Scientists said they have discovered new thermal activity in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming that is about the size of four football fields.
Speaking with Wyoming Public Media, United States Geological Survey researcher Greg Vaughan said that the “area used to be covered by trees and now it’s an area where there’s a bunch of dead trees, bright soil and it’s a hot spot.”
He uses satellites to track thermal areas that measure heat being emitted from the ground.
The hot and corrosive hot spot has been “been sneaking up on the park for the last 20 years,” he told the New York Times.
“Yellowstone’s thermal areas are the surface expression of the deeper magmatic system, and they are always changing. They heat up, they cool down, and they can move around,” the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory stated, pointing to the eruption of Ear Spring in September 2018 as a “new thermal feature.”
“These sorts of changes are part of the normal life cycles of thermal areas in Yellowstone National Park,” it added in a blog post earlier this month.
More than 10,000 thermal features are located within the park.
According to the public broadcaster’s report, one day, Vaughan saw a hot spot that hadn’t appeared before. He then compared it with previous images.
These thermal areas, Vaughan said, are formed after snow and water is heated by magma below the surface of the ground, the report noted.
The water or snow then travels back to the surface via cracks and fractures, according to the researcher, who added that hot springs and geysers are signs of a thermal area. “It’s doing everything you expect an active volcano to do except erupt,” he told the Times.
“There are earthquakes very frequently and it can change the orientation of the plumbing system,” added Vaughan. “It can close some areas and reopen some others.”
In the case of the emergence of this recent thermal feature, in 2017, the trees died and the soil turned an unusual, off-white color, he told the Times. In 1994, that wasn’t the case.
In 2003, a thermal area appeared in Yellowstone about the size of a football field.
Michael Poland, the researcher in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, has often had to debunk articles saying the Yellowstone caldera, or “supervolcano,” is about to erupt. He told the newspaper that the appearance of a new thermal area isn’t something to worry about, noting that thermal areas appear and disappear in the park.