The Yellowstone caldera is a supervolcano located in the US that last erupted 70,000 years ago. It has been labelled a supervolcano due to its potential to inflict devastation on a global level. There has not been an eruption of this nature in more than 630,000 years but scientists still believe it poses a threat.
Jacob Lowenstein, a leading scientist in charge of monitoring Yellowstone, revealed during a lecture at Menlo Park, California, why the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have to constantly watch activity in the park.
He said in 2014: “Yellowstone has a lot going on in it, it is a very active place.
“We have a volcano observatory there partly because we feel we need to keep a close eye on it because it does have this big hazard that’s a possibility there.
“But also because it’s a globally unique place.
“There is no place on Earth that’s quite like Yellowstone, it has a big magma system and there are constantly things happening.”
Dr Lowenstein went on to reveal why monitoring such a unique volcano can help them to understand other threats across the globe.
He added: “We feel it is important that we as scientists know what is going on there and can present that data and can publish it for our colleagues all around the world.
“Because what we learn at Yellowstone really teaches a lot about volcanoes everywhere.
“A lot of volcanoes don’t do anything – they sit there having no activity at all until about two weeks before they erupt.
“At Yellowstone, we’re constantly seeing activity even though it hasn’t erupted for 70,000 years.”
Dr Lowenstein has also previously warned of the threat earthquakes pose on the park.
Supereruptions have been known to happen following large regional earthquakes as they trigger unrest at the nearby volcano.
He said “A lot of earthquakes have occurred at Yellowstone over the past 25 years – just a representative sampling.
“You’ll see there’s a lot of earthquakes out here near Hebgen Lake.
“That’s probably because it’s near the location of the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that occurred in 1959.
“Occasionally there is a big one, and there might be one in the Yellowstone area every 100 to 300 or 400 years.”
Dr Lowenstein went on to reveal how earthquake activity must be monitored due to the threat it poses.
He added: “The last big one was in 1959 and caused a big landslide, killing around 20 people.
“This is a geologic hazard that’s again much more present in the area than a volcanic eruption.
“People living in the area should be familiar with it.”