Yellowstone supervolcano could erupt much sooner than previously thought

Pablo Tucker
October 14, 2017

The new evidence shows that Yellowstone's last eruption came after mere decades of magma build-up.

Ash in the atmosphere would cool the planet, but could be devastating to life on Earth if it did not dissipate quickly.

As comforting as that may be, new research out of Arizona State University is far less so. The crystals also reveal a supereruption followed much quicker than scientists previously thought-perhaps within decades, or what Popular Mechanics calls "a geologic snap of the finger".

The volcano, which sits on the Yellowstone caldera in northwest Wyoming, is estimated to be capable of expelling almost 250 cubic miles of molten rock and ash in one blast.


But it's not the only supervolcano there is. It is just west of Naples, close to the legendary Mount Vesuvius that destroyed the ancient city Pompeii with an eruption in the first century. So the caldera could be primed to flood with magma and blow in a human lifetime.

According to The Times, Shamloo later analyzed crystals from the team's dig that recorded changes in temperature, pressure and water content beneath the volcano - much like a set of tree rings. The top level indicates that an eruption released 250 cubic miles of magma.

"It's shocking how little time is required to take a volcanic system from being quiet and sitting there to the edge of an eruption", Shamloo told The Times, cautioning that more research is necessary before definite conclusions can be drawn. Authorities are taking a potential eruption seriously.

'We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption, ' said Christy Tillat Arizona State, in an interview with the New York Times. There was another eruption 660,000 years before that.


Features of the park, such as the Old Faithful geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring that attract visitors from around the world, are signs of a huge magma reservoir rumbling below.

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most heavily-monitored volcanic sites in the world and it sits on a 40 mile-wide caldera, an empty pit that forms when magma flows out after an eruption.

Yellowstone National Park doesn't contain a classic image of a volcano, with a mountain looming high in the sky, but it is still home to a massive volcano structure.


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