We’re not overdue for a volcanic eruption, says Yellowstone scientist

JACKSON, Wyo. — Misconceptions surrounding Yellowstone’s volcanic activity generated concern that the park is overdue for a large eruption.

However, Mike Poland, the scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory was quick to dispel any rumors that may have caused individuals to believe a volcanic eruption could happen in the near future. 

Poland’s statement in the Yellowstone Volcanic Observatory’s monthly update asserted that existing rumors are completely false and that an eruption will likely not take place for several thousand years to come. To verify his claims Poland provided the scientific explanation behind an eruption.

“[This rumor] isn’t true. There’s two reasons why this is the case. The first is volcanoes don’t work that way. They don’t erupt on schedules. Volcanoes erupt when there is a sufficient supply of eruptable magma beneath the surface, and enough pressure to get that magma up to the surface, and right now neither of those conditions exists at Yellowstone,” said Poland.

He added that the magma chamber underneath the volcano is only 5-15% molten, which is not enough to generate a large eruption or explosion.

According to Yellowstone’s website, it has been 174,000 years since the volcano’s last large-scale eruption, which created the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. Since then, 60 smaller eruptions have occurred. The most recent of which took place 70,000 years ago.

“Over the last 15,000 years or so, since the last ice age, we know from the geology of Yellowstone Lake that Yellowstone has mostly gone down. In fact, it’s gone down by a net of 30 meters, almost 100 feet over that time period. So there’s no pressure and there’s really no magma to feed one of these really big explosions,” said Poland.

Additionally, Poland predicted that if the volcano erupted on schedule it still would not occur for another 100,000 years.

“631,000 years ago Yellowstone Caldera formed, before that was Henry’s Fork Caldera. That was 1.3 million years ago. Huckberry Ridge Caldera was 2.1 million years ago. If you look at the time period between those the average eruption interval between these eruptions is actually 725,000 years or so,” said Poland. “So point being, Yellowstone is not overdue and frankly, if you hear someone on a documentary or the internet saying ‘Yellowstone’s overdue,’ you know right off the bat that they don’t know what they’re talking about at all.”

About The Author

Buckrail @ Caroline

Caroline Chapman is a Community News Reporter who recently made Jackson home. Born and raised in Connecticut, she enjoys reading non-fiction, skiing, hiking, and playing piano in her downtime. She is most passionate about delivering and pursuing stories that directly impact the lives of individuals in the community. Her favorite aspect about living in Jackson is the genuine admiration that Wyomingites share for the land and the life that it sustains.

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