Beneath Yellowstone National Park lies 162 square miles of hot molten magma. Scientists are amazed to find that the Yellowstone National Park supervolcano is 2.5 times larger than previously expected. The American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting held in San Francisco, California this week announced data that puts the volcano in an elite category. According to a study by Dr. James Farrell, the Caldera Volcano beneath the park has 2000 times the blast potential of Mount St. Helens. The Caldera volcano has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years. The supervolcano underneath the national park last erupted 640,000 years ago.
Farrell of The University of Utah spoke with BBC Radio recently discussing the recent data. Farrell noted that Yellowstone National Park supervolcano could be a significant global climate event if and when it erupted. Farrell also said, “All this material that is shot up in the atmosphere would eventually circle the earth and would affect the climate throughout the world.”
The Caldera volcano spans 55 miles in length and contains a chamber of magma 18 miles wide. The immense size of this volcano was measured by seismic equipment. Scientists took readings of earthquakes from the area. Farrell explained that seismic activity has a slowing effect when passing through molten rock at high temperature. These measurements allowed scientists to get an accurate understanding of the size and scope of the Yellowstone National Park volcano. Farrell indicated that scientists now know there is a large reservoir of magma beneath Yellowstone National Park and that the supervolcano has potential for a large eruption and that it measured 2.5 times larger than originally expected. The next eruption could be equal to its first eruption millions of years ago. Farrell acknowledged that Caldera’s first eruption was 2000 times more powerful than that of Mount St. Helens’ in Washington State.
The chance of a blast, however, is in very distant future according to Farrell. The next eruption would not occur for another 40,000 years, if the Caldera keeps its current timeline. Its typical cycle is an eruption once every 700,000 years. Farrell added that when the Caldera volcano does blow it will be a an event of global proportion.
“There would be a lot of impacts and a lot of destruction around the globe.”
A volcano of this size would have a significant effect on global temperatures and long-lasting changes to weather systems. A blast would launch tons of ash and heavy particles into the atmosphere effectively blocking the sun. The effect would be felt across the globe. Once profound changes of this magnitude occur the earth would see whole species disappear. Farrell also stated that a large magnitude earthquake was far more likely in the near future.
He also believes that with current seismic technologies that scientists would receive advance knowledge of an eruption. There would be weeks if not months of warning that molten magma was on the move. But again he advised that the chances of an eruption in the near future was very slim. These new findings that the Caldera beneath the Yellowstone National Park is 2.5 times larger than previously thought has amazed the scientists who have been studying the data. Farrell summarized that, “A lot of people say that the Yellowstone volcano is overdue to erupt, but there’s no evidence that it is overdue. We can’t say when the next eruption is going to happen.”
Written by Anthony Clark