Yellowstone volcano eruptions are serious business. The super-volcano at the park is one of only six super-sized magma gushers in the world. If it were to spew all of its magma suddenly, it would obliterate most of the United States with ash and lava. A new video on YouTube has many people asking whether a possible Yellowstone volcano eruption could be causing bison in the park to flee. The video comes less than a week after a 4.8 magnitude earthquake shook the park, the biggest since 1980.
It is a commonly held theory that animal behavior might foreshadow earthquakes and other planetary events. Many animals, such as dogs, have extremely good hearing. This may enable them to hear the vibrations from seismic events occurring deep within the Earth’s crust. If dogs, pigs, or other animals hear these events, they are said to act strangely.
The viral YouTube video shows bison running eastward , away from Mammoth Hot Springs, and deeper into the park. The video was taken two weeks prior to the recent 4.8 magnitude earthquake, and many are claiming that the large-hoofed creatures somehow knew about the seismic event. Some are wondering whether the animal activity might be a precursor to a massive eruption.
Authorities at the park were quick to respond to the rumors. They posted a video starring Al Nash, Chief of Public Affairs. Nash basically said that the bison are not fleeing because of a possible eruption at the Yellowstone volcano, and that the real cause for the fleeing animals is food scarcity. Apparently, snow-covered areas at higher elevations cause the giant, hungry animals to seek areas with fresher vegetation. When the snow melts, they run back up to their previous locations in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. According to Nash, this is normal activity.
If a major eruption did occur at the park, knowing about it ahead of time would not make much of a difference. Ash would cover the United States, and lava would cover at least 66 percent of the country. It would be hard to escape the devastation.
The magma chamber which holds lava beneath the park could hold as much as 100 sextillion gallons of lava. That is the number 10 followed by 22 zeros, an absolutely huge number. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a massive eruption at Yellowstone could be as much as 1,000-2,000 times greater than the disaster at Mount St. Helens in 1980. Scientists from the USGS monitor the caldera region carefully at all times.
It is difficult to say whether or not earthquakes might signal an eruption. In 1959, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked the famous national park. Thankfully, no lava was seen. The last major eruption occurred 640,000 years ago, and another 1 million years before that. A third eruption is believed to have occurred approximately 2.1 million years ago. So, it is safe to say that these events are rare.
Earthquakes happen all the time at the park, too. 1,000-3,000 earthquakes occur every year, and there are sometimes as many as 20 in a single day. It is doubtful that a possible eruption at the Yellowstone Volcano is causing the bison to spontaneously flee. They probably are just hungry. For now, the caldera remains safe.
By Luke Sargent