Secrets of ‘mystery sandwich’ beneath Yellowstone revealed in new map

A geyser erupts in Yellowstone National Park. It is supplied with boiling water via a network underground fluid pathways heated by magma. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The subterranean “plumbing system” of superheated water that feeds Yellowstone National Park’s geysers and other hydrological features has been mapped out in stunning detail — and the findings could fill a major knowledge gap that experts have described as a “mystery sandwich.”

Yellowstone is home to the world’s largest hydrothermal system, which contains around 10,000 hydrothermal features, including geysers, hot springs, mud pots and steam vents, according to the National Park Service. These aboveground features are fed by a network of underground water pathways that get superheated by underground magma, causing the water to rise to the surface. However, researchers know very little about this underground network, or plumbing system.

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