense precursory activity (far exceeding background levels) at multiple spots within the Yellowstone volcano," the USGS explained.

"As at many caldera systems around the world, small earthquakes, ground uplift and subsidence, and gas releases at Yellowstone are commonplace events and do not reflect impending eruptions."

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