A group of scientists at Arizona State University found that the supervolcano lying beneath Yellowstone National Park could throw the planet into a volcanic winter in decades, not centuries as previously estimated.
In other words, the dormant supervolcano could have a devastating eruption in as soon as 2030’s. Researchers explained that the pace at which the volcano fills its gigantic magma chamber is much faster than expected.
For the research, the research team analyzed the minerals created as the molten rock solidifies within magma chambers. They found that the rocks had bands of younger material around older material.
This means that as a magma chamber gets fuller some portions of the magma can become cool enough to turn into rock. Scientists found that some of the layers in those rocks suggested that there has been a recent temperature spike that occurred within decades not centuries. In other words, in a matter of decades, there has been enough magma to fill the chamber and prompt an eruption.
Planet Could Be Sent into Volcanic Winter
The news is unsettling as the Yellowstone supervolcano can release up to 1,000 cubic km of rock and ash, which makes its eruptions 250,000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, which was devastating.
The material spewed by the supervolcano is enough to cover most of the United States and spark a volcanic winter worldwide. Volcanic winters are caused by large amounts of ash and dust in the air that can block sun rays for years.
In 2013, research showed that the magma chamber is a lot larger than previously thought. Researchers concluded back then that after an eruption the chamber is emptied, so they thought it may take centuries for it to refill. However, the new research suggests magma can refresh faster than previously estimated and we may see a new eruption in the next decades.
Image Source: Wikimedia