Supervolcano Eruptions


The odds that the Yellowstone supervolcano will erupt are roughly the same as those that the National Weather Service estimates you’ll get struck by lightning in your lifetime: 1 in 10,000. She last blew her top 640,000 years ago. The two times before that occurred roughly 1.3 million and 2.1 million years ago.

So what happens if the “what if” really occurs? Well, based on the past three eruptions of the Yellowstone hotspot, the party starts with an eruption of more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma. Jacob Lowenstern, scientist-in-charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, notes that an eruption of that size will cover most of North America with an ash blanket of varying thickness. Countless lives will be saved if the states surrounding Wyoming have a chance to evacuate, thereby avoiding the heaviest downpour of ash.

It’s the aftermath, however, that will cause the greatest loss of life. The ash-filled air will make breathing difficult for the days following the eruption. The ash-covered vegetation will be smothered. And the ash-polluted water supplies will become poisonous. "A lot of people would perish," Stephen Self, director of the Volcano Dynamics Group at the Open University in the U.K. told the website “Life’s Little Mysteries.”

On the bright side, scientists have concluded that the supereruption won’t cause a mass extinction. "The last time Yellowstone erupted, no extinctions took place," Michael Rampino, a biologist and geologist at New York University, told LLM. "Supereruptions are not extinction-level events," but he clarified that they’re not exactly a boon to civilization.

As a girl who both knows someone who was struck by lightning (odds of knowing a victim of this kind are 1 in 1,000, says the NWS) and lives in a state bordering Wyoming, this freaks me out. At least I don’t have asthma.



Docudrama Movie 'Supervolcano' by BBC and Discovery Channel

BBC Science and Discovery Channel produced the docudrama called “Super-Volcano,” followed by the documentary, “Supervolcano: The Truth About Yellowstone.”


Watch Geysers Erupt in Yellowstone

Yellowstone is the largest active geyser field in the world.

Yellowstone's Castle Geyser

History of Yellowstone’s Supervolcano

The Yellowstone area has seen tremendous volcanic activity in its past. 3 giant eruptions have occurred between 2.1 million and 640,000 years ago.

Test tube geyser from YouTube video

Why Do Geysers Erupt?

Watch a video showing a test tube "geyser" with clear looping chambers underneath. It slowly bubbles until the pressure is reached, creating a blast.

Seismic Monitor from

Who is Watching Yellowstone's Volcano and Nearby Earthquakes?

Seismic activity is monitored around the clock by staff of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory with help from the University of Utah. No eruption soon.

Steamboat Geyser May-23, 2005

Steamboat, World's Tallest Geyser, Erupts Unexpectedly in Yellowstone

Saturday, May 5, 2018, marked the fifth time in seven weeks that the unpredictable Steamboat Geyser has erupted.


Yellowstone Volcano Caldera Rises, Falls and Rises Again

Deep beneath Yellowstone, forces of heat and pressure cause the surface to rise and fall much like the breathing of a gigantic, slumbering beast.

Crust waves of a geyser at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park

Scientists Find 4X Magma Under Yellowstone's Supervolcano

Yellowstone’s plumbing system is no larger - nor closer to erupting - than before but now we have advanced techniques to map the system. See animation of magma chamber.

Geothermic Hotspots In (Yellow) and Near Yellowstone

Scientists study Yellowstone geothermic hotspot

Using thermal satellite images, scientists take the earth’s temperature hundreds of miles away from a destination to hopefully predict volcano eruptions.