Supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park Could Erupt Any Time

Monday, 06 Jan 2014 07:50 AM

By Michael Mullins

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The supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park can erupt at any time without any warning or trigger, according to a study by a Swiss team of researchers.

The supervolcano's massive size and its sheer volume of liquid magma alone are sufficient to trigger such an eruption, claims the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, the BBC reported.

"We knew the clock was ticking but we didn't know how fast: what would it take to trigger a super-eruption?" Wim Malfait, the study's lead author said, the BBC reported.

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"Now we know you don't need any extra factor – a supervolcano can erupt due to its enormous size alone," Malfait added. "Once you get enough melt, you can start an eruption just like that."

In early December, a separate study conducted by researchers from the University of Utah showed that the hot molten rock beneath Yellowstone National Park is 2 ½ times larger than previously estimated.

According to the study, the supervolcano cavern stretches for more than 55 miles long, 22 miles wide and up to nine miles deep — and it contains between 125 billion and 185 billion cubic miles of molten rock.

Consequently, if the supervolcano were to erupt it would be devastating to the U.S., having a potential force of approximately 2,000 times the size of Mount St. Helens, the study concluded.

"We do believe there will be another eruption, we just don't know when," lead author Jamie Farrell of the University of Utah told the Associated Press in December.

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"It would be a global event," Farrell added. "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. The result was ash being spewed across the entire continent of North America with molten rock rivers measuring hundreds of miles long and miles of thick smoke impacting the world's climate for several centuries.

For years, observers tracking earthquake swarms under Yellowstone have warned the caldera is overdue to erupt, the AP noted.

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