Scientists decipher the magma bodies under Yellowstone

April 16, 2018, University of Oregon
Graphic by University of Oregon scientists provides new structural information, based on supercomputer modeling, about the location of a mid-crustal sill that separates magma under Yellowstone. Credit: Dylan Colon

Using supercomputer modeling, University of Oregon scientists have unveiled a new explanation for the geology underlying recent seismic imaging of magma bodies below Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone, a supervolcano famous for explosive eruptions, large calderas and extensive lava flows, has for years attracted the attention of scientists trying to understand the location and size of below it. The last caldera forming eruption occurred 630,000 years ago; the last large volume of lava surfaced 70,000 years ago.

Crust below the park is heated and softened by continuous infusions of magma that rise from an anomaly called a , similar to the source of the magma at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. Huge amounts of water that fuel the dramatic geysers and hot springs at Yellowstone cool the crust and prevent it from becoming too hot.

With computer modeling, a team led by UO doctoral student Dylan P. Colón has shed light on what's going on below. At depths of 5-10 kilometers (3-6 miles) opposing forces counter each other, forming a transition zone where cold and rigid rocks of the upper crust give way to hot, ductile and even partially molten rock below, the team reports in a paper in Geophysical Research Letters.

This transition traps rising magmas and causes them to accumulate and solidify in a large horizontal body called a sill, which can be up to 15 kilometers (9 miles) thick, according to the team's computer modeling.

"The results of the modeling matches observations done by sending seismic waves through the area," said co-author Ilya Bindeman, a professor in the UO's Department of Earth Sciences. "This work appears to validate initial assumptions and gives us more information about Yellowstone's magma locations."

This mid-crustal sill is comprised of mostly solidified gabbro, a rock formed from cooled magma. Above and below lay separate magma bodies. The upper one contains the sticky and gas-rich rhyolitic magma that occasionally erupts in explosions that dwarf the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state.

Similar structures may exist under super volcanoes around the world, Colón said. The geometry of the sill also may explain differing chemical signatures in eruptive materials, he said.

Colón's project to model what's below the nation's first national park, which was sculpted 2 million years ago by volcanic activity, began soon after a 2014 paper in Geophysical Research Letters by a University of Utah-led team revealed evidence from seismic waves of a large magma body in the upper crust.

Scientists had suspected, however, that huge amounts of carbon dioxide and helium escaping from the ground indicated that more magma is located farther down. That mystery was solved in May 2015, when a second University of Utah-led study, published in the journal Science, identified by way of seismic waves a second, larger body of magma at depths of 20 to 45 kilometers (12-27 miles).

However, Colón said, the seismic-imaging studies could not identify the composition, state and amount of magma in these magma bodies, or how and why they formed there.

To understand the two structures, UO researchers wrote new codes for supercomputer modeling to understand where magma is likely to accumulate in the crust. The work was done in collaboration with researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, also known as ETH Zurich.

The researchers repeatedly got results indicating a large layer of cooled magma with a high melting point forms at the mid-crustal sill, separating two magma bodies with magma at a lower melting point, much of which is derived from melting of the crust.

"We think that this structure is what causes the rhyolite-basalt volcanism throughout the Yellowstone hotspot, including supervolcanic eruptions," Bindeman said. "This is the nursery, a geological and petrological match with eruptive products. Our modeling helps to identify the geologic structure of where the rhyolitic material is located."

The new research, for now, does not help to predict the timing of future eruptions. Instead, it provides a never-before-seen look that helps explain the structure of the magmatic plumbing system that fuels these eruptions, Colón said. It shows where the eruptible magma originates and accumulates, which could help with prediction efforts further down the line.

"This research also helps to explain some of the chemical signatures that are seen in eruptive materials," Colón said. "We can also use it to explore how hot the mantle plume is by comparing models of different plumes to the actual situation at Yellowstone that we understand from the geologic record."

Colón is now exploring what influences the chemical composition of magmas that erupt at volcanoes like Yellowstone.

Studying the interaction of rising magmas with the crustal transition zone, and how this influences the properties of the bodies that form both above and below it, the scientists wrote, should boost scientific understanding of how mantle plumes influence the evolution and structure of continental crust.

Explore further: Research may explain controversies related to great magma eruptions

More information: D. P. Colón et al, Thermomechanical modeling of the formation of a multilevel, crustal-scale magmatic system by the Yellowstone plume, Geophysical Research Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1029/2018GL077090

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eachus
2 / 5 (4) Apr 16, 2018
This is what makes me wonder about the people who are worried about global warming. The eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 resulted in global cooling of about 4 degrees, and "the year without a summer." A VEI 7 eruption at Yellowstone could do the same, but Yellowstone is also capable of VEI 8 eruptions ten times stronger.

Yellowstone may not have a significant eruption in the next hundred thousand years, but history says that VEI 7 events occur about once per 1000 years worldwide, with VEI 6 events about once a century.

There were four VEI 6s in the twentieth century (Mt Pinatubo in 1991 was the most recent, and Mt St Helens was only a 5.) It may be that we got better at detecting eruptions in the far North. Climatologists have trouble explaining the pause in global warming? Even before Mt. Pinatubo it was easy to "explain" the climate record for the last two thousand years. Global warming, major volcano eruption, repeat as necessary.
ddaye
4.5 / 5 (8) Apr 16, 2018
This is what makes me wonder about the people who are worried about global warming.
Those are people who are informed by the strong consensus of climate scientists that human activity has begun dramatically warming the clmate and, among many other things, acidifying the oceans in recent generations. Why would anyone wonder why people accept scientific findings?
theredpill
1 / 5 (4) Apr 17, 2018

"Why would anyone wonder why people accept scientific findings?"

There is a difference between scientific "findings" and scientific "conclusions". The scientific conclusion is that CO2 was responsible for the bulk of the warming that has occurred since we became industrialized, the "findings" are the scientifically produced data upon which the conclusions are based. When findings conflict the conclusion becomes an opinion...but it is presented as though the conclusion is definitive. Visiting this site, it's pretty easy to see why so many charged debates rage in the comments sections. There are articles here which feature evidence against a lot of mainstream theories, so you have people who support (sometimes violently) the status quo clashing with people who either use the evidence presented as to why their own pet theory makes more sense, or people with an open mind who don't put all of their eggs in one basket.
eachus
1 / 5 (4) Apr 18, 2018
Why would anyone wonder why people accept scientific findings.


I am retired, I consider myself a mathematician. Mathematicians accept proofs. Scientists use the scientific method. Did you learn the scientific method in school? Form a hypothesis. Test the hypothesis by experiment--if it can't be tested, it isn't science. What do you do if a hypothesis fails? You reject it and start over--unless you call yourself a climate scientist. Then you "improve" your model. and "renormalize" your data.

I happen to have a talent for non-parametic statistics. A while ago I reviewed a paper showing a connection between sunspots, cosmic rays, rainfall and global temperatures. The statistical methods used were hairy--but fine. Then Michael Moore came along with his hockey stick and wiped out the Little Ice Age. Right...

Oh, and ask any scientist who works with ice cores or sea bottom cores what high acid levels show. That's right, volcanoes: SO2--> H2SO4.

Da Schneib
4 / 5 (4) Apr 18, 2018
@eachus, do you have papers accepted in the peer-reviewed literature to present as evidence either to support your assertions of high ph in either type of core, or to support your assertion that volcanoes are responsible?

If not, this is just another conspiracy theory.
eachus
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 18, 2018
That last bit may be a bit too cryptic. Carbonic acid, H2CO3 is what you get when you dissolve carbon dioxide in water. Unless you keep it under pressure, you soda will go flat. Calcium carbonate is found in bones, sea shells, and exoskeletons. More important, in seawater, most dissolved CO2 is actually found in the form of HCO3- (bicarbonate ions). Dumping sulfuric acid in the ocean (H2SO4, any SO2 is rapidly turned into H2SO4) won't change the pH much, it will be buffered by the bicarbonate. So worry about sulfur dioxide. Whether from cars, trucks, coal burning power plants, or volcanoes, adding it to the atmosphere, and then to the ocean is bad news.

Which is one reason I so strongly oppose coal burning power plants, in the US, in Europe, or in China. Molten salt nuclear reactors (burning uranium or thorium, I don't care) are what we need world-wide, as they are the only currently available source of power cheaper than coal.
eachus
3 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2018
@eachus, do you have papers accepted in the peer-reviewed literature to present as evidence either to support your assertions of high ph in either type of core, or to support your assertion that volcanoes are responsible?


If you really are interested, try this paper as a starting point: https://agupubs.o...JD016592 It has a wide set of references, the complete paper is available on-line. The reason it was of interest to me was that it involves non-normal statistics, rather than due to any particular conclusions. (If you had the usual one semester statistic course, most of what you learned was "normal theory" statistics, where you can assume that if you have sufficient samples, they will be distributed like the normal curve. There are other statistical methods which don't assume normality. If you do a goodness-of-fit test for normality and it fails, these are what is available.)
Da Schneib
3 / 5 (4) Apr 18, 2018
I looked your paper over and don't see what you're talking about. Please explain what impact any of this has on global warming.
eachus
1 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2018
I tried to answer your question, which had to do with pH in core samples. If you need me to connect the dots for you. Mt Tambora erupted in 1815, Known dead about 100 thousand, mostly from starvation. It dropped temperatures world-wide about 4 degrees. There are a bunch of loony-tunes running around playing Chicken Little about the fact that "anthropogenic global warming" may reach temperatures from before the Little Ice Age. I am much more worried about deaths (of humans) from both smog and CO2. I love to see plans for asteroid defense, but we also need plans for how the human race (not likely us individually) can survive the next VEI 8 eruption. (Tambora was a tenth that size. Imagine a global 40 degree temperature drop.) Yellowstone has had three VEI 8 eruptions in the past 2 million years. There are over a dozen more calderas from VEI 8 eruptions around the globe.
Da Schneib
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 19, 2018
I still don't see what any of this has to do with global warming, except for your statement about the so-called "Little Ice Age." It strikes me as being kind of like ignoring a broken arm because you have heart disease.

I am curious about your assertions regarding VEI 8 eruptions. If they're such a big hairy scary deal, how come there haven't been 3 mass extinctions in the last 2 million years if Yellowstone has had them?
mackita
1 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2018
please explain what impact any of this has on global warming
Isn't it evident? The geovolcanic activity is on the rise - so it can contribute to global warming too.You can find dozens of links supporting this hypothesis here. But in my theory most of heat forms itself in marine water and soil directly, the heating of Earth crust is not so dominant heat source (particularly because of poor heat transfer).
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2018
The denier shills for the Carbon Lobby call it Global Warming. Most of us call it Global Climate Change.

A strong wind shear knocks you off your feet - natural causes.

I come along and gleefully do the Wheatley Stomp on your quivering body - anthropogenic cause adding to the level of naturally occurring injuries.

What naturally occurs, at best we can try and prepare to endure and survive.

The unnatural activities of the rapaciously greedy and short-sighted? Either rein them in or accept that we will be deserving extinction. "We have met the enemy and he is us!" - H. Block.

Myself? I am of the cynic's school. That evolution has dead-ended with the realization that our intelligence is unable to overcome millions of years of self-destructive monkey instincts.
barakn
5 / 5 (4) Apr 19, 2018
"We have met the enemy and he is us!" - H. Block
That quote is generally attributed to Walt Kelly, not "H. Block."
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Apr 19, 2018
I come along and gleefully do the Wheatley Stomp on your quivering body
Naw you come along and make up shit whenever you get the chance. Because you think its uncommonly clever I suppose.
"We have met the enemy and he is us!" - H. Block

That quote is generally attributed to Walt Kelly, not "H. Block."
-See?
Da Schneib
1 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2018
Meh, I didn't figure I'd get any response. I'm glad I didn't waste my time asking what these supposed deficiencies in statistics are.
eachus
not rated yet Apr 22, 2018
Meh, I didn't figure I'd get any response. I'm glad I didn't waste my time asking what these supposed deficiencies in statistics are.


I have a real life in addition to posting here...

The deficiencies in the statistics are mostly--but not completely--due to assuming that normal theory applies to time series data. Normal theory--that pretty curve you may have learned in school--requires independence of observations. Even day to day weather variations are not independent, and talking about climate assumes a lack of independence over years and decades.

Can an ARIMA model be fit to global temperature data? Not hard, and makes a good homework assignment. Or you can do a Fourier transform and look at periodic effects--a better homework assignment with daily or monthly temperatures. Trying to associate the parameters of your ARIMA model with real effects? Much harder. (Easier for weather data from one location, rather than global data.)
Da Schneib
3 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2018
Care to show us where these are encoded in the AOGCMs? Since the code is public and all.
Da Schneib
3 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2018
Here, just so you don't have to look it up, the code viewer for GISS GCM modelE, the GISS AOGCM: https://www.giss....src_ar4/

This is the latest version of the code checked in to the viewer. You can download later versions of the code if you want to use your own viewer.

For the record, you're lying and it's obvious because there's no statistics in the code. That's not how it works. But go ahead and knock yourself out. This is physics, not statistics.
mackita
not rated yet Apr 22, 2018
The problem with Yellowstone caldera isn't just that it's rising steadily in vertical direction - but that this motion is also lateral - in similar way like motion of water surface above bubble reaching this surface. This development of situation already vested interest of Russian generals.
Da Schneib
3 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2018
Most importantly of all, these GCMs don't do curve fitting. They calculate today's value by evolving the systems starting with the ending value from yesterday, using the physics of solar energy input, energy loss to space, and global energy flow through the atmosphere, ocean, and land surface. Once they have calculated for the day they append the data to files for later analysis, then start on the next day. If they say the temperature is higher ten or twenty years later, it's not because there was a fit to some curve.

If you're just going to make stuff up about how these programs work without examining the code and checking the underlying physics that determine its functionality, by using statistics terminology to obfuscate and try to confuse the issue, there's no point in trying to discuss it with you.

This is very much like claiming a car won't work because it doesn't have a propeller.
mackita
1 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2018
The passionate supporters of my theories may be also interested about how uplift of Yellowstone caldera correlates with global warming - well, you can even see the recent "global warming hiatus" in it.. Please note that more recent data at USA official site are censored out for to demonstrate the "decline of caldera uplift" - probably from good reason... ;-)
Da Schneib
4 / 5 (4) Apr 22, 2018
I find it amusing and revealing to get 1s for linking to the code that the deniers don't understand, or do and don't want to admit.

It's FORTRAN code, folks. An old and pretty simple language, well adapted for dealing with mathematical physics. If you can't criticize it, giving people 1s for truth you don't want to admit is chickenshit.
jonesdave
3 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2018
The passionate supporters of my theories...


Of whom there are zero, yes? Usual scientifically illiterate garbage, correct? Mate, try doing science for a change. You are making a complete tool of yourself otherwise. What did you major in? Woo? Can you do that? You obviously did. Go away, woo boy. Sick of dickheads.
mackita
not rated yet Apr 23, 2018
I'm just free of any ideology, which is what upsets you. Well, the link is still apparent there - no matter if you understand my models or not. Note also eleven years long period visible at the curve of caldera uplifts.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2018
The passionate supporters of my theories

That should be a red flag right there. If you need passion instead of being able to rely on arguments then your theories are bunk.
mackita
not rated yet Apr 23, 2018
It was indeed meant ironically. My theories are both based on arguments, both they have utilitarian value. Don't you think, that recognizing true origin of global warming would save people lotta money? Unfortunately, just the opportunity for money spending is what keeps various ideas alive today. We don't care if the projects like ITER or renewables are contributory or even realistic at all - what we only care about is, the large amount of money of tax payers can be transferred into pockets of smaller group of people.
eachus
not rated yet Apr 23, 2018
For the record, you're lying and it's obvious because there's no statistics in the code. That's not how it works. But go ahead and knock yourself out. This is physics, not statistics.


Lol! The statistics are not in the model, they are in how you test the model against reality. I'm saying that the people who did the tests did not understand statistics. You seem to be saying that they didn't test the model at all.

Seriously, the statistics are should be used to find parameters for a model using part of your data, then test the model against the rest of the data. Or you fit the model to all of the data and don't test it. When the model fails to predict anything? Climate scientists adjust the model and move on. Real scientists would take this as a failure of the model, and try to figure out what they had done wrong.

What I am saying is that the statistics that were used to fit and test the models were inappropriate, so it is not surprising that they didn't work.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2018
I looked up the last claim you made and it was all about curve fitting and regression analysis. There isn't any curve fitting or regression analysis in the AOGCMs. And see that M at the end? That's Model. As in Atmospheric and Oceanic Global Climate Model.

So if there's no curve fitting or regression analysis, why are you claiming the models include it? You asked:
Can an ARIMA model be fit to global temperature data?
It's not an ARIMA model. It's a physics model. But here you are claiming it's a statistics model, which is a completely different thing. Challenged to show where your ARIMA model is in the code, you can't, and resort to histrionics like "Lol!"

That's the only model here. What you claim is in it isn't in it. Are we done yet?
eachus
not rated yet Apr 23, 2018
That's the only model here. What you claim is in it isn't in it. Are we done yet?


I should probably ignore this...

Where did the initial state of the model come from? How much real data was used to find those parameters? If it was from some random day in the tenth century, the model will give very different results for different starting days. More likely those parameters come from averaging or model fitting of several decades of data.

When testing a model against reality seeing if it can predict the data it was based on is pretty incestuous and a statistical no-no. That is what I was talking about.

If you have a model and feel pretty good about it, then publish it. The problem with climate models is that they don't work. I could go into a long discussion about why they fail, but most of that has already been discussed--but not in climate journals, which don't print dissenting articles.
Da Schneib
not rated yet Apr 23, 2018
I should probably ignore this...
Why? Do facts scare you?

Where did the initial state of the model come from?
From measurements at tens of thousands of stations around the world.

How much real data was used to find those parameters?
What's "real data" mean? If you're implying someone made it up, sounds like a wild and crazy conspiracy theory to me. We get a lot of those here. You can see them every time dark matter or black holes are mentioned in an article. I see no difference between yours and theirs. In fact we get a lot of them about climate, too, and yours look completely identical to those.

If it was from some random day in the tenth century, the model will give very different results for different starting days.
Actually that's incorrect. It's not a weather model; it's a climate model. You might want to check out the code before you say anything more. It doesn't sound like you know how it works.
[contd]
Da Schneib
not rated yet Apr 23, 2018
[contd]
More likely those parameters come from averaging or model fitting of several decades of data.
Ummmm, "more likely" won't do here. Either you know or you don't, and you don't. Sounds like more conspiracy theory.

When testing a model against reality seeing if it can predict the data it was based on is pretty incestuous and a statistical no-no.
So for a system like climate, you can't take the inputs for a time in the past, run the model, and see if the results come out the way they did in the real world later on? Why is that? Seems pretty rigorous to me. If it comes out pretty much the same, then the model probably works pretty good. Now pick other times in the past and do the same thing. If they all come out pretty much the same as it did in the real world, I'd say you've tested it pretty thoroughly. What's the objection here?
[contd]
Da Schneib
not rated yet Apr 23, 2018
[contd]
If you have a model and feel pretty good about it, then publish it.
They have. Over and over again. All the code is open source, and it's based on physics so you can go back to the textbooks and check that too. I've linked to the code and it doesn't look like you've even bothered to click on the link to it. All the publications are in the scholarly literature and peer reviewed. Just like for physics and astrophysics and materials science and electronics and all those other subjects that get published in the scholarly literature.

The problem with climate models is that they don't work.
And you know this how? The ones from the 1980s predict a hockey stick graph. We are now past the curve, and the knee is just where they predicted it and it's rising at the predicted rate. Seems like the models work fine. As above, you're just lying here. Typical for deniers on this site. They're a dime a dozen here.

[contd]
Da Schneib
not rated yet Apr 23, 2018
[contd]
I could go into a long discussion about why they fail, but most of that has already been discussed
You mean on this site? Sure, all the lies have been told, over and over again, and dismissed with data, over and over again, and now it's down to the deniers telling the same tired old lies over and over again. It's pretty stupid, but there doesn't seem to be any data that will convince people with delusions who will lie to protect them.

not in climate journals, which don't print dissenting articles.
What's a "climate journal?" And how about the articles in Science and Nature and PLOS and the other top journals? Are they all in on the conspiracy too? See, here we go with the conspiracy theories again.

Now let's step back and see what you've posted. What you have is a bunch of conspiracy theories, a bunch of denying models you've never even seen, a couple outright lies, and a transparent attempt to bamboozle with statistics.

Like I said, are we done here?
Da Schneib
not rated yet Apr 23, 2018
What's really disappointing is you made a claim about statistics, and then couldn't back it up. But that, too, is typical of the deniers. Guess you didn't expect anyone to be able check it. Silly you.
Da Schneib
not rated yet Apr 24, 2018
Seriously, @eachus, I expected a far more detailed technical review. Instead when it turned out the "models" you were talking about were statistical models, and that you had 1) assumed the "models" geophysicists use are statistical not physical models, and 2) never even actually looked at the publicly available source code, you started telling all the same lies as the other climate deniers. This is disappointing since you seem to know enough physics to be able to evaluate a physics model. I expected you to show where these statistics you kept claiming were being published and instead you just turned into another psychotic denier experiencing delusions and bolstering them with lies.

I can't help thinking that with the sensibility you show with physics you must actually, in some blocked out screaming part of your mind that you are suppressing because it makes you uncomfortable, know better. An elastic conscience, perhaps. Sigh.
eachus
1 / 5 (1) Apr 24, 2018
You keep missing my point. I don't care how perfect the physical models seem. When compared to reality, they don't work. Means that there is something that the models are missing. I don't know what it is. in fact I believe that there are many things missing from the models, and it will take another twenty years or more for scientists to figure out what they are.

On the other hand, as I said it is not hard to throw together an ARIMA model that is a better fit for historical data than the IPCC models. The problem is that it is totally useless for predicting the future. It will take much better data on earthquakes and volcanoes before it is useful.

As for CO2, I started working on reducing CO2 back in the 70s. Not because of climate effects, but because it could kill humans. (And has now done so in some rare events, like the 2003 heat wave in Europe, especially France. High CO2 levels cause everyone to breathe more. This can add to the stress of a heat wave.)

Da Schneib
not rated yet Apr 24, 2018
It's pretty disingenuous to claim "there must be something more" when the predictions from 35 years ago have come true.

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