Yellowstone Volcano: Super eruptions 'are very rare' says expert

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Home to the Yellowstone supervolcano caldera, Yellowstone National Park in the northwest US is one of the country’s most seismically active regions. Geologists estimates up to 3,000 earthquakes strike the park each year due to the movement of fault lines and scorching-hot water deep underground. It is no surprise then the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) branch of the US Geological Survey (USGS) recorded more than 260 tremors in the park and surrounding areas last month alone.

According to the latest Yellowstone activity report published this week, the University of Utah Seismograph Stations detected a total of 267 earthquakes in the park in October.

The strongest of these tremors was a minor earthquake of magnitude 2.6 just four miles east-northeast of Norris Geyser Basin on October 4.

During this time, the geologists also recorded a total of three earthquake swarms.

The first lasted from October 1 to 15, and saw a total of 109 tremors, and was a continuation of a swarm that began on September 19.

Another swarm of 21 earthquakes began on October 1 and ended on October 8, and another 29 tremors struck between October 4 and 8.

In any given month, Yellowstone park experiences anywhere between 100 to 300 earthquakes, half of which typically come in swarms.

These can sometimes hit highs of more than 1,000 quakes in a single month, though experts have assured these are not outside of the norm.

The USGS said: “Yellowstone earthquake activity remains at background levels.”

Despite its seismic activity and terrifying past, scientists do not believe Yellowstone volcano poses any present threat to the US.

And yet, many people live in the false belief that the supervolcano is overdue for an eruption.

Yellowstone volcano: Expert debunks theory of 'overdue' eruption

Yellowstone’s three biggest eruptions went off about 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 640,000 years ago.

This random pattern of eruptions has led many to assume Yellowstone erupts every 600,000 to 700,000 years.

Social media sites like Twitter are flooded with people claiming to know something sinister is brewing under the Yellowstone caldera, even though all evidence points to the contrary.

Twitter user Chris Rowe, for instance, said: “Yellowstone park could erupt tomorrow and change the planet’s climate for decades if not forever, this planet will do what it wants and no amount of bleating about its changing climate will change it…”

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And Anthony, who goes by the username @AnthonyG1382, said: “No one saying how much CO2 will be spewed out when the 1,500 years overdue supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park ‘blows’.”

But there is absolutely no evidence to support any of these claims, according to the USGS.

The group said: “First of all, one cannot present recurrence intervals based on only two values. It would be statistically meaningless.

“But for those who insist… let’s do the arithmetic. The three eruptions occurred 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 0.64 million years ago.

“The two intervals are thus 0.8 and 0.66 million years, averaging to a 0.73 million-year interval.

“Again, the last eruption was 0.64 million years ago, implying that we are still about 90,000 years away from the time when we might consider calling Yellowstone overdue for another caldera-forming eruption.”

But these were caldera-forming eruptions, and Yellowstone has experienced other periods of lesser volcanism since then.

Since the last big eruption 640,000 years ago, Yellowstone has witnessed at least 80 non-explosive events, including 27 rhyolite flows in the caldera.

The USGS added: “The most likely type of eruption would not be volcanic but, rather, hydrothermal.

“This type of small, but still explosive eruption can occur from shallow reservoirs of steam or hot water rather than molten rock.”

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