'Sleeping' supervolcanoes 'could erupt much more quickly than we thought'

Rodiano Bonacci
Ottobre 12, 2017

If another eruption were to take place, the researchers found that the supervolcano would spare nearly nothing in its wrath. It has the ability to expel more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of rock and ash at once - 250,000 times more material than erupted from Mount St. Helens in 1980, which killed 57 people. 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.

Hannah Shamloo, an Arizona State University graduate student, and a volcanology team spent two weeks at the national park in Wyoming studying the massive crater to predict when the next super-eruption might occur.

Scientists say the odds are small that Yellowstone or another supervolcano will erupt anytime soon, the Times and others report. Until now, geologists had thought it would take centuries for the supervolcano to make that transition.

Shamloo later analyzed trace crystals in the volcanic leftovers, allowing her to pin down changes before the supervolcano's eruption.

The minerals revealed that changes in temperature and composition built up in only decades.

The time scale is the blink of an eye, geologically speaking.

'We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption, ' said Christy Tillat Arizona State, in an interview with the New York Times. It's even shorter than a previous study that found that another ancient supervolcano beneath California's Long Valley caldera awoke hundreds of years before its eruption.

Scientists are starting to realize that the buildup to a supereruption could happen within a human lifetime, the newspaper reported.

"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", she told the NY Times, noting more research is necessary before a definitive conclusion can be reached. She said more work is needed to determine an accurate time scale.

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