Scientists in the dark about Yellowstone supervolcano, as activity increases – Green – News

Scientists have no idea who or how big the next eruption will be.

As the Yellowstone supervolcano shows evidence it remains active and is building towards eruption, scientists have confessed they have no idea how big such an eruption could be. Yellowstone National Park sits squarely above a supervolcano, which last erupted over 20,000 years ago. Supervolcanoes have the potential to devastate continents and change weather patterns for decades. 

Volcanic activity is responsible for the beautiful sights around the park.

Volcanic activity is responsible for the beautiful sights around the park.

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) – When the first humans walked into the area that would later become Yellowstone National Park, they surely marveled at its beauty and its strange sights including geysers, mineral deposits and, hot springs. Modern visitors take in the same marvels with a sense of awe that surely greeted the first people thousands of years prior. 

What we know today, is a massive hotspot under the Earth’s crust is responsible for this beauty. Volcanic forces beneath the Earth are fueling geysers and providing the mineral deposits that make the area such a feast for the eyes. 

That hot spot feeds the supervolcano. A caldera about 45 miles across engulfs much of the park. Beneath the caldera, lies two magma chambers, including a shallow chamber, and a much larger second chamber. The second chamber contains enough magma to fill the Grand Canyon 11 times over. 

 At some point in the future, much of that magma is coming to the surface. 

What scientists have admitted is they now have no idea when, or how much magma will come to the surface when the complex erupts. They have no idea how big the next eruption will be. 

This assessment matters because the next eruption could destroy just the park or the entire planet as we know it. 

Scientists have been monitoring Yellowstone for years, and they have observed a dramatic increase in seismic activity over the past year. Magma is on the move under the ground, but there remains no way to tell when an eruption will occur, or how big it will be. 

Figuring this out matters. In the event of an imminent eruption, entire states will have to be emptied of their populations. Cities like Denver and Cheyenne would be most likely to be destroyed and others, such as Salt Lake City would be covered in several feet of ash. 

The volcano will erupt at some point. 

The next supervolcano eruption, however, will probably in the Campi Flegri supervolcano under Naples, Italy. The ground is rising under Naples and in the surrounding area, suggesting an eruption is imminent. Given historic patterns of activity, the eruption is likely to arrive within the next few decades. The anticipated eruption will not be devastating to Earth, but it could destroy most or all of the city of Naples. 
The last significant eruption of Yellowstone was about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago. Although significant, that episode was small. Before that, Yellowstone had catastrophic eruptions 1.3 and 2.1 million years ago.

In any given year, the probability of the volcano erupting is quite low, and for the moment, people have nothing to fear. But there are important questions that need to be answered sooner rather than later. Preparing for a supereruption will require years of effort. Knowing how much effort to make could be key to saving millions to billions of lives. 

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