A giant volcano lies beneath Yellowstone National Park and the
heat it generates powers all the hot springs and geysers in the
area, but where does this heat come from?
Scientists describe Yellowstone as a hotspot marked by
anomalously high temperature. The intense heat produced by this
hotspot is responsible for the melting of the crust and the
formation of basaltic and rhyolitic magma.
The Yellowstone hotspot is fixed within the Earth's mantle and
has long been suspected to be part of a mantle plume, an
upwelling of abnormally hot rock within the Earth's mantle.
Mantle plumes may originate from the boundary separating the
mantle and the core about 1,850 miles beneath the surface.
To find evidence of a plume beneath the Yellowstone, Study
researchers Peter Nelson and Stephen Grand, from the University
of Texas, used seismic tomography, a technique for imaging
Earth's subsurface using seismic waves produced by earthquakes
or explosions. The data provided evidence for plume extending
from the core-mantle boundary all the way to the base of the
crust at Yellowstone.
"The model reveals a single narrow, cylindrically shaped slow
anomaly, approximately 350 km in diameter that we interpret as a
whole-mantle plume. The anomaly is tilted to the northeast and
extends from the core-mantle boundary to the surficial position
of the Yellowstone hotspot," the researchers wrote in their
study, which was published in Nature Geoscience in March. "Our
results strongly support a deep origin for the Yellowstone