An underwater river or "fountain" of magma has been located underneath the Yellowstone supervolcano. Despite fears that this could trigger a major eruption in the near future, experts say it's not expected to blow anytime soon.
According to a research paper published in Nature this week, scientists Peter Nelson and Stephen Grand believe the magma may stretch as far as Mexico.
The researchers describe "a single narrow, cylindrically shaped slow anomaly, approximately 350 km in diameter that we interpret as a whole-mantle plume," according to the study's abstract.
The scientists note the approximate length of the plume was made "using the travel times of core waves recorded by the dense seismic network."
Whether the plume could cause magma to rise in a vertical stream is still unclear, the researchers added. They also noted the Yellowstone hotspot itself, which is home to the famous bubbling springs, is also a source of debate.
The researchers also indicate they've demonstrated the plume's existence because the structure "gradually decreases in strength" as it nears the surface and could have temperatures near the mantle of at least 650 degrees Celsius (1,202 degrees Fahreneheit), perhaps in excess of 850 degress Celsius (1,562 degress Fahrenheit).
"Our results strongly support a deep origin for the Yellowstone hotspot, and also provide evidence for the existence of thin thermal mantle plumes that are currently beyond the resolution of global tomography models," the researchers wrote.
Concerns have cropped up in recent memory, most notably in the last week when Yellowstone experienced four mini-tremors, that the supervolcano would erupt faster than initially thought.
However, any talk of it potentially wiping out life as we know it is incorrect.
According to National Geographic, researchers Hannah Shamloo and Christy Till analyzed minerals in fossilized ash from the most recent eruption in the summer of 2017. What they discovered surprised them – the changes in temperature and composition only took a few decades, much faster than the centuries previously thought.
Despite some sensationalist claims seen in the media, the supervolcano is not expected to erupt anytime soon and if it did, the events would not be catastrophic. "There's no reason to think it could impact mass transport the way the Iceland eruption did nor would it have any effect on crops," Till told Fox News in October 2017. "There is no evidence to suggest it could destroy mankind."
The supervolcano last had a major eruption about 630,000 years ago, Till added. Prior to that, the last major eruption was 1.3 million years ago, per a report from ZME Science. A smaller eruption, the most current on record, occurred 70,000 years ago.
Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia