Yellowstone Supervolcano May Erupt Sooner Than Anticipated

GETTYA Yellowstone eruption could destroy life on Earth

GETTYA Yellowstone eruption could destroy life on Earth

The supervolcano sitting under Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. could erupt much faster than expected, potentially wiping out life on the planet, Arizona State University researchers working around the area have said.

If the supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park erupted tomorrow, life as we know it would come to an abrupt, yet perhaps agonizingly slow, end.

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most heavily-monitored volcanic sites in the world and it sits on a 40 mile-wide caldera, an empty pit that forms when magma flows out after an eruption.

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The volcano can belch out more than 1000 cubic kilometres of rock and ash - 2500 times more than Mount St Helens did in 1980, the ASU researchers found.

The theory of a much shorter timeline than expected was developed by Hannah Shamloo, a graduate student at Arizona State, and several colleagues who spent weeks at Yellowstone's Lava Creek Tuff - a fossilized ash deposit from its last supereruption.

It's true that researchers have determined they'll have less warning than previously thought the next time the supervolcano erupts.

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"It's an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high", the University of Utah's Bob Smith, an expert in Yellowstone volcanism, told the magazine at the time. And a 2013 study reported that the magma reservoir that feeds the supervolcano is about two and a half times larger than previous estimates. Based on the new study, it seems the magma can rapidly refresh-making the volcano potentially explosive in the geologic blink of an eye. It was the site of a supervolcanic eruption 630,000 years ago, when a fresh influx of magma surged into the space beneath what's now Yellowstone. Inside, they tracked the changes that the volcano went through before its eruption. The US Geological Survey has put the estimated yearly odds of another huge Yellowstone blast at 1 in 730,000 - about the same chance as Earth colliding with an asteroid. The pair also presented an earlier version of their study at a 2016 meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

"We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption", said Till said in an interview with the New York Times.

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