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We are about to realize what's rumbling underneath the Yellowstone Super-volcano

For the first time in history, researchers are on track to map what lurks underneath the Yellowstone Supervolcano in Wyoming, so we can finally understand the huge underground systems that fuel the famous Old Faithful geyser, and other hydrothermal holes at Yellowstone National Park. These maps will also let us to better assume if and when a 'super-eruption' could happen in the area - something that has not occurred in 13,800 years, but when it did, it left behind the biggest crater of its type on the planet.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone. Credit: Filip Fuxa/

One of the team Carol Finn, from the US Geological Survey, said to the media, "This is actually kind of a most recent frontier if you will, in Yellowstone, of being able to aspect a large part that’s underground that people have not seen before. There is just a lot we do not know, and this study is really electrifying because it’s going to be the major opinion of a large portion of the groundwater arrangement, of the water underground that fuels all of these thermal structures."

You might think of the Yellowstone Super-volcano as like a supersized volcano, growing up out of the ground and puffing twirls of scary smoke from its wide mouth, but in reality, it’s like a huge volcano that distorted in on itself to form massive cauldron-like depressions.

These depressions are known as caldera, and they form when a volcano ejects so much magma in the period of an eruption, its now-empty space causes the whole thing to collapse like a huge sinkhole, leaving behind a massive crater. But it's not like these depressions haven’t exploding, the complete Yellowstone Supervolcano is like a massive volcanic field, covering an area of approximately 55 by 72 km (34 by 45 miles), where lava eruptions and bulge steam vents jumble the otherworldly landscape. There have been three super-eruptions in the past, say millions of years ago, with the Mesa Falls eruption 1.3 million years ago; the Huckleberry Ridge eruption roughly 2.1 million years ago; and the Lava Creek eruption approximately 630,000 years ago. A minor steam explosion about 13,800 years ago left behind a 5-km-diameter (3.1-mile) crater on the verge of Yellowstone Lake, which is believed to be the biggest of its kind in the globe. According to the Yellowstone National Park, 20 people have died due to minor bursts from the geothermal vents and blistering spring, the most recent in 2000, when a tourist was burned by boiling waters as hot as 121 degrees Celsius, 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unnecessary to say, this is not a place that we want to be stunned by. It’s time we knew accurately what’s lurking beneath, so we can do a improved job at predicting these bursts large, small, and great. The new mapping task, which got started on November 7, is beginning with a helicopter electromagnetic and magnetic investigation, which can sense even the smallest voltages generating underground.

The helicopter is fitted with a huge, hoop-shaped electromagnetic arrangement, which it hangs over the Yellowstone grounds by hovering around 60 meters (200 feet) in the air. Not only can this kit detect underground electrical activity from above the ground, it also acts like a huge X-ray machine, sensing the shapes and behavior of stuffs like geysers, mud pots, hot springs, mist vents, and hydrothermal burst craters to depths of up to 500 meters (1,500 feet). It will also be able to sense where and how hot water streams beneath the surface.

Finn told the Associated Press, "Nobody knows anything about the flow tracks of hot water that explodes from Yellowstone’s geysers. Does it move down and back up? Does it travel sideways?"

What we do know, cheers to study completed last year, is that there’s way more magma underneath Yellowstone than any person had imagined, with scientists detecting a another reservoir of hot, partly molten rock below the more shallow magma cavity we already knew about. As we described back in April 2015, this massive reservoir lies some 20-45 kilometers (12-27 miles) below the supervolcano, and this new cavity could fill the Grand Canyon up 11.2 or more times.

And we do not want any of that fuelling a calderic eruption without certain kind of caution first, as Sarah Kaplan reports for TheWashington Post:

"A calderic eruption, in which that magma came hastening to the surface, would expel 1,000 times more material than the 1980 outbreak ofMount St. Helens, the deadliest eruption in US history, and could generate a caldera dozens of miles wide-ranging. The last time this occurred, 640,000 years ago, Homo sapiens did not even exist yet. No one is sure what origins such an eruption, or when the Yellowstone super-volcano might erupt again."

The mapping investigation is being controlled by the US Geological Survey, the University of Wyoming, and the Aarhus University in Denmark. It is estimated to take four weeks, and it will notify future ground created surveys around the volcanic hotspot.

We extremely cannot wait to see what they find.

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