Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Yellowstone Supervolcano Closer To Eruption Than Expected, Say Researchers

Yellowstone Supervolcano Closer To Eruption Than Expected, Say Researchers

Analyzing the tuff's mineral composition, researchers determined that "the critical changes in temperature and composition" related to a caldera eruption occurred in a matter of decades. 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.

It's the latest revelation that's come out of studying the caldera in recent years, including insights into Yellowstone's eruption history and the magma plume that feeds Yellowstone's thermal activity.

According to scientists, Yellowstone's supervolcano has erupted three times. Previously, scientists thought it would take several centuries for another eruption like that to develop.

The current theory has its origins in a 2013 study that concluded the reservoir is 2.5 times larger than previous estimates, and since it drains after every massive explosion, geologists thought it would take a long time to refill. It's also news because, as the Times notes, decades are but "a blink of an eye, geologically speaking".

A study co-author and student from the Arizona State University, Hannah Shamloo stated that, "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".

That eruption was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event the U.S. has experienced.

That eruption left behind the Lava Creek Tuff, the ash deposit that Shamloo and her ASU colleague Christy Till used for their work, which they presented in August at a volcanology meeting in Oregon.

In fact, in 2011 scientists found that the ground above the magma chamber had swelled by 10 inches.

"It's an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high", volcano expert Bob Smith from the University of Utah told the magazine. The second blast struck 1.3 million years ago and the last eruption happened 640,000 years ago.

Yellowstone is one of the world's most monitored volcano sites, under constant surveillance from satellites and ground-based monitoring stations.

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