Science

Yellowstone volcano latest: New thermal area developing beneath supervolcano


Scientists have been analysing satellite imagery of Yellowstone to discover a new thermal vent brewing beneath the surface. The new thermal vent is forming so deep in the forest that experts had to fly over it in a helicopter to analyse the situation. Thermal vents form as the extreme heat from the molten magma effects underground waters, creating steam which needs to escape.

The National Park Service said: “The park’s hydrothermal system is the visible expression of the immense Yellowstone volcano; it would not exist without the underlying partially molten magma body that releases tremendous heat.

“The system also requires water, such as ground water from the mountains surrounding the Yellowstone Plateau.”

Dr Mike Poland, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientist in charge said: “This is a new thermal area that’s really still developing.”

When Dr Poland and co analysed the satellite imagery, they noticed a region of dead trees and a lack of flora which had been killed by the heat and boiling chemicals.

He said: “You can see places where the trees have fallen and the underside of the tree that was facing the ground was sort of scorched.”

Following the discovery, the scientists travelled by helicopter to the site and walked along the area which may not have been touched by humans for centuries.

Dr Poland said: “It was pretty. I felt an excitement, but also kind of a wonder that here we are at this new place that really has not been described, at least by people on the ground.

“You do have the sense of like, wow, this is new, and you wonder what some of the early explorers or Native Americans must have thought when they saw these places for the first time.”

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READ MORE: Yellowstone supervolcano: Is eruption imminent after 193 earthquakes?

But when it does finally erupt, the consequences could be global.

The USGS said: “Such a giant eruption would have regional effects such as falling ash and short-term (years to decades) changes to global climate.”

A supereruption would also effect the landscape of the planet. The USGS continued: “Such eruptions usually form calderas, broad volcanic depressions created as the ground surface collapses as a result of withdrawal of partially molten rock (magma) below.”



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