Almost a year ago, we asked the question, when will Yellowstone blow? The Yellowstone “supervolcano” has risen at a record rate since mid-2004. A blob of molten rock that size of Los Angeles that has been discovered 6 miles beneath the slumbering volcano could be the problem.
Seismologist Robert B. Smith reassures us that “there is no evidence of an imminent volcanic eruption or hydrothermal explosion. That’s the bottom line. A lot of calderas [giant volcanic craters] worldwide go up and down over decades without erupting. Our best evidence is that the crustal magma chamber is filling with molten rock, but we have no idea how long this process goes on before there either is an eruption or the inflow of molten rock stops and the caldera deflates again.”
The magma chamber beneath Yellowstone National Park is a not a chamber of molten rock, but a sponge-like body with molten rock between areas of hot, solid rock. The upward movement of the Yellowstone caldera floor?almost 3 inches per year for the past three years?is more than three times greater than ever observed since such measurements began in 1923.
Smith?s associate, Wu-Lung Chang, says, “To say if there will be a magma [molten rock] eruption or hydrothermal [hot water] eruption, we need more independent data.” So will Yellowstone blow? The truth is, we don’t know.
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