The supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park is 2.5 times larger than previously thought, according to a study from the University of Utah.
More accurate details about the supervolcano’s caldera were discovered by measuring the seismic waves of the underground magma which lies 3 to 9 miles beneath the surface of the earth. The length of the caldera is 88.5 km (~50 miles), and its width measures 29 km (~18 miles).
The lead author of the study, Jamie Farrell, claims the quantity of lava in the supervolcano has the potential to match its largest blast some 2.1 million years ago. That blast was 2,000 times the size of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state.
A similar eruption would spew enough volcanic ash into the atmosphere to encircle the earth, said Farrell, with the department of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah.
Such a blast would annihilate Yellowstone National Park and surrounding communities and wipe vegetation — indeed, entire farms — hundreds of miles away.
Sulfur dioxide would circle the globe and drop temperatures. Worldwide famine would likely ensue.
But is an eruption in the cards?
The last Yellowstone eruption happened 640,000 years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. For years, observers tracking earthquake swarms under Yellowstone have warned the caldera is overdue to erupt.
Farrell dismissed that notion, saying there isn’t enough data to estimate the timing of the next eruption.
“We do believe there will be another eruption, we just don’t know when,” said Farrell.
A large earthquake at Yellowstone is much more likely than an eruption, Farrell said.
Thanks to Andrew Stranglen and Michele Casati for these links