Yellowstone's supervolcano may erupt sooner than expected

GETTYMagma beneath yellowstoe could build in a matter of decades

GETTYMagma beneath yellowstoe could build in a matter of decades

Beneath Yellowstone National Park lies a supervolcano, a behemoth far more powerful than your average volcano.

Scientists believed the reservoir is drained after every huge blast, so they thought it should take a long time to refill.

The previous eruption occurred in about the same time frame before that - 1.3 million years ago - meaning that the volcano may be primed for another explosion, reports the New York Post.

Should it ever erupt, a supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park could blanket North America in an ash cloud, wipe out communications, and alter the climate.

The theory that an eruption could be coming sooner rather than later was developed by Hannah Shamloo, an Arizona State University graduate student, and several of her colleagues who spent weeks studying at Yellowstone. Each crystal once resided within the vast, seething ocean of magma deep underground. Inside, they tracked the changes that the volcano went through before its eruption.

"We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption", said Christy Till, a geologist at Arizona State, and Shamloo's dissertation adviser.

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The minerals revealed changes in temperature and composition built up in only decades. It's also news because, as the Times notes, decades are but "a blink of an eye, geologically speaking".

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"It's shocking how little time is required to take a volcanic system from being quiet and sitting there to the edge of an eruption", she told the NY Times, noting more research is necessary before a definitive conclusion can be reached.

"It's one thing to think about this slow gradual buildup - it's another thing to think about how you mobilize 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma in a decade", she said.

Scientists hope to use the research to predict when future supereruptions might occur - allowing enough time to develop technologies to prevent the disaster.

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