With the Nibiru panic of September having run its course, it would now seem that talk of a Yellowstone supervolcano eruption has become the doomsaying “flavor of the month.” Reports have been suggesting that such a cataclysmic event will be happening anywhere from a few years to a few decades from now, instead of the thousands of years that were once predicted. But is there really any need to panic? Hardly any, we’d say.
In order to bring you up to speed to the story at hand, we’ll have to go back to Tuesday when the New York Times reported on a new study from a team of Arizona State University researchers who spent weeks at Yellowstone’s Lava Creek Tuff, a geological feature created when the park’s supervolcano last erupted about 631,000 years ago. The findings suggested that it only took decades, and not thousands of years, for fresh magma to emerge and temperature to rise, thus triggering the last supereruption.
At this point in the game, it’s still impossible to predict with 100 percent certainty when the next Yellowstone supervolcano eruption will occur. But as the Daily Mail reported earlier this month, scientists just recorded the biggest earthquake swarm at Yellowstone in 32 years, with 2,475 tremors recorded between June and October. Does that mean the so-called supervolcano is due to erupt within our lifetimes, as the new study appears to be suggesting?
One need only look at Snopes‘ fact-check on the wave of Yellowstone supervolcano eruption reports to assuage their concerns. The publication wrote that stories about this potentially destructive event got more and more skewed toward a doomsday scenario until one paper wrote on Thursday that the supervolcano “may blow sooner than thought” and had the potential of rendering humanity extinct. It’s a scary possibility alright, but an extremely small one, as Snopes succinctly explained in its Yellowstone piece.
“To be clear, this is in no way what the researchers at Arizona State University (or anyone else in the field of volcanology) were arguing. First, and most importantly, their research does not in any way, shape, or form, change predictions about the likelihood of a supereruption happening within our lifetimes. That risk remains exceedingly low.”
Snopes had also spoken to ASU professor Christy Till, who explained that the so-called “injections” of magma that took place over decades instead of thousands of years could help researchers learn more about the processes that could happen before a Yellowstone supervolcano eruption. More importantly, she emphasized that her team’s findings do not, in any way, suggest that such an eruption will be taking place in the foreseeable future.
University of Oregon professor of volcanology Ilya Bindeman, who was not involved in the study, emailed Snopes to corroborate Till’s statements that the aforementioned chemical signals do not necessarily hint at a supereruption.
“Most eruptions at Yellowstone are lava flows […], they discharge [a] similar or comparable amount of magma without a supereruption. Since 630,000 years ago there have been many […] such eruptions. These eruptive products also have ‘short’ diffusion profiles [similar to the ones from the explosive 630,000 year old event] in their crystals, but they erupted quietly.”
Also worth noting is the United States Geological Service’s own Yellowstone fact sheet, which explains that future eruptions are possible, but events over the “next few hundred years” may likely be limited to occasional steam explosions and “ongoing” geyser and hot spring activity. Moderate to large earthquakes are also possible within this period of time, but the possibility of an apocalyptic Yellowstone supervolcano eruption is “exceedingly low” over the next few thousands of years, the USGS noted.
With all that in mind, you can rest easy. There is a lot of merit to the ASU study, but to suggest that it could hint at a Yellowstone supervolcano eruption would be pushing things to the area of sensationalism.
[Featured Image by Lorcel/Shutterstock]