Yellowstone: USGS warns of potentially 'devastating' eruption
The Yellowstone area, which spreads across the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, frequently experience earthquake swarms – with 241 earthquakes coming in the last 28 days. Monitoring services from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) show that all of the earthquakes have been relatively small, with the largest being a magnitude-1.5 tremor coming on December 14.
The earthquake swarm throughout the park has sparked terror.
One person wrote on Twitter: “Yellowstone Park has been exhibiting unprecedented earthquake activity on the outer rim. Yellowstone scares me.”
Although all of the earthquakes have been small, some experts warn it is not necessarily the size of an earthquake which is the indication of an upcoming volcanic eruption, but more the quantity of them.
Portland State University Geology Professor Emeritus Scott Burns said: “If you get swarms under a working volcano, the working hypothesis is that magma is moving up underneath there.”
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But others disagree about whether an earthquake swarm near a volcano could be a sign of things to come.
Jamie Farrell at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City believes this is just part of the natural cycle for Yellowstone volcano, saying: “Earthquake swarms are fairly common in Yellowstone.”
In fact, on the upper scale, Yellowstone can experience up to 3,000 quakes in a year, so 241 in one month is not unheard of.
The USGS says: “Almost all earthquakes at Yellowstone are brittle-failure events caused when rocks break due to crustal stresses.
“Though we’ve been looking at Yellowstone for years, no one has yet identified ‘long-period (LP) events’ commonly attributed to magma movement.
“If LP events are observed, that will NOT mean Yellowstone is getting ready to erupt.
“LP earthquakes commonly occur at other volcanoes in the world, including volcanoes in California, that have not erupted for centuries or millennia.”
The chances of a Yellowstone eruption are very slim and practically non-existent.
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The USGS estimates there is around a 0.00014 percent chance each year that the potentially catastrophic volcano could blow.
The agency continued: “Fortunately, the chances of this sort of eruption at Yellowstone are exceedingly small in the next few thousands of years.
“There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone is imminent, and such events are unlikely to occur in the next few centuries.
“Scientists have also found no indication of an imminent smaller eruption of lava.”
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