The Snake River Plain-Yellowstone volcanic system is one of the largest, basaltic, volcanic field in the world. Here, there is clear evidence for northeasterly progression of rhyolitic volcanism with its present position in Yellowstone. Many theories have been advanced for the origin of the Snake River Plain-Yellowstone system. Yellowstone and Eastern Snake River Plain have been studied intensively using various geophysical techniques. Some sparse geophysical data are available for the Western Snake River Plain as well. Teleseismic data show the presence of a large anomalous body with low P- and S-wave velocities in the crust and upper mantle under the Yellowstone caldera. A similar body in which compressional wave velocity is lower than in the surrounding rock is present under the Eastern Snake River Plain. No data on upper mantle anomalies are available for the Western Snake River Plain. Detailed seismic refraction data for the Eastern Snake River Plain show strong lateral heterogeneities and suggest thinning of the granitic crust from below by mafic intrusion. Available data for the Western Snake River Plain also show similar thinning of the upper crust and its replacement by mafic material. The seismic refraction results in Yellowstone show no evidence of the low-velocity anomalies in the lower crust suggested by teleseismic P-delay data and interpreted as due to extensive partial melting. However, the seismic refraction models indicate lower-than-normal velocities and strong lateral inhomogeneities in the upper crust. Particularly obvious in the refraction data are two regions of very low seismic velocities near the Mallard Eake and Sour Creek resurgent domes in the Yellowstone caldera. The low-velocity body near the Sour Creek resurgent dome is intepreted as partially molten rock. Together with other geophysical and thermal data, the seismic results indicate that a sub-lithospheric thermal anomaly is responsible for the time-progressive volcanism along the Eastern Snake River Plain. However, the exact mechanism responsible for the volcanism and details of magma storage and migration are not yet fully understood. ?? 1984.
Additional publication details
A review of crust and upper mantle structure studies of the Snake River Plain-Yellowstone volcanic system: A major lithospheric anomaly in the western U.S.A.