Yellowstone National Park’s super volcano fuels famous geysers, clay spots and fumaroles, but new finds suggest that the volcanic caldera power is diminishing.
Researchers discovered two colossal super eruptions 8.7 and 9 million years ago, revealing the average volcano erupted on average once every 500,000 years.
Since the park has only experienced two similar events over the last three million years, experts are concerned that the hotspot is holding “a very significant decline.”
Although reports have warned that a super-outbreak will occur in the near future, the new results suggest that we may have up to 900,000 years before another outbreak occurs on that scale.
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Researchers discovered two colossal super eruptions 8.7 and 9 million years ago, suggesting that, on average, the massive volcano erupted once every 500,000 years
Thomas Knott, a volcanologist at the University of Leicester in the UK and paper’s leading author, said: ‘We discovered that deposits previously believed to belong to several, smaller eruptions were in fact colossal sheets of volcanic material from two previously unknown super eruptions for about 9.0 and 8.7 million years ago. ‘
The younger of the two, known as Grey’s Landing super burst, spewed hot volcanic glass over 8,800 square miles, an area similar to the size of New Jersey.
“The younger of the two, Grey’s Landing super-eruption, is now the largest recorded event in the entire Snake-River-Yellowstone volcano province,” Knott said.
Yellowstone National Park’s super volcano fuels famous geysers, clay spots and fumaroles, but new finds suggest that the volcanic caldera is “waning.” Since the park has only experienced two super eruptions over the past three million years, experts are concerned that the hotspot is holding “a very significant decline”
Based on the latest collection of super-eruption sizes, he added, “It’s one of the five biggest eruptions of all time.”
The team notes that the younger outbreak was 30 percent larger than the previous record holder, Huckleberry Ridge Tuff, and had devastating local and global effects.
The two outbreaks led the team to investigate the super volcano, which led them to suggest that they should reduce.
During the analysis, the team used a combination of techniques, including bulk chemistry, magnetic data, and radioisotopic dates, to correlate volcanic deposits spread over tens of thousands of square miles.
Both of the recently discovered super eruptions occurred during the Miocene, the range of the geological period from 23 to 5.3 million years ago.
The younger of the two, known as Grey’s Landing super-eruption (top right), spewed hot volcanic glass over 8,800 square miles, an area similar to the size of New Jersey
“These two new eruptions bring the total number of recorded Miocene eruptions at Yellowstone-Snake River volcano to six,” Knott says.
Knott’s statement suggests that the average outbreaks during the Miocene once averaged 500,000 years.
And the results also give “little significance in assessing the risk of another superbreak occurring today in Yellowstone,” Knott said.
“We have shown that the recurrence in the Yellowstone superbreak appears to be once every 1.5 million years,” he said.
“The last super-outbreak there was 630,000 years ago, which indicates that we may have up to 900,000 years before another outbreak of this scale occurs.”
However, Knott also added that the estimate is simply that and he stresses to scientists and officials to monitor the area and to issue warnings in advance about each uptickwell.
CAN AN ERUPTION ON GULSTONE SUPERVOLCANO BE PERFORMED?
Recently, research found a small magma chamber, known as the upper crustal magma reservoir, beneath the surface
Nasa believes drilling up to six miles down the super volcano below Yellowstone National Park to pump in high-pressure water can cool it.
Although the mission would cost $ 3.46 billion (£ 2.63 billion), Nasa considers it “the most viable solution.”
Using the heat as a resource also means an opportunity to pay for the plan – it can be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of about $ 0.10 (£ 0.08) per kWh.
But this method of suppressing a supervolcano has the potential to backfire and trigger the supervolcanic outbreak that Nasa is trying to prevent.
“Drilling at the top of the stomach” would be very risky. “However, careful drilling from the lower sides can work.
This USGS graphic shows how a “super burst” of the molten lava below Yellowstone National Park would spread ashes across the United States
Apart from the potential devastating risks, the plan to cool Yellowstone with drilling is not easy.
Doing so would be an incredibly slow process as one happens at a rate of one meter per year, which means it would take tens of thousands of years to cool it completely.
And there is still no guarantee that it will be successful for at least hundreds or possibly thousands of years.