Researchers from Arizona State University have found some very interesting information about the Yellowstone Supervolcano after studying ancient ash from a previous eruption. What they have discovered is quite alarming if you’re the type to be concerned about the potential eruption of what may be biggest – or one of the biggest – volcanoes in the world: the Yellowstone Supervolcano.
Right now, most scientists believe that the Yellowstone Supervolcano is not at risk of erupting any time soon. In fact, it was thought that we would have hundreds of years of warning before an eruption as the massive reservoir below Yellowstone National Park slowly fills with magma. Now, thanks to this new research, the expected timeline for critical changes to occur that would potentially lead to a massive eruption has been shortened from hundreds of years to a matter of decades.
A few decades may sound like a long time if you compare it to your own time on this earth. However, as far a time goes, a few decades are like the blink of an eye when it comes to major geologic changes in the Earth. When you consider the catastrophic results of a potential Yellowstone Supervolcano, a few decades warning is really quite scary.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that anyone living anywhere near the Yellowstone Supervolcano should pack their bags and leave the area. Researchers stressed that they have not seen any signs of magma filling the reservoir below Yellowstone. I am willing to take them at their word because; 1) they’re a hell of a lot smarter than me, and 2) the Yellowstone Supervolcano is the most heavily monitored volcano in the world. Satellites are watching the area 24/7 and high tech sensors monitor the area on the ground.
The last major eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano is estimated to have been about 630,000 years ago. During that eruption, a 40 mile wide depression was created after dirt, ash, and magma shot into the air. That depression is now known as the Yellowstone Caldera and forms the beautiful landscape that draws visitors from around the world every single year.
Those visitors that flock to Yellowstone are there for more than just the beautiful landscape, of course. Yellowstone National Park is still alive with signs of geothermal activity. Old Faithful is the most well-known geyser in North America. The bubbling springs in the park are a constant sign of the power that lies beneath the feet of people walking with their tour groups. Above ground: a beautiful national park that provides countless photo opportunities. Below ground: a supervolcano that could devastate a large portion of North America when it finally erupts.
For now, you can still feel safe visiting Yellowstone. If this research is correct, we will have decades of notice before a catastrophic eruption like the one that altered the landscape over 600,000 years ago. With that said, a few decades of notice provides little comfort when the result is a devastating natural disaster that could forever change the lives of people living within hundreds of miles of the Yellowstone Supervolcano.