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The Yellowstone Caldera is More Active than Scientists Previously Thought

From 2004 to 2006, scientists at the University of Utah and US Geological Survey (USGS) observed an accelerated rate of uplift (a process of tectonic upheaval that forms mountains) of the Yellowstone Caldera. The Yellowstone caldera is a cauldron-like volcanic feature that was formed by a collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. The caldera lies over a hotspot, where light, hot, molten mantle rock rises towards the surface.

Scientists used EarthScope's Plate Boundary Observatory to isolate vertical and horizontal ground motion by GPS measurements in the Yellowstone area. Combining that data with InSAR (interferometric synthetic aperture radar) measurements, they developed a model of magma migration to explain their observations. While scientists do not feel the increased uplift is indicative of an impending eruption, it does give insight into the life cycle of a supervolcano.

By combining data that had not been previously compared, scientists discovered that the area is still active even though it has not erupted for 640,000 years. Understanding the deformation and magmatic evolution of the area contributes to general knowledge of volcanoes and may help further research in predicting future eruptions.

Image

  • Photo of the Yellowstone Caldera
Yellowstone's caldera, a remnant of an ancient volcano, is rising.
Robert B. Smith, University of Utah
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