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Can We Predict When Yellowstone Will Blow?

A major supervolcano eruption is overdue in Yellowstone Park, which could darken the skies over the rest of the U.S. for years to come. Scientists would love to know how to accurately predict this and other eruptions, and now Bernard Chouet says he knows how to do it.

Chouet, of the U.S. Geological Survey, says that volcanic eruptions are preceded by a type of earthquake known as a long-period event, which signals that pressure is building up inside the volcano.

When Colombia's Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupted in 1985, it melted a glacier, causing water and volcanic ash mudflows that killed an entire town of 25,000 people. When Chouet looked at the area's earthquake records, he saw many long-period events.

In the early 1990s, another Colombian volcano, Galeras, became restless. Again, Chouet found evidence of long period events on the charts, but volcanologist Stanley Williams was skeptical. On January 14, 1993, Williams led a group of scientists into the crater of Galeras to measure the gas emissions. As they were preparing to leave the crater, the volcano erupted, killing six of researchers and three tourists. Williams was severely injured.

In December 2000, the Mexican volcano Popocat

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