The Yellowstone “supervolcano” has been hit with what scientists are calling an “earthquake storm,” with over 230 seismic events striking the area in one week, Yahoo News is reporting. Earthquake activity in and around a volcanic caldera is generally considered a sign of an impending eruption, and the Yellowstone “supervolcano” is, by some measures, long overdue.
The earthquake storm began on June 15 with a magnitude 4.5 quake inside Yellowstone National Park. That particular quake was strong enough to have been felt in small towns a few miles away, including West Yellowstone and Gardiner, Montana. That quake has been followed by over 200 other quakes, most of which were imperceptible except to sensitive scientific equipment.
What’s more, the June 15 quake was the strongest earthquake to hit the region since the 4.8 tremor on March 30, 2014.
Much of Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area is actually a volcanic crater, or, as scientists call it, a “caldera.” In other words, the entire area is essentially a 40-mile wide, dormant supervolcano, which has had at least three major eruptive events. Those were approximately 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 630,000 years ago, according to The United States Geological Survey, followed by a comparatively smaller eruption approximately 174,000 years ago.
If (when) the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts again, it could very well cost tens of millions of lives. At the very least, according to Live Science, it will bury all of the ground in a 500-mile radius in ankle-deep volcanic ash, poisoning much of the West and Midwest’s drinking water, and who knows what else. Much of the arable land in and around the region would become useless, at least for a few seasons. What’s more, the damage to the climate would cause temporary shifts in weather patterns, devastating the agriculture industry worldwide and causing famine.
In other words, it’s going to be bad.
However, geologists poo-poo such dire predictions. USGS volcanologist Larry Mastin says there’s nothing to worry about.
“These events have been so infrequent that our advice has been not to worry about it.”
Similarly, Jamie Farrell, a Yellowstone expert and assistant research professor at the University of Utah, says that, if Yellowstone is ready to blow, science will have plenty of warning, and plenty of time to come up with contingency plans.
“The bottom line is, we don’t know when or if it will erupt again, but we would have adequate warning.”
[Featured Image by Tom Mangelsen, File/AP Photo]