Media New Atlas reported that among the “things of concern” in the United States, the top spot is the possibility of a catastrophic super-eruption in the Yellowstone hotspot. However, according to a new study, volcanic eruptions in the region may be weakening. The Yellowstone volcano hotspot is a volcanic activity area located under the Yellowstone Crater in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.
Geological evidence suggests that in the past few million years, it has experienced several huge eruptions, known as super eruptions. There are fears that it could soon flare up again, potentially causing mass deaths and long-term environmental damage. However, a recent international study suggests that the hot spot may be in recession. The discovery is based on an analysis of volcanic sediments scattered within tens of thousands of kilometres of the area.
“We found that the sediments previously thought to be multiple smaller volcanic eruptions actually came from huge volcanic eruptions from two previously unknown supervolcanoes about 9 million years ago and 8.7 million years ago,” said Thomas Knott, a volcanologist at the University of Leicester in the UK. “The two nearest, the Grey’s Landing super eruption, is the largest recorded event in the entire Snake River-Yellowstone volcanic region. It is one of the top five volcanic eruptions of all time. “
The two super-eruptions occurred during the Sino-New World Geological Age, spanning between 23 million and 5.3 million years ago. Their findings put the total number of Mid-New World Super eruptions in the region to six, suggesting that the region experiences an average of one such eruption every 500,000 years. By contrast, there have been only two super-eruptions in Yellowstone hotspots in the past 3 million years. This may indicate that the frequency of such events is slowing significantly.
“We’ve shown that Yellowstone super-eruptions seem to occur every 1.5 million years,” Knott said. “The last super-eruption was 630,000 years ago, suggesting that we might have 900,000 years before another eruption of this magnitude. However, he was quick to add that the 900,000-year figure was only an estimate and that the U.S. Geological Survey should continue to monitor the area on a regular basis.
Scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, were also involved in the study. A paper on the study was recently published in the journal Geology.