Study: Yellowstone volcano much larger than believed
This new image shows Yellowstone's volcanic plume reaching about 400 miles from east to west.
April 13th, 2011
09:35 AM ET

Study: Yellowstone volcano much larger than believed

A new kind of image suggests the giant volcanic plume lying under Yellowstone National Park is even bigger than previously thought.

University of Utah geophysicists used the electrical conductivity of the huge tongue of hot and partly molten rock to create an image. That image suggests the plume is even bigger than it appears in earlier images made with seismic waves.

"It's like comparing ultrasound and MRI in the human body; they are different imaging technologies," geophysicist Michael Zhdanov, principal author of the new study and an expert on underground structures, said in a news release from the university.

A 2009 seismic study showed the plume dips downward from Yellowstone at an angle of 60 degrees and extends 150 miles west-northwest to a point at least 410 miles under the Montana-Idaho border - as far as seismic imaging could "see."

In the new study, images show the electrically conductive part of the plume dipping more gently, at an angle of perhaps 40 degrees to the west, and extending perhaps 400 miles from east to west. The geoelectric image can "see" only 200 miles deep.

The University of Utah study will be published soon in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Post by:
Filed under: Earth • Environment • Idaho • Montana • Nature • Science • U.S. • Utah • Volcanoes • Wyoming
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Chiltepin

    Question: What do you call throwing Boehner and 50 other tea baggers into the Yellowstone volcano? Answer: a good start. KEEP GOING!

    April 13, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Canadian Genius

      Not a political story. Your brain is stuck, I see.

      April 13, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • NavyDiver

      Not related to the story but it would be a very, very, very, very, etc. good start.

      April 13, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      I like burritos.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Taquito

      i LOVE burritos.

      April 14, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Consuelo Tortuga

      Rachel, are you sure you're not a burrito?

      April 14, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. ed Bailey

    Should we be surprised. North America becoming another Pompeii is not an impossibility.The scenario makes the Godzilla movies look like cartoons!

    April 13, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Canadian Genius

      This supervolcano explodes every few million years. The experts are saying they don't expect another eruption any time soon.

      April 13, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      @Canadian: The Yellowstone volcano is on a period of roughly 700,000 years (3 eruptions in the past 2.1 millions years). It's been 640,000 years since the last one. We're close enough where it could be tomorrow or it could be in 60,000 years (or more). Nobody can really say for sure – but it's not on a cycle on the order of millions of years.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geolgy Student

      if Yellowstone erupted North America would not be another Pompeii. The whole Earth would be another Pompeii. It hasn't happened in the past 2000 and i certainly haven't haven't heard of any evidence that it will erupt within the next 2000 years, either.

      April 13, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bearfoot

      the way I see it.. if it does happen there's not much we'll be able to do about it so why worry?

      April 15, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. Canadian Genius

    We've already had one dork try to make this about politics. It's only a matter of time before someone tries to make it about religion.

    April 13, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • JC Loves You

      This is happenin because of all the sin. Repent your sins so God wont destroy america with a volcano.

      April 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      I love holy burritos.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryinn

      Fire and brimmstone blahblah...

      April 14, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ashley

    It doesn't explode every few million years, it erupts approximately every 600,000 years. While we have instruments monitoring the behavior of yellowstone, we do not have instruments advanced enough to predict when it will erupt. It would be an amazing thing to see though!

    April 13, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      If you were here in Oklahoma, maybe...

      April 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnnyautomatic

      How do all you Einsteins figure 'millions of years' since Earth is only 6014 years old? I know how, If Earth is only 6014 yrs old then that means the Bible (KJV) is true and there is a God, Jesus, to answer to; but, if millions of years (evolution) is what one believes then one can justify living how they choose which is generally contrary to God's commands.
      There is enough TRUE SCIENCE to disprove Old Earth Theory and validate Young Earth Theory. Study it, but first heed Jesus' call to salvation while there is time.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • SolarPowered

      @johnnyautomatic shut the F*** up you jesus freak.

      April 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnnyautomatic

      @ SolarPowered...Very intelligent, SolarPowdered. This proves my point. You are unable to argue logically so you go into a demonically induced rant at the name of Jesus.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frankenstein

      You said King James Version. And youre getting your info from his modified and edited version of middle eastern stories. Aw, son, wake up.

      April 18, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chiltepin

    @Canada: it's still true.

    April 13, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  6. Philip

    If you see it erupt, you won't be seeing it long enough to remember. The last time, the entire north-central USA got covered in ash. Ouch.

    April 13, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. Chiltepin

    @Canada: it's still true. (Oh, and you can have Boehner, eh. We don't want him. maybe cuz we ain't geniuses like U!)

    April 13, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachel M

      Beef and bean are my favorite.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. stood and looked down

    If it's not the catipillars, politicians, bankers, or jesus it's the super volcanos.

    April 13, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. TRouble

    If you have never been you need to add it to your bucket list. truly one of the best places in the US.

    April 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. YesWeDoCare

    Yup, this is about volcanic activity and science etc. Good that they're are hopefully get a better handle on what this looks like and possible future activity.

    That's the positive part. What's the negative part? All these characters pulling politics and religion into the discussion.

    Aw shucks, ok I give in. Is Yellowstone anywhere near Paul Ryan's house?

    April 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andy

    Canadian Genius not such a genius at all. You would think they would get their facts straight before posting a comment. Every 600,000 is correct and it is actually overdue. If this thing did go off we would experience an ash winter and most of the US wouldn’t even survive.

    April 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      Cool. I don't know if i can take another oklahoma summer

      April 13, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chiltepin

    I live in SLC area. I haven't checked out the facts to see what's what, BUT, one "theory" I heard was that an eruption of this thing would swallow a HUGE region...including SLC. I dunno...But Yellowstone's beauty is truly otherworldly and definitely a sight to be seen!

    April 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mmmmm

    Like a pimple awaiting to pop!

    April 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CSea

    We Are IN 4 A BIG ! ! ! , BIG ! ! ! BIG ! ! ! , Surprise WAKE-UP ! D-Day , WAKE-UP CALL ! ! ! , We're In for A DOOZZZY ! We Have been BAAaaaddd ! Boy ., ISRAEL , JERUSALEM , BACKING the Wrong CROWD , In MID.EST, Turning OUR BACKS ON " The ONLY DEMOCRACY " Serving The ENEMIES OF PEACE for The HUMANRACE ! , More then possibly 20,000 Death or HIGHER IN THE LAST MONTH ALONE FROM CENTRAL , NORTH AFRICA , to ASIA MINOR ( TURKEY ) , TURNING A BLIND EYE TOWARDS CENTRAL ASIA -( PERSIA-IRAN NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES , & THEIR MEDDLING and MILITARY QUIET INVASIONS , From BAHRAIN, YEMEN, SYRIA , LEBANON , and SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMIES OF THE STATE , " A F L C I O ., S E I U ., Etc , Etc , Etc , and It so Happens ! Everything , Under the LACK of WATCH , FROM THIS ADMINISTRATION , and , I AM BEING KIND ! ! ! Turn-Off The LIGHTS, Party's OVER ! ! !

    April 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Triumph the Insult Comic Dog

      Are you that guy I saw in the city who was naked except for a placard that said, "Repent – the End is Near!". In 1981?

      April 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryinn

      Trollin'.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  15. kuk kabah

    US quake in the 6/7+ magnitude range to happen within a populated area within 12-20 months, maybe sooner. Once that one hits, other smaller but significant ones will be seen across a more widespread area building up to a larger one. The YSP volcano is obviously just a matter of time but will more than likely erupt within this century...the quakes that begin to take place in the US over the next 1-2 years will not help the situation and may serve as the trigger point. It has nothing to do with religion or politics, just the natural cycle of the pressure build-up and release of this particular one.

    April 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3