Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Volcanic System Larger, More Stable Than Originally Thought

The end of the worlders say a Yellowstone eruption is imminent as the government quietly evacuates cities in the area, but the experts say the Yellowstone volcanic system is indeed larger than previously assumed, but also a lot more stable.

Why more stable? A new study in Geophysical Research Letters studied Yellowstone volcanic system seismic data collected on the Yellowstone Seismic Network between 1984-2011. This seismic data shows how seismic waves traveled through the Yellowstone caldera. Because these seismic waves change depending what they travel through — magma, stone, water — it’s possible to take this data and create models of what’s happening under the Earth’s crust via seismic tomography.

The conclusion? The Yellowstone volcano is about 2.5 times larger than previously assumed and possible extends beyond what is assumed to be the Yellowstone caldera. But this comes with a caveat: rather than indicating some sort of Yellowstone eruption event is imminent, the researchers found that the increased size of the volcano includes lots of stable material — that is, solid rock — and less active magma. The percentage: 85 percent solid material and 15 percent (at the most) magma.

That means that an eruption is certainly not imminent: it usually takes a lot more active magma to create the conditions necessary for an eruption. With earthquake activity at normal levels and no evacuations by the government (don’t believe everything you read on the Internet!), all is relatively quiet on the Yellowstone volcano front — and if the world ends soon, it won’t be because of a Yellowstone eruption.

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