Yellowstone Super volcano’s Nasty Surprise: Only Decades?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FORBES SCIENCE)

 

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Yellowstone Supervolcano’s Nasty Surprise: Only Decades To Prepare For An Eruption

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Credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Grand Prismatic hot spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Beneath the beautiful Yellowstone National Park lies a supervolcano, a hidden a force of nature that has the potential to blanket the United States in ash and send the world into a volcanic winter.

While scientists have studied Yellowstone’s supervolcano extensively, the fact of the matter is there’s not much we can do about it if/when the supervolcano erupts again. Albeit, that hasn’t stopped NASA from trying to engineer a solution to the next supervolcano eruption.

What scientists have relied upon is that when Yellowstone’s supervolcano begins to rumble and its magma chambers begin to fill, we would have centuries to prepare for the devastating eruption. However, recent studies find that the speed at which the volcano can fill its magma chamber and erupt is on the order of a few decades. That means Yellowstone supervolcano could go from its usual activity like today to erupting in 2030’s.

Unraveling Yellowstone’s Past Eruptions

How did scientists unravel the timing of the latest Yellowstone supervolcano eruption? As the magma chambers filled, portions of the magma were cool enough to solidify into rock. While they solidified or lithified, the minerals grew over time, creating bands of progressively younger mineral around older mineral.

Scientists inspected the bands of these minerals and what they found is the last few bands of mineral formation recorded a sudden spike in temperature on the order of decades before mineral lithification stopped. Hence, the rapid increase in temperature on the order of decades represents the time required for a sudden injection of magma and release through an eruption.

USGS

Highlighted areas are where ash beds have been identified from previous Yellowstone supervolcano eruptions.

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