Scientists: Yellowstone Supervolcano May Be Ready to Erupt

Image: Scientists: Yellowstone Supervolcano May Be Ready to Erupt

Monday, 16 Dec 2013 09:26 PM

 

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
The hot molten rock beneath Yellowstone National Park is 2 ½ times larger than previously estimated, meaning the park's supervolcano has the potential to erupt with a force about 2,000 times the size of Mount St. Helens, according to a new study.

By measuring seismic waves from earthquakes, scientists were able to map the magma chamber underneath the Yellowstone caldera as 55 miles long, lead author Jamie Farrell of the University of Utah said Monday.

The chamber is 18 miles wide and runs at depths from 3 to 9 miles below the earth, he added.

That means there is enough volcanic material below the surface to match the largest of the supervolcano's three eruptions over the last 2.1 million years, Farrell said.

The largest blast — the volcano's first — was 2,000 times the size of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state. A similar one would spew large amounts of volcanic material in the atmosphere, where it would circle the earth, he said.

"It would be a global event," Farrell said. "There would be a lot of destruction and a lot of impacts around the globe."

The last Yellowstone eruption happened 640,000 years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. For years, observers tracking earthquake swarms under Yellowstone have warned the caldera is overdue to erupt.

Farrell dismissed that notion, saying there isn't enough data to estimate the timing of the next eruption.

"We do believe there will be another eruption, we just don't know when," he said.

There are enough instruments monitoring the seismic activity of Yellowstone that scientists would likely know well ahead of time if there was unusual activity happening and magma was moving to the surface, Farrell said.

The USGS' Yellowstone Volcano Observatory listed the park's volcano alert level as "normal" for December.

Yellowstone attracts millions of visitors with its geothermal features of geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pots. The park just opened its gates on Sunday for its winter season.

Park officials did not immediately return a call for comment.

A large earthquake at Yellowstone is much more likely than a volcano eruption, Farrell said.

The 7.5-magnitude Hebgen Lake earthquake killed 28 people there in 1959.

Farrell presented his findings last week to the American Geophysical Union. He said he is submitting it to a scholarly journal for peer review and publication.

Brigham Young University geology professor Eric Christiansen said the study by Farrell and University of Utah Professor Bob Smith is very important to understanding the evolution of large volcanos such as Yellowstone's.

"It helps us understand the active system," Christiansen said. "It's not at the point where we need to worry about an imminent eruption, but every piece of information we have will prepare us for that eventuality."

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Retype Email:
Country
Zip Code:
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
You May Also Like

Mars Rover Takes 'Selfie' After Spring Cleaning

Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 23:05 PM

A recent 'selfie' taken by the Mars rover Opportunity shows it is taking full advantage of the Martian winds' cleaning p . . .

High-Tech Surveillance System Blankets Boston For Marathon

Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 20:18 PM

A high-tech surveillance system consisting of cameras connected to a network that uses a form of artificial intelligence . . .

Study: Even Casually Smoking Marijuana Can Change Your Brain

Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 14:26 PM

Casual use of marijuana can produce changes in parts of the brain associated with emotion and motivation, according to a . . .

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved