Brewing beneath the serene landscape of Yellowstone National Park is a volcanic caldera that seismologists are now saying is in danger of erupting imminently.
The Yellowstone Caldera supervolcano last erupted 700,000 years ago as a category 7 (out of 8) eruption. Volcanologists theorize that category 8 eruptions occur somewhere on our planet around every one million.
The eruption of the Yellowstone caldera as a category 7 event would instantly kill 87,000 people and make two-thirds of the USA uninhabitable. As a category 8, some scientists say that it would essentially eliminate twenty states of the Union and make the remaining states a wasteland due to a protracted ‘nuclear winter’.
Yellowstone Caldera's the largest supervolcano in N. America & is an active volcano. It's erupted several times in 2 million years pic.twitter.com/jMlzRk8HkQ
— Teguh Iman Prasetya (@GerbangBintang) February 3, 2018
The UK’s Express reports that scientists and monitoring equipment observing the subterranean volcano have announced that it is “under strain”, a sign of growing pressure within the caldera.
One sign of the growing danger is something called ‘deformation’. This is a process in which subsurface rocks undergo subtle changes in shape and that is presently occurring beneath the surface of Yellowstone.
Deformation is a symptom of what seismologists say is the caused by the pressure exerted by a ballooning magma chamber.
Using global positioning systems (GPSs), borehole tiltmeters, and borehole strainmeters, scientists are currently measuring the minute changes in deformation in an attempt to get a clearer picture of what is going on under the earth at Yellowstone.
Express reports that David Mencin and Glen Mattioli, geodesists with UNAVCO composed an article for the Billings Gazette, in which they write that “the strain signal is larger than would be expected if the crust under Yellowstone were completely solid.”
In other words, magma is building up and signals the possibility of an imminent explosion.
“These independent observations,” write Mencin and Mattioli, “agree with other instruments at Yellowstone, like seismometers, that indicate a zone of semi-molten rock starting about three miles beneath the surface.
“We say semi-molten because the entire zone contains only between five and 15 percent liquid rock that occupies small pockets of space between solid rock.”
Despite the unnerving news, the two authors advise caution and calm, saying that “these findings are no cause for alarm”, because the measurements only note the natural cycle of a volcano.
Somehow, that does not sound so reassuring.
What do you think? Will the Yellowstone caldera erupt soon?
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