Yellowstone supervolcano could blow faster than thought, destroy all of mankind

GETTYA Yellowstone eruption could destroy life on Earth

GETTYA Yellowstone eruption could destroy life on Earth

Kari Cooper, a geochemist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the research, told the Times that while the research gives more insights into the time frames of supervolcanic eruptions, she is not convinced that they can target a precise trigger of the last Yellowstone event.

Beneath Yellowstone National Park lies a supervolcano, a behemoth far more powerful than your average volcano. It would shoot 2,500 times more material than Mount St. Helen did in 1980 and could cover most of the continguous U.S.in ash, possibly putting the planet into a volcanic winter.

The previous eruption occurred in about the same timeframe before that - 1.3 million years ago - meaning that the volcano may be primed for another explosion.

Scientists say the odds are small that Yellowstone or another supervolcano will erupt anytime soon, the Times and others report.

The researchers from Arizona State University have analyzed the minerals found in the fossilized ash taken out from the latest mega-eruption. Until now, geologists had thought it would take centuries for the supervolcano to make that transition.

"We want to understand what triggers these eruptions, so we can set up warning systems", Shamloo, a graduate student Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, told EOS. Instead, the crystals revealed an increase in temperature and a change in composition that had happened more quickly.

The time scale is the blink of an eye, geologically speaking. She said more work is needed to determine an accurate time scale.

"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, she told the Times. But understanding the largest eruptions can only help scientists better understand, and therefore forecast, the entire spectrum of volcanic eruptions - something that Cooper thinks will be possible in a matter of decades.