Forces brewing deep beneath Yellowstone National Park could be making one of the largest volcanoes on Earth even bigger, a new study reveals.
In the past decade, part of the volcano has risen nearly five inches, most likely due to a backup of flowing molten rock miles below the planet's crust.
While the rise may not be noticeable to the casual hiker, the activity may have cracked the crust in the park's famous Norris Geyser Basin (NGB), leading to the formation of new fumaroles—holes that vent smoke and gas—and the reawakening of some of the area's geysers, including Steamboat, the largest geyser in the world.
Yellowstone last erupted about 640,000 years ago, spewing 240 cubic miles of material. Despite the newly discovered activity, researchers don't expect it to erupt any time soon. Eventually, however, it could explode again as a super-volcano that would destroy life for hundreds of miles around and coat the entire country in ash.
This is interesting in that I just finished reading "A Crack in the Edge of the World" and the epilogue in the back discussed the possible links between west coast faults and Yellowstone. One of the topics discussed was that after a recent major earthquake in Alaska, scientists and observes noticed that the rates at which the geysers in Yellowstone erupted quickened for several days before returning to their normal rates.
It's good that the article at LiveScience.com makes repeated mention that there is no reason to believe Yellowstone could erupt volcanically anytime soon, but it's also worth mentioning that nature can very easily outdo our "worst-case scenario". Granted, volcanology has come a long way since May of 1980, but geologist's "worst-case" predictions regarding Mount St. Helens were easily eclipsed by the carnage that ensued. While a comment like "destroy life for hundreds of miles" sounds pretty ominous, one never truly knows what's possible on this planet and those hundreds of miles could turn into a thousand or more. In which case, it was nice knowing you.