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Yellowstone's missing magmatic link
Yellowstone is an extensively studied “supervolcano” that has a large supply of heat coming from a pool of magma near the surface and the mantle below. A link between these two features has long been suspected. Huang et al. imaged the lower crust using seismic tomography (see the Perspective by Shapiro and Koulakov). Their findings provide an estimate of the total amount of molten rock beneath Yellowstone and help to explain the large amount of volcanic gases escaping from the region.
The Yellowstone supervolcano is one of the largest active continental silicic volcanic fields in the world. An understanding of its properties is key to enhancing our knowledge of volcanic mechanisms and corresponding risk. Using a joint local and teleseismic earthquake P-wave seismic inversion, we revealed a basaltic lower-crustal magma body that provides a magmatic link between the Yellowstone mantle plume and the previously imaged upper-crustal magma reservoir. This lower-crustal magma body has a volume of 46,000 cubic kilometers, ~4.5 times that of the upper-crustal magma reservoir, and contains a melt fraction of ~2%. These estimates are critical to understanding the evolution of bimodal basaltic-rhyolitic volcanism, explaining the magnitude of CO2 discharge, and constraining dynamic models of the magmatic system for volcanic hazard assessment.