Giant Cluster Of Earthquakes Strike Near Yellowstone Supervolcano

The supervolcano hasn’t erupted in more than 630,000 years, but some believe a large enough earthquake could set it off.

Boiling Yellowstone Hot Pool
By inkknife_2000 / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The supervolcano hasn’t erupted in more than 630,000 years, but some believe a large enough earthquake could set it off.

Data taken from the University of Utah Seismograph Station recently revealed that July was a big month for earthquake activity near the supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park. In total, 153 minor earthquakes happened within the region. The most notable of these events hit a magnitude of 2.5, which means that almost all of the earthquakes were not felt or noticed by anyone other than seismograph researchers.

Yellowstone’s supervolcano has long elicited fears from doomsayers who believe that an earthquake could cause its eventual eruption and destroy life as we know it. Per Fox News, researchers Christy Till and Hannah Shamloo have refuted these claims. The duo says that “there’s no evidence to suggest it could destroy mankind.” However, the Iceland volcano eruption of 2010 showcased how damaging these events can be when an ash cloud caused parts of European airspace to close for up to one week.

The supervolcano in Yellowstone is a rarity; there are only 19 other volcanos like it in the world. BBC News reported that super-eruptions happen about once every 100,000 years.

Despite claims to the contrary by Till and Shamloo, who further indicated that “there’s no reason to think it could impact mass transportation… nor would it have any effect on crops,” the last super-eruption to happen in the Yellowstone region was devastating. During that eruption, the Yellowstone supervolcano sent 1,000 cubic km of lava and ash flying into the atmosphere. To put this into perspective, if this amount of ash came back to earth right now, it would bury nearby cities with a pile of ash approximately 2 to 3 miles high.

In 2014, experts told BBC News that we would most likely get a lot of warning before the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts. A volcano of that size needs to reach a melt of approximately 50 percent, but the one in Yellowstone is at least 20 percent away from reaching that point. Additionally, the ground around the volcano is likely to rise up by at least 500 to 700 feet before any eruptions occur.

According to Express, there are several scientists who don’t share the same optimistic view as Till and Shamloo. Instead, many hypothesize that the ash from a supervolcano eruption inside Yellowstone National Park would be massive enough to spread out across the entire United States. They further speculate that the ash has the potential to kill animals, plants, and people, along with destroying entire cities.

tourists photographing Old Faithful
  Julie Jacobson / Associated Press

One thing all researchers seem to agree on, though, is that the odds are high that the supervolcano won’t erupt anytime soon. A large enough earthquake does have the potential to set it off, but the more likely scenario is that the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would cause a series of subsequent earthquakes.