Yellowstone Supervolcano BREAKTHROUGH: Experts to pinpoint eruption date

GETTYA Yellowstone eruption could destroy life on Earth

GETTYA Yellowstone eruption could destroy life on Earth

Yellowstone's last supereruption occurred 631,000 years ago.

Hannah Schmoo, a graduate student studying Yellowstone's Lava Creek Tuff, which is the ash deposit from the last eruption, found evidence in the rocks that the supervolcano came to life after an influx of fresh magma filled a reservoir beneath the surface.

And the eruption may be a doozy - that spells doomsday.

Supervolcanoes - capable of spewing 2,500 times more material than Mount St. Helens did in 1980 - such as the one under Yellowstone are far more powerful than traditional volcanoes. It's just that the process by which the supervolcano might be gearing up to an explosion is happening more quickly than scientists thought.

The minerals revealed that changes in temperature and composition built up in only decades. An eruption is capable of plunging Earth into a volcanic winter.

The latest revelation comes after a 2013 study found the magma reservoir that feeds the supervolcano was almost triple the size of previous estimates.

The swelling reservoir responsible for the uplift was too deep to create fears of imminent doom, Smith said. But understanding the largest eruptions can only help scientists better understand, and therefore forecast, the entire spectrum of volcanic eruptions - something that Cooper thinks will be possible in a matter of decades.

Kari Cooper, a geochemist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the research, told the Times that while the research gives more insights into the time frames of supervolcanic eruptions, she is not convinced that they can target a precise trigger of the last Yellowstone event. It's also news because, as the Times notes, decades are but "a blink of an eye, geologically speaking".

"It's shocking how little time is required to take a volcanic system from being quiet and sitting there to the edge of an eruption", said Shamloo, though she warned that there's more work to do before scientists can verify a precise time scale.

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