Supervolcano under Yellowstone could erupt sooner than thought, scientists say

Researchers Drop Some Very Bad News About Massive Supervolcano Underneath Yellowstone

Yellowstone's Supervolcano Might Erupt Soon, But Not Soon Enough to End Your Misery

Previously, geologists had thought it took millennia.

Much like reading a set of tree rings, Shamloo and her team were able to record temperature and composition changes by analyzing crystals found beneath the earth's surface.

Beneath Yellowstone National Park lies a supervolcano, a behemoth far more powerful than your average volcano. It would shoot 2,500 times more material than Mount St. Helen did in 1980 and could cover most of the continguous ash, possibly putting the planet into a volcanic winter.

Scientists working in and around Yellowstone National Park say that the supervolcano sitting under the tourist attraction may blow sooner than thought, an eruption that could wipe out life on the planet.

Yellowstone's last super-eruption happened 631,000 years ago.

Geologists say their findings revealed that critical changes in temperatures and composition built up in just a matter of decades. Depending on the size of the eruption, the volcano could cover major portions of the United States in unsafe ash, and the Earth's atmosphere would likely be filled with that same ash. It's also news because, as the Times notes, decades are but "a blink of an eye, geologically speaking".

The theory of a much shorter timeline than expected was developed by Hannah Shamloo, a graduate student at Arizona State, and several colleagues who spent weeks at Yellowstone's Lava Creek Tuff - a fossilized ash deposit from its last supereruption.

"We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption", said Till said in an interview with the New York Times. It's one thing to think about this slow gradual buildup - it's another thing to think about how you mobilize 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma in a decade.

Scientists hope to use the research to predict when future supereruptions might occur - allowing enough time to develop technologies to prevent the disaster. The odds of Yellowstone, or any other supervolcano erupting anytime soon are small.

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