03:00 GMT14 August 2020
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    A computer model of the US’ Yellowstone National Park supervolcano, put together by researchers from the University of Oregon, has revealed new details about the hot spot’s history and inner workings.

    Employing a sophisticated technique that uses established data to run scenarios and predict new outcomes, University of Oregon geologist Ilya Bindeman and his team created a computer model that confirmed recent discoveries and uncovered new details about the Yellowstone supervolcano that last erupted about 630,000 years ago.

    The simulations confirmed that two giant magma reservoirs, formed over the course of 7 million years, are boiling underneath Yellowstone, one located 4 to 14 kilometers beneath the surface, and the other at a depth of 20 to 45 kilometers.

    Based on the researchers' computer model, these two areas could be separated by a cooler magma shelf about 10 to 15 kilometers thick. This unmelted "mid-crustal sill," or "crustal transition zone," is where cold rocks meet with the hot magma. As the cold and hot rocks intermingle with each other and temperature transitions take place, the magma solidifies into clumps on the sill.

    "This work appears to validate initial assumptions and gives us more information about Yellowstone's magma locations," Bindeman said in the study, published this week in Geophysical Research Letters.

    The supercomputer's 3-D modelling also showed that the monstrous supervolcano could have been pushed out of the Pacific Ocean to its present location by powerful tectonic movements. The new theory contradicts the well-accepted hypothesis that Yellowstone rose up from deep in the Earth's mantle. 

    While the new study doesn't offer any predictions for the supervolcano's next eruption, the information is a step toward a more comprehensive understanding of the beast and can be used for further research.


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