The Yellowstone caldera gets its chilling label as a supervolcano due to its ability to inflict devastation on a global level. Pinned between the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the volcano is constantly monitored by the USGS (United States Geological Survey) for signs that a supereruption is on its way. However, geologists experienced a brief spell of uncertainty in 2004, when something unexplainable occurred.
The Smithsonian Channel’s mini-series “This Could be The Next Mount St Helens” detailed why scientists were stumped.”
The narrator explained in 2015: “There have been three super eruptions over the last 2.1 million years, the last big one was 640,000 years ago.
“The one before that was 666,000 years prior, which leads many to wonder, what’s next?
“There have been signs that something unusual is happening in the park.
Yellowstone volcano experienced strange activity
Four bisons mysteriously died
There have been signs that something unusual is happening in the park
“In 2004, five bison were found dead in a Geyser Basin.”
The five animals were discovered by Park Rangers, who alerted geologists at USGS.
Dr Hank Heasler, who investigated the mystery, said: “They weren’t in a typical death pose, kind of like a cat that’s curled up.
“It looked like they had just fallen over.
“We think it was just a very cold night, very still night.
“The geothermal gases accumulated and then the bison just basically dropped where they [were] stood.”
On reflection, scientists came to the conclusion that the bison had been killed by a toxic mix of gas created by the magma below Yellowstone National Park.
The narrator explained during the same series: “The gases were identified as hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide – two components of what’s found just below the ground of Yellowstone – boiling hot magma.
“The Yellowstone supervolcano sits on what geologists call a hot spot.
“Unlike other volcanoes in the world, Yellowstone isn’t cone-shaped with a crater at the top.
The animals just dropped dead overnight
Hank Heasler investigated the case
“Instead, it’s a caldera – a large depression in the Earth 15 miles long by 30 miles wide – formed during its last major eruption.”
During the same series, researchers also claimed the caldera below the park is a “ticking timebomb”.
They said: “There is one volcano in the US with the potential to wreak devastation on a far greater scale.
“It’s located 575 miles away from Mount St Helens in the northwest corner of Wyoming.
“For over a century, tens of millions of visitors have marvelled at Yellowstone’s breathtaking scenery.
“But beneath this spectacular beauty lies a ticking time bomb.
“Yellowstone is one of the largest volcanic systems on Earth and scientists call it a supervolcano because of the size of past explosions.”
The theory behind this comes from the last three caldera-forming eruptions that came 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and approximately 630,000 years ago.
Many believe this proves that we can expect another supereruption in the future.
However, USGS scientists say this theory could not be more wrong.
Their website reads: “First of all, one cannot present recurrence intervals based on only two values, it would be statistically meaningless.
“But for those who insist, let’s do the arithmetic. The three eruptions occurred 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 0.64 million years ago.
“The two intervals are thus 0.8 and 0.66 million years, averaging to a 0.73 million-year interval.
“Again, the last eruption was 0.64 million years ago, implying that we are still about 90,000 years away from the time when we might consider calling Yellowstone overdue for another caldera-forming eruption.
“Nevertheless, we cannot discount the possibility of another such eruption occurring sometime in the future, given Yellowstone’s volcanic history and the continued presence of magma beneath the Yellowstone caldera.”