Yellowstone supervolcano may erupt faster than we thought

Yellowstone supervolcano eruption could wipe out life on Earth

Yellowstone supervolcano eruption could wipe out life on Earth

Scientists now believe Yellowstone's volcano could erupt much sooner. They found changes in temperature and composition.

More time is needed to predict a more exact timeframe, but prior to the most recent study, scientists from NASA were seeking ways to prevent an eruption.

Geologists have earlier suggested the supervolcano could take centuries before it explodes.

If it does blow, the volcano has the ability to expel 1,000 cubic kilometres of ash and rock, which could blanket the United States and possibly send the world into a volcanic winter.

"We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption", Christy Till, a geologist at Arizona State who is Shamloo's dissertation adviser, told the paper. The explosion could also be 2,000 times the size of 1980's eruption of Mount St. Helens, which killed 57 people.

"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", said Hannah Shamloo, an Arizona State University graduate student involved in the study, to The New York Times.

The discovery, which was presented at a recent volcanology conference, comes on top of a 2011 study that found that ground above the magma reservoir in Yellowstone had bulged by about 10 inches in seven years.

The supervolcano, which last erupted more than 600,000 years ago, could spew ash across most of the continental USA, sending Earth into a volcanic winter.

Read the full National Geographic report here.

According to ZME Science, Yellowstone has erupted at least three times; the last time was approximately 630,000 years ago.

Supervolcanoes usually have a few common characteristics, including a massive cauldron-like crater, also known as a caldera, and a vast magma source, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A volcano of this magnitude is capable of erupting 250 cubic miles of magma. You can still see evidence of the volcano's active state, with natural wonders like the Old Faithful geyser.