Underground column of molten rock found at Yellowstone

Thursday, September 9, 2010
By Paul Martin

Research suggests activity is fueling Pacific Northwest’s volcanic activity

By Lynne Peeples

A plume of molten rock rising from deep beneath Yellowstone National Park is probably what is fueling the region’s volcanic activity, as well as tectonic plate oddities across the Pacific Northwest, new research suggests.

Building on a growing body of evidence, Mathias Obrebski of the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues created the most convincing picture to date of a Yellowstone mantle plume — one that extends from about 621 miles below the surface of the Earth.

Debates have long been waged over whether erupting and shaking in the area over the last few millions of years — and a track marked out by a chain of volcanic calderas along the Yellowstone Snake River Plain in Idaho — could be the work of a column of hot rock rising up from deep within the Earth’s mantle . The mantle is the layer of hot, viscous rock beneath the planet’s crust.

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