Yellowstone Supervolcano Closer To Eruption Than Expected, Say Researchers


The odds of any supervolcano erupting in the near future remain small, the researchers say - but the forces that drive these rare events may move faster than anyone thought. Previously, scientists thought it would take several centuries for another eruption like that to develop.

Ash from a mega-eruption at Yellowstone would spread across the US, covering nearby states such as Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado and Montana in up to three feet of ash, according to a 2014 study of what might happen if a supervolcano erupted, and blanketing the Midwest and other parts of the USA, killing animals and plants, affecting the power grid and destroying buildings, causing a volcanic winter.

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

"We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption", said Till said in an interview with the New York Times.

That eruption was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event the USA has experienced. Inside, they tracked the changes that the volcano went through before its eruption. A variety of sensors and satellites are always looking for changes, and right now, the supervolcano does not seem to pose a threat.

This is the first indication that "the conditions that lead to supereruptions might emerge within a human lifetime", which one researcher describes as "shocking", per the Times.

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Shamloo and Till previously presented their research at a 2016 meeting held by the American Geophysical Union.

It's important to note there's a big difference between volcanoes and supervolcanoes, as ZME Science reported.

Furthermore, a 2011 study found that the ground above the magma reservoir in Yellowstone had bulged by roughly 10 inches in seven years, per National Geographic.

The swelling magma reservoir responsible for the uplift was too deep to create fears of imminent doom, Smith said, and instead the caldera's gentle "breathing" offered valuable insights into the supervolcano's behaviour.

But nearly everyone who studies Yellowstone's slumbering supervolcano says that right now, we have no way of knowing when the next big blast will happen.