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.

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

    A volcanic induced winter would take care of global warming!

    April 13, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. kim

    Will we change or continue to live in denial because its just easier to do.

    April 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      There's no preparing or preventing a super volcano. Embrace the horror. Sooner or later, you, or your decendants, will be victims to some extent of Yellowstone.

      April 13, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Aust

    If the super volcano does erupt, non of us will live long enough to "enjoy" the experience. The US and surrounding countries would be wiped off the map almost immediately and if you don't die straight away, you can enjoy the expereience of being covered in volcanic ash (which perforates your lungs), no sunlight and the dying of pretty much everything. Super Volcanos scare the bejeesus out of me.

    April 13, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • No

      You are going a little overboard there. It WOULD be horrific and you could count any adjacent states 100% goner and the ring of severe damage would be much larger still, although folks in the Northeast, Southeast, Texas, SoCal, coastal OR and WA, eastern Canada, BC, far northern Canada, etc. would all be 100% fine. But yeah it would just utterly change the face of the US, the better part of the western and upper midwest would just be gone. THe climate would probably see snow in late June in NYC and with the heartland so damaged or utterly gone our food production would be in badddd shape and we'd only jsut barely be able to feed ourselves and the rest of the world wouldnt be able to get any food exports from us and much fewer from Canada and there would be some worldwide trouble.

      April 14, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. fostaman

    OH! OH! OH!, get the Crazy Burrito at Betos for just $2.50!!!

    April 14, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
    • pickled beats

      damn, thats a steal!

      March 5, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bearclaw Palin

    This is a perfect location for a nuclear powerplant... .

    April 14, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Chiltepin


    April 14, 2011 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. 3 myle eyeland

    I cant ear you... .

    April 14, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mayhem

    Personally I like corn.

    April 14, 2011 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. Robert

    Hey, Free Energy except the environmentalists have alread prohibited geothermal power in the region.

    April 14, 2011 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. jersey boy

    been there. the place is beautiful but it stinks of sulfur.:) it can blow if it wants to just as long as it takes out LA & its environs......

    April 14, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Eve

    Fascinating tho.

    April 14, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  12. Consuelo Tortuga

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

    April 14, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  13. needfreshair

    From what I've heard and read, the point-of-no-return perimeter would be fairly large as this area would see 'feet' of ash falling on them. However, those points farthest away from the explosion would not escape entirely as the amount of ash would fall over hours, days and would essentially block the sun for an undermined amount of time (I don't remember exactly how long projected). This would drop temperatures, prevent growth of vegetation, destroy the atmosphere with ash-smog and would also receive a certain amount of ash on the ground. This ash-cloud would encompass virtually the globe to a lesser or greater extent (I imagine jet stream would play big part in travel of ash).

    I've been to Yellowstone and it's truly beautiful but I sincerely hope that I'm not on this earth when such a catastrophe occurs. It would be a slow death of unimaginable proportions. Just my humble thoughts.

    April 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SolarPowered

    I've lived in that 100 mile complete annihilation zone (North Western Wyo) for almost 27 years. I'm not scared at all. Not even with knowing that the ground took a "breath" a few months ago and raised up some odd feet. *yawn*

    April 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. fATTY mATTY

    Say goodbye to Hollywood

    April 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
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