Yellowstone volcano is believed to have had three major eruptions in the past, 640,000, 1.3 million and 2.1 million-years-ago. The last Yellowstone eruption formed the volcano’s current caldera in northwestern US, which is visited by thousands of tourists every year. However, deep beneath the scenic landscapes of Yellowstone National Park is a monster volcano waiting to erupt again. This has led to many rumours and conspiracy theories over the years, claiming Yellowstone is overdue a fourth major blast. But how true is this?
US Geological Survey (USGS) geologists Jake Lowenstern appeared online to answer some burning questions about the supervolcano.
Mainly, the Yellowstone volcano expert talked about some of the myths and falsehoods surrounding the threat of a future eruption.
When asked if Yellowstone volcano is overdue another super-blast, the scientist said most apocalyptic predictions get the maths wrong.
And even assuming Yellowstone does erupt like clockwork, humanity is still safe for tens of thousands of years.
Dr Lowernstern said: “When you see people claiming it’s overdue, usually the numbers they come up with say that the last eruption was 640,000-years ago but that it erupts every 600,000 years and therefore it is 40,000 years overdue.
“But in fact, if you average the eruption intervals, there’s 2.1 million to 1.3 million, and then there was another eruption 640,000-years ago.
“When you average those numbers, you come up with something which is over 730,000 years.
“So, in reality, even if you tried to make this argument, it wouldn’t be due for another 70,000 years or so.
“But the other thing that is important to realise is that when anybody does statistics based on two eruptive intervals, they’re just kind of playing games because we don’t know.
“There’s no clock down there. The magma is going to erupt when it wants to erupt.
“There’s been a lot of things that have happened over the last 600,000 years, which might indicate there’s less likely of an eruption.”
For instance, the geologist said, Yellowstone volcano erupted about 500 cubic miles of magma in the last 150,000 years.
This, in turn, could slow down the internal clockwork of Yellowstone, enough to avert a major blast anytime soon.
Since the last caldera-forming, the USGS has found evidence of at least 80 smaller, but still significant eruptions.
One of these eruptions occurred about 70,000-years-ago and was the most recent lava eruption.
Dr Lowernstern said: “It really is an enormous erupting unit and these are big eruptions but they are just within Yellowstone and they don’t appear to be explosive.”