Nestled in Yellowstone National Park is the Yellowstone Volcano. This volcano, also known as a caldera, is situated in Wyoming’s northwestern region but also extends to the eastern portion of Idaho.
Bob Christiansen from the United States Geological Survey discovered the Yellowstone caldera in the 1960s and 1970s through geological fieldwork.
The fiery Yellowstone volcano is similar to a heat engine underground that fuels the hot springs, bubbling mud puddles, and steaming geysers. The caldera’s size at 45 by 30 miles is almost similar to that of Rhode Island.
So, what’s really the truth behind the Yellowstone volcano? Should it be a cause of panic in the first place?
Yes, It’s a Supervolcano
Many scientists consider the Yellowstone Volcano a supervolcano. It is a distinction that refers to volcanoes that can erupt with over 240 cubic miles of magma. For the past 2 million years, there were three major eruptions known to have occurred at Yellowstone that meet the criteria.
The crater called Yellowstone Caldera which measures approximately 45 miles across its widest point was formed when the Yellowstone Volcano erupted about 640,000 years ago. This scale of eruption would have caused catastrophic effects if it happened today.
However, not all eruptions at Yellowstone have been as massive. Around 174,000 years ago, a smaller eruption also occurred, with the latest lava flow noted about 70,000 years ago.
Scientists are Keeping an Eye for an Eruption
Theoretically speaking, a future eruption of the Yellowstone Volcano is possible because it is active. However, the chances of a major eruption taking place any time in the next several thousand years are extremely far-flung.
The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory’s scientists are always monitoring the volcano for any signs of an imminent eruption. They measure seismic data for any changes that may indicate an increased volcanic activity.
Today’s volcano monitoring science has seen significant advancement for the past several years, and the Yellowstone Volcano’s possible eruption can be easily detected weeks, months, or years earlier.
You Can See It All Over the Park
Different features reflecting the tumultuous volcanic history of Yellowstone can be seen all over the park. The Yellowstone caldera itself is also visible from the Washburn Hot Springs Overlook in all its majestic glory. Ancient volcanic rock and ash deposits and lava flows can also be spotted at various locations such as the Lava Creek, Virginia Cascades, Obsidian Cliff, and Sheepeater Cliff.
Yellowstone National Park Wouldn’t Exist Without Yellowstone Volcano
Most of the features associated with the Yellowstone National Park would be impossible if not for the Yellowstone Volcano. From the many bubbling hot springs and mud pots and seeping steam vents to the Old Faithful geyser’s clockwork eruptions, none of these hydrothermal features would have existed without the vast magma pocket sitting approximately 6 miles under the surface.
Don’t Let the Yellowstone Volcano Scare You Off
It is extraordinarily unlikely for the Yellowstone Volcano to erupt within this lifetime, and it shouldn’t stop the millions of people who visit the park annually.
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