Yellowstone Supervolcano May Blow Sooner than Expected

If the massive supervolcano the lies below Yellowstone were to erupt again, chances are we will have far less warning than was originally thought.

After the examination of materials from fossilized ash of the most recent eruption, scientists from Arizona State University believe that this supervolcano was last awakened when two influxes of magma flowed to the reservoir which is located beneath the caldera.

And in a disturbing twist, these minerals have indicated that some critical temperature changes along with composition will build up in just a few decades. Until recently, most geologists believed it would be centuries before this supervolcano made this transition.

Supervolcano Reloads Very Quickly

For example, a study in the year 2013 indicated that a magma reservoir which feeds this supervolcano is over two and a half times bigger than previously estimated. Scientists also believe that this reservoir gets drained following each monster blast, thus, they believed that it would take a very long time to fill up again. However this new study has demonstrated that the magma has the ability to rapidly refresh. And this makes the volcano extremely explosive very quickly.

“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,” researcher Hannah Shamloo said.

This new report provides several new surprises that scientists have revealed over the past few years while studying this supervolcano.

Beauty Laying On Top of Potential Disaster

There is no doubt that the Yellowstone National Park owes a lot of its natural beauty to its extremely violent past. It boasts awesome wonders like Old Faithful’s geyser and the wonderful Grand Prismatic Spring, both of which are actually products of its geothermal activity. And it is quite amazing to think about the potential explosiveness and massive violence that resides underneath all this beauty.

It is estimate that around 630,000 years ago, there was an explosive eruption which shook the area. It is believed that about 240 cubic miles of ash and rock were spewed out and the Yellowstone caldera was created. This left a depression in landscape that was about 40 miles wide.

That particular eruption also left behind the well-known Lava Creek Tuff, which is the deposit of ash that Shamloo and her associates studied, and they later presented during a volcanology meeting that took place in Oregon. They also presented the earlier version of this study during a 2016 meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

After examining fossil deposits such as these, scientists believe that this supervolcano has experienced at the very least two other eruptions along this scale, and these have probably occurred within the last two million years. Fortunately, this supervolcano has been mostly quiet since the people first arrived in the region. While there have been a few small belches and a minor quakes which have occasionally filled up the caldera with ash and lava, the very last one took place around 70,000 years ago.

During the year 2011, scientists indicated that the ground located directly above the chamber of magma had swelled by as much as 10 inches in just a period of seven years.

“It’s an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high,” said Bob Smith from the University of Utah, who is an expert in Yellowstone volcanism.