Yellowstone National Park has been inundated by an unusually large earthquake swarm over the past five weeks, and tourists are definitely taking notice. In an average year, Yellowstone typically sees between 1,500 and 2,000 earthquakes throughout the iconic park. Since June 12, the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park has been hit by over 1,200 earthquakes — almost as many as the area’s annual average.
As Fox 13 Now reports, the nearly constant quaking (made up mostly of quakes smaller than 2.5 magnitude) has cause some potential visitors to the picturesque vacation spot to reconsider their travel plans. The reason? All of the stunning scenery and otherworldly thermal features that draw millions of tourists to Yellowstone every year are sitting on top of a massive and potentially catastrophic supervolcano.
According to researchers at the University of Utah, who have been monitoring the Yellowstone earthquake swarm with a goodly amount of interest, “a lot of calls” are coming in from apprehensive travelers concerned about their summer vacation plans.
Fortunately, while many Yellowstone tourists are extremely concerned about the current earthquake swarm, researchers aren’t worried.
“We get a lot of calls as to whether people should cancel plans to go to Yellowstone and the answer is decisively no. This is how volcanoes act, and it’s pretty normal.”
Swarm of earthquakes hit Yellowstone National Park https://t.co/G8g1ep5ElO
— FOX 13 News Utah (@fox13) July 20, 2017
Jamie Farrell from the University of Utah admits that the current earthquake swarm at Yellowstone is definitely “large,” but that for a volcanic area, it’s well within what’s considered “normal,” especially considering the rest of the volcanic activity currently taking place in the park, which is constantly monitored.
After all, if the Yellowstone supervolcano were to erupt, particularly without warning, the impact on North America and the globe would likely be catastrophic.
— Miguel (@miguelazos) July 8, 2017
As Newsweek reports, the last time Yellowstone erupted, the gigantic caldera spewed out an estimated 240 cubic miles of ash and other debris into the atmosphere. That was roughly 640,000 years ago, and geologic records indicate that ash from Yellowstone blanketed much of the United States, as well as circulated in the Earth’s atmosphere to such a degree that the global climate was altered as a result.
It’s little wonder that residents near Yellowstone National Park, as well as potential tourists, tend to be wary when the seismic activity increases.
— USGS (@USGS) July 6, 2017
Concern involving the current Yellowstone earthquake swarm really ramped up in the early morning hours of July 6. That was when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck near Lincoln in southern Montana. The quake’s size made it fairly unusual (it was the biggest quake to strike the area in 34 years and the eighth largest since record keeping began), and its proximity to Yellowstone (just 230 miles away) had locals wondering if a supervolcano eruption may be underway.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) quickly spoke out about the quake in an attempt to alleviate the public’s fears, calling the incident “not unusual” and reassuring the distressed citizenry that the quake wasn’t a sign of an impending Yellowstone eruption.
Earthquake in Bozeman = truly terrified Yellowstone volcano gonna go off
— Shae (@Shanae_Richey) July 6, 2017
So do I haft to worry about a Yellowstone eruption? And wasent there a lot of earthquakes around yellowstone like 400 in a week?
— Cody Tourett (@120codex) July 7, 2017
#YIKES that is a lot of earth quakes in just over one month! I bet the buffalo and other animals are freaking out! ????????????????????????
— Kay Lynn Peterson (@klp_1961) July 20, 2017
The world is going to end Bc Yellowstone is a supervolcano overdue for an eruption and it would cause so much ash to block out the sun
— 3oh!3 stan (@Zosiaziva) July 18, 2017
According to USGS scientist Jacob Lowenstern, the current Yellowstone earthquake swarm is not the first, nor is it likely to be the last.
“The swarm in 2010 on the Madison Plateau lasted at least three weeks. In 1985, there was one that lasted several months. Yellowstone has had dozens of these sorts of earthquake swarms in the last 150 years it’s been visited. The last volcanic eruption within the caldera was 70,000 years ago. For magma to reach the surface, a new vent needs to be created, which requires a lot of intense geological activity.”
— USGS (@USGS) June 30, 2017
While geologists don’t believe that Yellowstone will erupt at anytime in the near future, volcanic eruptions are impossible to predict, which means it’s always a possibility. According to the USGS, the odds of the supervolcano erupting are 1 in 730,000.
What’s more, even if the current Yellowstone earthquake swarm results in an unexpected eruption, scientists believe it would likely be lava flow rather than a catastrophic, ash-filled explosion.
[Featured Image by Suzi Pratt/Shutterstock]