Did you know that Yellowstone National Park is actually an active supervolcano? As you walk around the park you may think: “I don’t see any volcanos?!” That’s because much of the entire park is a volcano – and the bubbling geysers and hot springs are an indication of the churning activity below the surface.
The term “supervolcano” implies an eruption of magnitude 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index, indicating an eruption of more than 1,000 cubic kilometers (250 cubic miles) of magma. Yellowstone has had at least three such eruptions: The three eruptions, 2.1 million years ago, 1.2 million years ago and 640,000 years ago, were about 6,000, 700 and 2,500 times larger than the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State.
The last time the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted was 640,000+ years ago. The Yellowstone eruption area collapsed upon itself, creating a sunken giant crater or caldera 1,500 square miles in area. The magmatic heat powering that eruption (and two others, dating back 2.1 million years) still powers the park’s famous geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots.
At least 1,299 episodes of unrest have occurred at 138 calderas greater than 5 km in diameter during historical time.
BBC Science and Discovery Channel produced the docudrama called “Super-Volcano,” followed by the documentary, “Supervolcano: The Truth About Yellowstone.”
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.
The Yellowstone caldera was formed after an explosion of magma nearly 600,000 years ago.
As long as there's been a National Park seated on a super volcano, there's been erroneous reports of impending doom.
Documentaries aside, movies about Yellowstone National Park tend to focus on fiery natural disasters.
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.
Using thermal satellite images, scientists take the earth’s temperature hundreds of miles away from a destination to hopefully predict volcano eruptions.
The odds that the Yellowstone supervolcano will erupt are roughly the same as the chances you'll be struck by lightning: 1 in 10,000
One scientist tests the theory of mantle plumes by using 200 gallons of corn syrup to represent the Earth's mantle.
Seismic activity is monitored around the clock by staff of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory with help from the University of Utah. No eruption soon.
Yellowstone is releasing a about 60 tons of helium from underground stores each year, an amount hundreds, possibly thousands, of times more than expected.
Deep beneath Yellowstone, forces of heat and pressure cause the surface to rise and fall much like the breathing of a gigantic, slumbering beast.