A supervalcano beneath Yellowstone National Park is larger than originally thought and one that could wipe out global civilizations after researchers were able to map its massive volcanic chamber.
New research shows that Yellowstone's magma chamber is at least 250 percent larger than previously believed with the chamber being roughly 55 miles by 20 miles. The eruption produced by such a large volcano would drastically alter the Earth's climate leading to mass die-offs of species around the world.
"We've been working there for a long time, and we've always thought it would be bigger ... but this finding is astounding," University of Utah Professor Bob Smith recently told BBC News.
Geophysicists and geologists have been trying to determine the exact size of the volcanic chamber of some years now and after new developments in research technologies and methods combined with a recent series of small earthquakes were able to map and get a more precise measurement of the volcanic chamber.
"We know there's been these really large volcanic eruptions in the past and what we're seeing now matches that," Dr. Jamie Farrell told BBC News, adding that when the volcano underneath Yellowstone does erupts it will be 2,000 times larger than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey there were more than 300 earthquakes that hit the region around Yellowstone National Park in the month of November alone.
Still, geologists contend that the makeup of the magma and the surrounding rock of the Earth's crust will combine for an explosive eruption.
"The difference in density between molten magma in the caldera and the surrounding rock is big enough to drive magma from the chamber to the surface," Dr. Jean-Philippe Perrillat, of the National Centre for Scientific Research in Grenoble, said in a statement
"The effect is like the extra buoyancy of a football when it is filled with air underwater, which forces it to the surface because of the denser water around it," Perrillat said. "If the volume of magma is big enough, it should come to the surface and explode like a champagne bottle being uncorked."