Computer simulations suggest that a core-deep plume of magma isn’t needed to power the massive eruptions
The driving force behind Yellowstone’s long and explosive volcanic history may not be as deep as once thought. A new study suggests that instead of a plume of hot mantle that extends down to Earth’s core, the real culprit is a subducting tectonic plate that began sinking beneath North America hundreds of millions of years ago.
Computer simulations show that movement of broken-up remnants of the ancient Farallon Plate could be stirring the mantle in a way that fuels Yellowstone, researchers report December 18 in Nature Geoscience. “The fit is so good,” says study coauthor Lijun Liu, a geodynamicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The giant supervolcano now beneath Yellowstone National Park, located mostly in Wyoming, has a 17-million-year history — much of it on the move. In that time, the locus of volcanism has moved northeastward from