A new report has revealed the underground workings of the Yellowstone National Park volcanic system – and in the process unveiled new details of how one of the world’s largest volcanoes could catastrophically erupt on a scale never-before seen by humanity. According to the Washington Post, an eruption in Yellowstone would eject 1,000 times as much material as Mt. St. Helens did in 1980, creating a disaster of global scale. Needless to say, scientists have been busy studying the inner workings of Yosemite’s volcanic system and a new study from the University of Utah now shows a complete diagram of Yellowstone’s system that reveals some stunning details that show how massive the eruption could actually be.

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The report, recently published in the journal Science, tells the tale of a large reservoir of hot rock that’s mostly solid, but contains some melted rock – lying beneath a shallow magma chamber already known to scientists. The recently discovered chamber is four and a half times bigger than the chamber above it, and sits above a plume of magma that travels deep into the mantle of the Earth. It contains enough lava to fill the Grand Canyon.

“This is like a giant conduit. It starts down at 1,000 kilometers. It’s a pipe that starts down in the Earth,” Robert Smith, emeritus professor of geophysics at the University of Utah told the Washington Post.

Related: Yellowstone super-volcano could erupt sooner than previously thought

Knowing more about the system doesn’t change anything in relation to the risks of an eruption in Yellowstone, but the scientists say it could help them predict when an eruption might happen.

“Really getting an idea of how it works and understanding how these large caldera-forming eruptions may occur, and how they might happen, would be a good thing to understand,” co-author Jamie Farrell told the Washington Post. “No one’s ever witnessed one of these really large volcanic eruptions. We kind of scale smaller eruptions up to this size and say, ‘This is probably how it happens,’ but we really don’t know that for sure.”

Via Washington Post

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