Yellowstone’s Supervolcano Might Erupt Soon, But Not Soon Enough to End Your Misery

Yellowstone. Photo: Richard J Woodland

Don’t believe the hype: Despite the headlines suggesting an impending eruption of the supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park, you’re still not very likely to be incinerated by molten lava any time soon. Sorry.

It’s true that researchers have determined they’ll have less warning than previously thought the next time the supervolcano erupts. But we’re talking about the difference between centuries and decades, not the difference between years and days.

After analyzing minerals in fossilized ash from the most recent mega-eruption, researchers at Arizona State University think the supervolcano last woke up after two influxes of fresh magma flowed into the reservoir below the caldera.

And in an unsettling twist, the minerals revealed that the critical changes in temperature and composition built up in a matter of decades. Until now, geologists had thought it would take centuries for the supervolcano to make that transition.

That’s not to suggest this isn’t news. The supervolcano under Yellowstone is a beast that hasn’t erupted in more than 630,000 years, so this development is interesting to note. An eruption would send an untold amount of rock and ash into the sky, unleash torrents of lava, and potentially bring about a planetary volcanic winter. It’s also news because, as the Times notes, decades are but “a blink of an eye, geologically speaking.”

So, yes, geologically speaking, an eruption of the supervolcano could happen sooner than previously thought. But, geologically speaking, your life is only going a last a few more blinks anyway, so it’s probably nothing to worry about.

Yellowstone Supervolcano May Erupt Soon, But Not Soon Enough