Yellowstone volcano: USGS warns researchers are 'playing games’ with supervolcano

Yellowstone volcano: USGS warns researchers are 'playing games’ with supervolcano


The Yellowstone caldera is chillingly referred to as a supervolcano due to its ability to inflict devastation on a global level. Hiding below 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. An event of this kind has occurred three times in history – 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and 640,000 years ago, leaving some to claim the supervolcano is overdue.

However, Dr Lowenstern has rubbished such claims.

He put the rumours to bed in 2014, telling viewers on YouTube: “When you see people claiming it’s overdue, usually the numbers they come up with say the last eruption was 640,000 years ago, but it erupts every 600,000 years.

“Therefore it’s 40,000 years overdue.

“But, in fact, if you average the eruption intervals, there’s 2.1 million to 1.3 million and then another 640,000 years ago.

“If you average those numbers you come up with something that’s over 700,000 years.

“So, in reality, even if you tried to make this argument, it wouldn’t be overdue for another 70,000 years.”

Dr Lowenstern went on to state even this calculation is questionably useful.

He added: “The other thing that is important to realise is that when they do statistics based on two eruptive intervals, they are just playing games. 

“Because we don’t know.

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“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.” 

Despite this, Dr Lowenstern has previously revealed his odds on a supereuption happening by the end of the century.

He detailed, based on geological records, there is a one-in-10,000 chance we could be hit by a global-level threat before 2100. 

However, he added that, given the erratic nature of volcanoes, that number doesn’t mean much. 

He said in 2017: “It’s not impossible to rule out, but it’s a remote possibility.”

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