Arts&Culture

Yellowstone Supervolcano Closer To Eruption Than Expected, Say Researchers

Yellowstone Supervolcano Closer To Eruption Than Expected, Say Researchers

As USA Today reported, new research indicates that the supervolcano resting beneath Yellowstone National Park "may blow sooner than thought, an eruption that could wipe out life on the planet".

Some 630,000 years ago, a massive eruption rocked the region, spewing the rock and ash that created the Yellowstone caldera, a 40-mile-wide bowl that forms most of the park. Also, another report informed that another eruption occurred about 1.3 million years ago which indicates that both the mega-volcanoes had nearly the same time frame of the eruption. Most of the world would probably be plunged into volcanic winter by the ensuing ash cloud, but we can safely say that the USA would definitely be destroyed.

The supervolcano under Yellowstone has been mostly dormant for tens of thousands of years-the last large eruption filled the caldera with ash and lava around 70,000 years ago, well before people had migrated to the continent.

"We see interesting things all the time ... but we haven't seen anything that would lead us to believe that the sort of magmatic event described by the researchers is happening", says Poland via email, adding that the research overall is "somewhat preliminary, but quite tantalizing".

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The minerals revealed changes in temperature and composition built up in only decades. Scientists determined the increase rate of temperature change by analyzing minerals in fossilized ash.

Scientists believed the reservoir is drained after every huge blast, so they thought it should take a long time to refill. A 2013 study, for instance, showed that the magma reservoir that feeds the supervolcano is about two and a half times larger than previous estimates.

Based on the latest study, it appears the magma can rapidly refresh - making the volcano potentially explosive in the geological blink of an eye.

Though no one is attempting to put a time frame on the next eruption, Hannah Shamloo of Arizona State University observed that it is "shocking how little time is required to take a volcanic system from being quiet and sitting there to the edge of an eruption".


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