Yellowstone: USGS warns of potentially ‘devastating’ eruption
The caldera in Yellowstone National Park has been formed during the past three major events over the past 2.1 million years. It is constantly monitored by the USGS (Geological Survey) for any changes to the system that indicate that history is going to repeat itself. The chief scientist of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO), dr. Poland, exposed the sobering power of the volcano during the USGS video ‘Overview, monitoring, hazards and notable results’.
He said: “The Yellowstone system consists of several magma chambers. We have this mantle-melting anomaly deep beneath the surface.
‘But there are some magma chambers that feed this melting anomaly.
‘The one is quite deep, about 15 kilometers below the surface, and it’s full of magma with a very low viscosity, called basalt.
‘This is the kind of thing that breaks out of Hawaii, low viscosity, it flows very easily.
Yellowstone volcano poses a significant threat
Dr Mike Poland spoke during the video
“In turn, the basalt magma body feeds a reservoir of rhyolite at a higher level – a tough magma that tends to be more explosive, and it sits about three miles below the surface in parts of Yellowstone.”
Dr Poland explained why these chambers are not full of molten rock.
He added: ‘But do not regard them as giant magma bodies that are just full of boiling, boiling liquid matter.
‘Most of these are actually solid. The upper reservoir is only five to 15 percent molten, and this lower reservoir here is only about two to five percent molten.
‘It’s a porridge plastic-y zone with small melts melting in the middle.
An eruption in Yellowstone would be devastating
“This is what the magma system of Yellowstone looks like there, and this is what drives the dangers in the region.”
Despite this, the expert sends a warning about the capabilities of Yellowstone in the event of a super eruption.
He said: “Everyone knows about the giant world-ending explosions.
‘These are very big explosions, not end-of-world events, but there have been some of these that have happened over the last two million years.
‘There was one that happened 2.1 million years ago, a smaller one 1.3 million years ago and then 630,000 years ago the Yellowstone Caldera originated in the park.
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The Yellowstone Caldera is monitored by the USGS
‘If this magnitude were to happen today, it would be very devastating for the central part of the USA.
“We did simulations about how ash would fall and if a large part of the U.S. would cover, that’s probably what happened when this caldera first formed 631,000 years ago.”
However, the expert outlined the type of eruption that is likely to occur in the near geological future.
He continues: ‘But the chances of these kinds of events are very small, they occur once or twice a million years.
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The supervolcano is inside Yellowstone National Park
‘There are more than 700,000 years between the events between these things.
‘What happens more often is lava flows. Since the last great Yellowstone explosion, 631,000 years ago, there have been about two dozen lava flows, and you can see them here in different colors.
‘The initial pulse rate of lava flow activity was 500-600,000 years ago.
‘We let these orange pieces of lava come out, and then there was another pulse of activity that took place about 170,000 years ago to 70,000 years ago, which gave us all this pink [shaded] lava here. ‘