Relax, The Supervolcano Under Yellowstone Is Not About To Explode
But some interesting discoveries are worth pointing out.
BY sarah rense | Oct 16, 2017 | Culture
I'm in a mood, as is much of the intelligent populous, so the news that a supervolcano beneath the earth's surface in Wyoming might come alive and "wipe out life on the planet" sooner than scientists previously predicted is fine, just fine. Blow it all into the sky. Nothing bad can take us by surprise now.
Except that if you actually read the new scientific study on the matter, as reported by The New York Times, we're not exactly on the cusp of a geological disaster in the form of ashy volcanic winter. It's just that the process by which the supervolcano might be gearing up to an explosion is happening more quickly than scientists thought.
The supervolcano lying dormant under Yellowstone National Park has erupted at least three times in the past two million years. The most recent eruption occurred about 630,000 years ago, which scientists believe puts us on track for another eruption geologically soon—which could still be centuries away. They also assumed we'd be able to read the signs of an impending supereruption thousands of years before it broke to the surface. Now, the new information says it might take less than a lifetime.
Hannah Schmoo, a graduate student studying Yellowstone's Lava Creek Tuff, which is the ash deposit from the last eruption, found evidence in the rocks that the supervolcano came to life after an influx of fresh magma filled a reservoir beneath the surface. By studying layers of rock that recorded changes in temperature, pressure, and water—much like the rings on a tree, The Times notes—she and her team calculated the eruption occurred only decades after the magma poured in. Then, boom.
“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,” Schmoo said.
More work is to be done to discover what triggers this influx of magma, and there's not enough data to mark a date on the apocalypse calendar—yet. Yellowstone is also closely monitored, and Michael Poland, the scientist in charge of the park's Volcano Observatory, told National Geographic, "We haven't seen anything that would lead us to believe that the sort of magmatic event described by the researchers is happening."
So we've got decades at least—and likely much longer—to contemplate volcanic death. Let the good times roll.
From: Esquire US