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Ancient tectonic plate blocks magma plume at Yellowstone, simulation shows

Scientists need new explanation for what fueled the North American supervolcano

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6:00am, February 3, 2016
morning glory hot spring

SUPERVOLCANIC ORIGINS  A rising plume of hot rock from Earth’s mantle isn’t fueling the Yellowstone supervolcano and its natural wonders (Morning Glory hot spring, shown), new research suggests.  

The supervolcano lurking under Yellowstone National Park may not have resulted from a rising plume of hot rock from the planet’s depths as previously suggested.

New simulations of North America’s underside reveal that the mantle plume blamed for powering the Yellowstone supervolcano is in fact cut off from the surface by the remnants of a lost tectonic plate. That plate keeps a lid on the plume and has prevented its heat from playing a significant role in the region’s long history of massive eruptions, geoscientists report in a paper to be published in Geophysical Research Letters.

That means scientists need a new explanation for Yellowstone’s origins, says study author Lijun Liu, a geodynamicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “For Yellowstone, the plume is not a big deal at all,” he says.

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