The Yellowstone National Park is at the center of another supervolcano scare. Social media reports have indicated that the park is quietly closing down roads and evacuating tourists as the threat of the Yellowstone supervolcano eruption is imminent. However, are the concerns based in logic, or is an impending eruption simply fear mongering?
This isn’t the first time that Yellowstone National Park has been at the center of an internet debate. In fact, last year there were rumors that the park was hiding a dark secret. A number of social media “news” outlets claimed that the Yellowstone supervolcano was about to erupt and that the park authorities were closing roads and slowly evacuating people from the area in a bid to save as many lives as possible. However, shortly after the reports went viral, Yellowstone park officials put the rumors to rest and said that the fears were perpetuated after a series of errors associated with the park’s seismic activity monitors.
“One of the many seismometers installed in the park, malfunctioned and began sending zany data to a public viewer, or ‘webicorder,’ at the University of Utah’s seismographic station, which has a following among amateur volcano buffs as well as those who are looking for signs of the coming apocalypse.”
Lee Whittlesey, the Yellowstone National Park historian, notes that the data was incorrect and that the imminent doom being forecast was a sad case of public misinformation. However, it seems that Yellowstone supervolcano has become somewhat of a staple among the apocalypse-forecasting crowd. Recently, another publication indicated that a supervolcano eruption may be on the horizon as earthquake activity in the area began to pickup. The report claims that on May 18, 2015, two earthquakes struck the Wyoming and Idaho area right under the massive magma chamber of the Yellowstone supervolcano. The report indicates that the earthquakes were both in the 3.0M+ range and should be of a great concern.
The University of Utah Seismograph Station shows that one earthquake measuring 3.0M was measured on May 18 and was at a depth of three miles. However, the university called the earthquake “minor” and did not note any concern for the safety of the area.
“A minor earthquake occurred at 5:00:51 PM (MDT) on Monday, May 18, 2015. The magnitude 3.0 event occurred 57 km (36 miles) SSE of Gardiner, MT. The hypocentral depth is 5 km ( 3 miles).”
The concerns about a potential volcanic eruption likely stem from recent research that determined the Yellowstone magma chamber is much larger than previously thought. Researchers found that the magma chamber is big enough to fill the Grand Canyon 11.2 times and is just 12 to 28 miles below the surface.
KSFY recently discussed the topic of the Yellowstone supervolcano and spoke with Yellowstone geologist Hank Heasler about the likelihood of a super eruption in the area. Heasler noted that five years ago, he was moved to a home inside of Yellowstone when park officials and geologists became concerned about unusual seismic activity in the area. It was determined that a supervolcano eruption could be nearing and more observation was needed. Heasler says he personally feels that the Yellowstone volcano will not erupt for another 100,000 years or so; however, he says it is something that should be closely monitored as “volcanism is in Yellostone’s future.”
“The frequency of earthquakes doesn’t necessarily mean its a suicidal place to be or live. However, volcanism is in Yellowstone’s future. There is no doubt about it.”
So how concerned should potential tourists to Yellowstone be about a potential supervolcano eruption during a visit to the park?
“One thing that Yellowstone has taught me is that everything changes so be careful in what you predict and forecast.”
Heasler says that though he doesn’t think a supervolcano eruption will take place for another 100,000 years, he notes that he is only confident in saying there won’t be an eruption in the “foreseeable future” which he claims is two weeks out. In other words, he says watch for alerts from Yellowstone itself and enjoy your vacation, unless something major changes.
What do you think about the possibility of a Yellowstone supervolcano eruption in the near future?
[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ “Saphire Pool in Biscuit Basin“]