You can take a sigh of relief, as it has been discovered that the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone is not about to erupt, as of yet. This week, news of a supereruption caused severe panic and now scientists have dismissed it as sensationalized.
As per a report by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the chances of a supereruption beneath Yellowstone park is "exceedingly low" in the next few thousands of years.
As Snopes points out, this news essentially emerged when certain publications misinterpreted a New York Times report on the work of Hannah Shamloo of Arizona State University. They raised the speculation that the volcano under Yellowstone could undergo a "supereruption" soon. Shamloo's work largely provides evidence that the changes in the magma beneath Yellowstone, which led to the last such supereruption, occurred on a shorter geological timescale than it was previously thought.
However, as pointed out by Newsweek, Shamloo's findings do not give evidence to the scientists or experts to predict when the next eruption will occur. Her research can, however, serve as an early warning.
The director of Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, which observes the volcano under the national park, Mike Poland, told the publication, "Even if large eruptions are preceded by only decades of unrest, this is still something we are positioned to detect well in advance. Yellowstone is one of the best-monitored volcanoes in the world, with a host of seismic, deformation, thermal and geochemical sensors and satellite data sets always looking for changes."
Although the supereruption is not happening anytime soon, one might wonder, what was there to be so afraid of in the first place?
Well, as per USGS, in the last 2.1 million years only three of such supereruptions, known as caldera- or crater-forming eruptions, have emerged. The latest one among them occurred 631,000 years ago. The word caldera refers to the huge craters that are created when the gigantic flows of magma, from these eruptions, cause the ground to collapse and gobble up the mountains above.
As the USGS states, "If another large caldera-forming eruption were to occur at Yellowstone, its effects would be worldwide. Thick ash deposits would bury vast areas of the United States, and injection of huge volumes of volcanic gases into the atmosphere could drastically affect global climate. Fortunately, the Yellowstone volcanic system shows no signs that it is headed toward such an eruption. The probability of a large caldera-forming eruption within the next few thousand years is exceedingly low."
One surely should have been concerned if this supereruption was to take place anytime soon, but for now, it appears that we have other things to worry about.