The Yellowstone Supervolcano may erupt without warning. An eruption of the massive calderas would effect Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, even potentially having worldwide effects. That being said, there is absolutely no evidence supporting its impending eruption.
Recently an article was released by a news agency purportedly announcing an imminent eruption “within weeks”, as well as an evacuation order issued by the park. The article cited the recent road damage caused by increased temperature over a thermal area as well as an increase in earthquakes. It then went onto go as far as falsifying a quote by a senior volcanologist in the park and posting a video showing animals supposedly fleeing from the park.
Cumulative earthquake counts (provided by the University of Utah) located in region north of the Caldera, centered near Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, from April 1994 to April 2014.
The recent uptick in earthquakes has been noted, but this is typical for the park. The graph above from the USGS website shows geological activity over the last 20 years. A future eruption within the next century is certainly possible, although unlikely. Jake Lowenstern, Scientist-in-Charge of Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) said in an interview with The Watchers, “There have been many dozens of eruptions since 640 000 years ago. The most recent was 70 000 years ago.’
According to the USGS website, shifting thermal areas throughout the park have been known to wreak havoc on roads in the past, ground temperatures have the capacity to reach boiling levels. This is not at all an indication of an eruption. Yellowstone's immense geothermal activity is what caused it to become the first National Park in the United States.
The park also addressed the ridiculous notion of an evacuation order by citing recent park activity in the news, such as an individual flying his remote controlled helicopter into a hot spring in the park. This can also be independently verified by viewing the Old Faithful webcam, which will show guests in the park. Yellowstone Volcano Observatory also states that no volcanologist has released any such statement. And while there is a geologist by the name quoted, he assured that he gave no such statement either.
While there is no impending eruption, we will almost certainly see more activity before the volcano goes extinct. Jake Lowenstern indicated that the typical life of a supervolcano is between two and three millions years. Yellowstone supervolcano is dated at 2.1 million years old.
“If you look at the whole trail of volcanoes that erupted prior to Yellowstone, along the Snake River Plain, they all end with basaltic lavas, similar to those we find in Hawaii. So we expect that as Yellowstone slows down, it will have similar basaltic eruptions. In other words, it’s not going to go extinct until it’s had another series of relatively non-explosive eruptions that represent the final stage of activity.” – Jake Lowenstern, YVO
The recent uptick in earthquakes has been noted, but again, this is actually a typical occurrence in the parks history. The graph above from the USGS website shows geological activity over the last 20 years. A future eruption within the next century is certainly possible, although unlikely.
The most unexpected answer Jacob gave to the interview, was what he found most fascinating about the nature of Yellowstone’s geothermal activity. “I am always fascinated by the underground pathways that feed the thermal fluids. We know that the water is dominantly rainwater, but it spends hundreds to thousands of years underground after recharge, reacting with the rock, heating up, and picking up gases from all sorts of different sources including the underlying magma.”
Many sources indicate that the volcano is overdue for an eruption, but according to scientists, the next eruption isn’t likely for another 90 000 years. A short period of time in a geological scale. In fact, the next eruption of the calderas will likely be a thermal eruption rather than volcanic.
Featured image: Great Fountain Geyser at sunset. Image author Flicka (CC)
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