The geysers of Yellowstone National Park owe their existence to the "Yellowstone hotspot"--a region of molten rock buried deep beneath Yellowstone, geologists have found.
|©U.S. Geological Survey
|Yellowstone National Park and its famous geysers are the remnants of an ancient supervolcano.
In an effort to find out, Derek Schutt of Colorado State University and Ken Dueker of the University of Wyoming took the hotspot's temperature.
The scientists published results of their research, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s division of earth sciences, in the August, 2008, issue of the journal Geology
"Yellowstone is located atop of one of the few large volcanic hotspots on Earth," said Schutt. "But though the hot material is a volcanic plume, it's cooler than others of its kind, such as one in Hawaii."
When a supervolcano last erupted at this spot more than 600,000 years ago, its plume covered half of today's United States with volcanic ash. Details of the cause of the Yellowstone supervolcano's periodic eruptions through history are still unknown.