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Yellowstone Supervolcano Could Blow Quicker Than Thought?

Image: Yellowstone Supervolcano Could Blow Quicker Than Thought?

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park (Yun Gao/Dreamstime)

By    |   Thursday, 12 Oct 2017 07:36 AM

The Yellowstone supervolcano could blow quicker than thought, according to researchers at Arizona State University who examined materials from its last mega-eruption about 630,000 years ago, National Geographic magazine reported.

Researchers believe the last eruption happened after two influxes of fresh magma flowed into the reservoir below the caldera, and they now believe a similar critical build-up could take just decades instead of centuries, NatGeo said.

The scientific consensus is the eruption of such a massive volcano would obliterate everything within a 100-mile radius, as well as blanket a huge portion of North America in several inches of ash. 

"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," said Hannah Shamloo, co-author of the Arizona State study on the supervolcano, per The New York Times.

The Arizona State study follows research in 2013 that showed the magma reservoir that feeds the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park may be about 2½ times bigger than originally believed.

Based on fossil deposits in magma found at the park, the researchers believe that the supervolcano has erupted twice over the past two million years or so, NatGeo said.

Magma is molten or semimolten rock that exists in the planet's crust but can move upward through cracks, EOS Earth & Space Science News said. When the motion is stopped, the magma pools into what is called magma chambers.

"We want to understand what triggers these eruptions, so we can set up warning systems," Shamloo, a graduate student Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, told EOS. "That's the big-picture goal."

Kari Cooper, a geochemist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the research, told the Times that while the research gives more insights into the time frames of supervolcanic eruptions, she is not convinced that they can target a precise trigger of the last Yellowstone event.

"It's one thing to think about this slow gradual buildup — it's another thing to think about how you mobilize 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma in a decade," Cooper told the Times.

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The Yellowstone supervolcano could blow quicker than thought, according to researchers at Arizona State University who examined materials from its last mega-eruption about 630,000 years ago.
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2017-36-12
Thursday, 12 Oct 2017 07:36 AM
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