In the United States, in Wyoming, there is a supervolcano beneath the Yellowstone National Park, and scientists agree they’re not sure when it will decide to erupt. This would be a complete disaster considering that its magma would reach distances of around 1,000 cubic kilometers. Its ashes and rocks would spread so much, a huge part of the US would remain entirely covered by them for many years.

Some scientists say this event would create a cloud of dust so big it would be similar to the one that killed dinosaurs once the enormous asteroid hit our world. Thus, not letting sunrays reach the surface of the Earth, where humans live. This would not only kill people from lack of light but also include widespread crop failures and food shortages. The worst part: they estimate that the volcanic winter would potentially stay for years.

For a better understanding, let’s put it in this terms: if the supervolcano erupted, and its magma and ashes indeed spread for more than 1,000 cubic kilometers, this would mean they would approximately reach distances 250,000 times larger than the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption.

Yellowstone National Park volcano, Volcano in Wyoming, Yellowstone Volcano eruption prediction
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Image credit: National Geographic

The park, which also reaches parts of Montana and Idaho, has not seen an eruption in more than 600,000 years. However, as some pictures show, the supervolcano of Yellowstone is still active.

Unfortunately, it’s unknown when the volcano is going to make eruption again. Fortunately, and as the U.S. National Park Service said, we can stay calm because that wouldn’t happen for, at least, thousand or even 10,000 years more. Of course, NASA is not ignoring the risk. The agency is even considering to defuse the supervolcano by cooling it with water.

Not answers on how to stop it yet

If scientists begin taking the necessary measures and start investigating how to prevent the eruption, or what to do if it happens, Americans would probably have enough time to prepare and coordinate an adequate answer for such a catastrophic natural disaster.

Previous studies have been made in the park to comprehend any possible eruption further. But as it was said, scientists still need to investigate more. That’s why researchers from the Arizona State University went back to Yellowstone and collected some crystals – looking for changes they had when they went through the supervolcano eruption hundreds of thousands of years ago.

In a volcanology conference in September, Hannah Shamloo – a graduate student at the university -, and her colleagues presented evidence about a fast temperature increase that the zone has been showing. She said that the magma suddenly accumulated could make the volcano explode in a few decades. She also said that she was “shocked” after seeing how little time a volcanic system needs to turn from quiet, to be at “the edge of an eruption.”

Despite the fact that the study doesn’t give any clue about when the supervolcano is going to explode, it opened the eyes of many scientists. The team considers that is time to initiate investigations and monitor what’s going on underneath Yellowstone, so they can track any changes within the magma and stay alert about its accumulation.

“I think it’s important to note that these results say that the rejuvenation of Yellowstone’s magma system may have occurred over decades prior to eruption,” Mike Poland, the scientist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory at the U.S. Geological Survey, told Newsweek. “The research does not provide any information about what actually triggered the eruption.”

Source: National Geographic