Yellowstone supervolcano has been rocked by 123 tremors in the past 28 days, leading to some concern in the scientific community. This means there has been more than four earthquakes a day on average, according to statistics from the US Geological Survey (USGS). All of the tremors have been relatively small, with the largest being a 2.7 magnitude quake on August 29.
Some experts argue that it is not the size of the earthquakes which are used to forecast an eruption, but the quantity of tremors.
Portland State University Geology Professor Emeritus Scott Burns has said a spate of small earthquakes around a volcano could be a sign that magma and gasses beneath the surface are beginning to navigate their exit.
He said: “If you get swarms under a working volcano, the working hypothesis is that magma is moving up underneath there.”
However, others disagree about whether an earthquake swarm near a volcano could be a sign of things to come.
Jamie Farrell at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, believes this is just part of the natural cycle for Yellowstone volcano, saying: “Earthquake swarms are fairly common in Yellowstone.
“There is no indication that this swarm is related to magma moving through the shallow crust.”
The Yellowstone supervolcano, located in the US state of Wyoming, last erupted on a major scale 640,000 years ago.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the chances of a Yellowstone eruption is around one-in-730,000.
Around 60 to 70 percent of the heat generated by Yellowstone seeps into the atmosphere, but the remainder builds up inside. If enough builds up, it can trigger an eruption.
By drilling 10 kilometres into Yellowstone, the NASA employee believes that it would be possible to pump high-pressure water which will allow the cool liquid to absorb some of the heat, before it is pumped out again.
Mr Wilcox told journalist Bryan Walsh in the latter’s new book End Times that the plan could cost $3.5bn (£2.9bn) and would have the added benefit of using the steam from the water and magma combo to create carbon-free geothermal electricity at a much cheaper rate than any alternative energy currently available on the market.
Mr Wilcox told Mr Walsh: “The thing that makes Yellowstone a force of nature is that it stores up heat for hundreds of thousands of years before it all goes kablooey all at once.
“It would be good if we drained away that heat before it could do a lot of damage.”
Others, however, are not so convinced about the feasibility of Mr Wilcox’s idea.
USGS scientist Jake Lowenstern told Mr Walsh: “It all seems a bit fanciful.”