Yellowstone Eruption: More Quickly, not Sooner

Arrgh. Three days ago, a New York Times article reported:

Yellowstone’s last supereruption occurred 631,000 years ago. And it’s not the planet’s only buried supervolcano. Scientists suspect that a supereruption scars the planet every 100,000 years, causing many to ask when we can next expect such an explosive planet-changing event.

To answer that question, scientists are seeking lessons from Yellowstone’s past. And the results have been surprising. They show that the forces that drive these rare and violent events can move much more rapidly than volcanologists previously anticipated.

The early evidence, presented at a recent volcanology conference, shows that Yellowstone’s most recent supereruption [let’s use “caldera forming eruption”] was sparked when new magma moved into the system only decades before the eruption. Previous estimates assumed that the geological process that led to the event took millenniums to occur.

There are some ambiguities in the text:

  1. every 100,000 years.

    This should be worldwide, I believe. I’ve never seen a reference to Yellowstone having caldera forming eruptions that frequently.

  2. can move much more rapidly

    This refers to the time from when the volcano starts the sequence of events that leads to an eruption, not the time before the sequence starts.

The third paragraph helps explain what they’re trying to say.

Unfortunately, from that article, the follow-on stories have spawned headlines like:

Yellowstone Supervolcano May Rumble to Life Faster Than Thought

Yellowstone Volcano Could Erupt Much Sooner Than Previously Thought, According to New Study

I’m writing this to tell the WUWT community that “No, don’t worry about a supervolcano eruption at Yellowstone anytime soon.” And spread the word. If you must, feel free to worry about a more conventional eruption (there are places that show some 23 layers of ash fall since the current caldera formed). I finally visited the Norris Geyser Basin the last time I was there, that place is creepy, feel free to worry about a steam explosion. Only half the basin was open the other half was closed because the ground was hot enough to melt shoe soles and there could have been a steam explosion at any time.

The hottest and most acidic part is called the Porcelain Basin, and the thermophilic bacteria and algae can’t live there, leaving the area even more uninviting:

Norris Geyser BasinNorris Geyser Basin

The paper that started this is Hannah Shamloo, Christy Till: Petrologic Insights into the Timing and Triggering Mechanism of the Lava Creek Tuff Supereruption, Yellowstone Caldera, WY, USA. It’s paywalled, and the abstract doesn’t provide much information beyond making it clear that they’re talking about activity leading up to an eruption.

A paper I frequently cite (and lose, and find) that makes it clear there’s no caldera forming eruption in sight, is the USGS’s Preliminary Assessment of Volcanic and Hydrothermal Hazards in Yellowstone National Park and Vicinity. While the paper is a decade old now, the new paper doesn’t affect it much.

Update: Snopes has written a useful article on the subject, titled New Research Suggests Massive Yellowstone Eruption Could Occur Sooner Than Expected?, subtitled Research documenting chemical changes in the Yellowstone magma chamber prior to a past eruption does not affect an eruption’s future probability.

Post posting edits: Added forgotten link to the Shamloo and Till paper, fixed typo (erupotion) and put the editorial note within [] instead of (), added update to reference the Snopes article.

133 thoughts on “Yellowstone Eruption: More Quickly, not Sooner

  1. Just what the global warmists ordered- yet another doomsday scenario, and,of course, somehow, some way, they will tie the (imminent) eruption to global warming or CO2.

    • well arthur,
      if by our actions we cause all the glaciers to melt (due to the evil co2), the resulting defromation/reformation of the earth crust will then result in mantle forces that could cause yellowstone to blow that much sooner … the tipping point … the children … even if we are wrong we will be improving … sustainability … give me your stuff.

      • Forrest Gardener October 13, 2017 at 5:26 pm
        … the masters of the universe …

        There is the possibility that any sufficiently advanced society will destroy itself. link The masters of the universe have likely extincted themselves.
        Does there exist, anywhere on the face of the Earth, a madman who would happily destroy all human life on the planet? Sure, there are probably millions.
        Does the technology to destroy all life on the planet exist? Nuclear war would do it. There are limited chances for a madman to launch a nuclear war.
        Will apocalyptic technology become easier? Sure. It is possible that a madman will be able to develop an unstoppable virus. The common cold is pretty unstoppable. If it were fatal, it would wipe out most of humanity. Those who survived would end up back in the stone age.
        Technologies like CRISPR are developing and make it easier and easier to edit DNA. Given the current oversupply of PhDs it’s quite possible that one of them might be bitter enough to do something crazy.
        I agree with Stephen Hawking. We must colonize other planets. link

      • it is not because of the fossil fuels we are burning. It is because we do not pray god to keep it happy. Our lack of faith (god hate we have so little faith) combined with little money we pay our priests would cause Yellowstone to explode. This would result in the End of the World, also called Doomsday.
        [???? .mod]

    • Okay, if you guys like that article, you are just going to L-O-V-E this article from the quake experts at Accuweather, with the lead headline that says earthquakes are all OUR fault. We made ’em happen.
      Grasp at straws much?? I want to know if anyone can explain to me how we are actually responsible for the movements of tectonic plates that have a will of their own. I’ll be over here in the corner, trying hard to not giggle.

      • Actually, it is clear that in some locations the injecting of waste water into the ground results in unusually high seismic activity. I am originally from Oklahoma and grew up learning geology from my dad, and the evidence is compelling – for certain regions. By reducing the volume of waste water injected into the ground per unit of time, the frequency of seismic activity has been reduced.
        Now some details to go with this statement – The seismic activity is generally highly localized and under a 3 in intensity. In fact, most of this shakes can only be felt by sensitive equipment.
        It isn’t the fracking that seems to correlate with the seismic activity, but the injection of waste water, most of which comes from fracking, that correlates.
        In most areas, there is little or no correlation to wast water injection (at least the last I had seen). This means there are certain “sensitive” geologic formations that make injecting waste water problematic.
        It is not possible to say if the tiny quakes would have happened naturally (eventually), or possibly that they would have built up into a stronger quake naturally and we are actually relieving the geologic stress. But the contrary is also possible, by injecting waste water we a causing formations to fracture that would not had they been left alone, and that these could lead to an early triggering of a strong natural earthquake. There is no scientific evidence I am aware of that concludes this is or has happened, but it could in my opinion. So, I am for regulating waste water injection around areas where it correlates to seismic activity.
        I am 100% positive that if a strong earthquake occurs near fracking activities (including the waste water injection), that people are going to blame the fracking – who needs evidence?

      • A pastor of California was asking money to buy a private jet to convert all sinners of the planet. People do not gave him enough money to buy the play and could not pay the installments of the jet, and had to lost his jet. He probably make god angry, and this caused the earthquake of Mexico.

      • So saidith: Robert of Texas – October 13, 2017 at 7:26 pm

        Actually, it is clear that in some locations the injecting of waste water into the ground results in unusually high seismic activity. I am originally from Oklahoma and grew up learning geology from my dad, and the evidence is compelling – for certain regions. By reducing the volume of waste water injected into the ground per unit of time, the frequency of seismic activity has been reduced.

        Robert of T, ….. “click” on the following url “link” to view a ……..
        List of earthquakes in Oklahoma @
        Please note that for each listed earthquake it stipulates the date, ….. the magnitude ….. and the depth that the earthquake occurred.
        Now Robert of T, ….. iffen you want me to believe your claim that …. “injecting of waste water into the ground results in unusually high seismic activity in Oklahoma”, ……. then you will have to provide evidence that said “waste water” was injected at the same depth that the earthquake originated at.
        You can’t be claiming that ……. throwing a lighted cigarette down here …… started a forest fire over yonder ……. iffen you want anyone to be believing you.

      • Reply to Sara
        The article you linked to is revealing. It contains this sentence:
        “The largest earthquake in HiQuake had a magnitude of 7.9 and occurred in China in 2008. Such large earthquakes release mostly stress of natural tectonic origin but are conceivably triggered by small anthropogenic stress changes” (emphasis is mine)
        Small earthquakes, up to 3 or 4, I wouldn’t argue with that but the big ones are just pure speculation, jumping on the alarmist bandwagon.
        “Conceivably” is not a word that I recall seeing in any science classes, textbooks, journal articles etc. At least he was honest enough to use the word; it lets him weasel out of a causation argument, but does not inspire confidence.

      • I was in a man induced quake in Boulder in 67. They were pumping waste into deep wells down at Rocky Flats and causing some minor tremors. They stopped when the pumping stopped.
        I always thought it a good idea to facilitate minor quakes that might relieve major stresses over time.

    • This welcome article forgets to mention that the way the Yellowstone story was presented in the headlines invariably included the phrase “IMMINENT ERUPTION MAY END ALL LIFE ON EARTH” or close variations. Someone’s gotten the word that CAGW is making the masses yawn and has lost its Doomsday power; other headlines on the same day touted the “ASTEROID THAT JUST MISSED MAY NOT MISS NEXT TIME!” and just in case those two didn’t grab you by the brain stem, “EMP PULSE FROM NORKS MAY KILL 90% OF ALL AMERICANS!”

      • Well, hey, guys, listen up! Tablet X (or 10) of the Gilgamesh story carries a description of what may have been a massive eruption somewhere to the south of the City of Ur.
        It says: the sky to the south grew black, full of lightning. There was a terrible wind. Then the sea covered the land seven times and when it retreated the last time, the land was swept clean and people were turned to clay.
        That immediately brought up the first images televised of that horrifying tidal wave washing inland during the Fukushima quake, and the findings afterward, how it swept away everything with it, and left behind bare land and partially buried bodies, including the soil-encased arms and hands of people who got caught in the tsunami. It was complete devastation.
        In Ur’s story, it sounds like a massive volcanic eruption of some kind and a high magnitude quake followed by a tidal wave that rebounded several times, as happened with the 2004 Boxing Day quake at Banda Aceh, Sumatra.
        So the gods were angry with Ur and its people, and obviously, we arrogant humans somehow caused the 33-foot subduction of parts of Japan’s east coast. History repeated itself, didn’t it? And we’re obviously to blame for it. (/sarc)

      • Well an EMP pulse would kill 90% of Americans over a years time. The Norks might have that capability. China and Russia certainly do.

  2. From the article: “The early evidence, presented at a recent volcanology conference, shows that Yellowstone’s most recent supereruption (let’s use “caldera forming eruption”) was sparked when new magma moved into the system only decades before the eruption. Previous estimates assumed that the geological process that led to the event took millenniums to occur.”
    I’m curious to know how they established the timeline for magma movement since this eruption took place 631,000 years ago.

      Rapid heterogeneous assembly of multiple magma reservoirs prior to Yellowstone supereruptions
      Whole paper is available. Here is the abstract:
      Large-volume caldera-forming eruptions of silicic magmas are an important feature of continental volcanism. The timescales and mechanisms of assembly of the magma reservoirs that feed such eruptions as well as the durations and physical conditions of upper-crustal storage remain highly debated topics in volcanology. Here we explore a comprehensive data set of isotopic (O, Hf) and chemical proxies in precisely U-Pb dated zircon crystals from all caldera-forming eruptions of Yellowstone supervolcano. Analysed zircons record rapid assembly of multiple magma reservoirs by repeated injections of isotopically heterogeneous magma batches and short pre-eruption storage times of 103 to 104 years. Decoupled oxygen-hafnium isotope systematics suggest a complex source for these magmas involving variable amounts of differentiated mantle-derived melt, Archean crust and hydrothermally altered shallow-crustal rocks. These data demonstrate that complex magma reservoirs with multiple sub-chambers are a common feature of rift- and hotspot related supervolcanoes. The short duration of reservoir assembly documents rapid crustal remelting and two to three orders of magnitude higher magma production rates beneath Yellowstone compared to continental arc volcanoes. The short pre-eruption storage times further suggest that the detection of voluminous reservoirs of eruptible magma beneath active supervolcanoes may only be possible prior to an impending eruption.

      • That’s a whole different paper written by different people, but curiously similar in some ways.
        The abstract of the paper that triggered this post is:

        Yellowstone’s most recent caldera-forming eruption occurred 631,000 years ago and was responsible for producing the >1000 km3 Lava Creek Tuff (LCT), which was deposited over most of contiguous United States. The LCT contains zoned sanidine (55 vol. %) and quartz (35%) phenocrysts, along with minor plagioclase and clinopyroxene (8%), magnetite and ilmenite (2%). This study takes two approaches to interrogate the mechanisms leading to eruption recorded in the LCT: 1) the application of feldspar thermometry to chemically zoned sanidine from LCT Member B ash analyzed via electron probe, and 2) modeling the phase equilibria for the LCT using rhyolite-MELTS. Sanidine-liquid thermometry yields average temperatures of 820-840°C (±22°C) for the sanidine rims, and suggests a slight heating trend from core to rim. The major element composition of the outermost sanidine rims reveals two distinct drops in orthoclase content that coincide with sharp increases in barium content. When compared to the feldspar compositions predicted by MELTS, these sharp changes in composition each require temperature increases of ≥25°C and are interpreted to reflect two magmatic rejuvenation events shortly before eruption. MELTS models best align with the feldspar thermometry at relatively low water contents (e.g., 1-2 wt.% H2O) and suggest the LCT may be drier than previously thought (Gansecki et al., Geology, 1998). The crystallization sequence predicted by MELTS for the LCT at 3 kbar includes quartz as the liquidus phase at 1000°C, precipitation of the first feldspar at 950°C, followed by precipitation of two feldspar phases (sanidine and albite) below the feldspar solvus at 850°C, with the ternary minimum and water exsolution occurring at 740°C. Despite the uncertainty in the absolute temperatures of the phase boundaries predicted by MELTS, the phase proportions and feldspar compositions in the LCT suggest that the last feldspar crystallization prior to eruption occurred well above the point of volatile saturation. Together, these data suggest the eruption of the LCT was likely triggered by rejuvenation of the magmatic system shortly before eruption, rather than alternative triggers such as gas-driven filter pressing.

      • Ric,
        Yes. Of course I know that. But it shows how you figure out how long it takes for the chamber to fill.

      • Rocketscientist,
        Yes, and by other means.
        The issue is what to do about it. Evacuating a million square miles or more of the US probably isn’t a realistic option.

      • It would be if climate scientists got involved any small unlikely risk gets blown into a full B grade movie.

      • Please see above. No models involved. Just measurements of physical and chemical data in zircons dated by the uranium-lead decay method. Science.

      • “This study takes two approaches to interrogate the mechanisms leading to eruption recorded in the LCT: 1) the application of feldspar thermometry to chemically zoned sanidine from LCT Member B ash analyzed via electron probe, and 2) modeling the phase equilibria for the LCT using rhyolite-MELTS……… When compared to the feldspar compositions predicted by MELTS, ……………. MELTS models best align ………. The crystallization sequence predicted by MELTS………… Despite the uncertainty in the absolute temperatures of the phase boundaries predicted by MELTS,”

      • Latitude October 13, 2017 at 5:16 pm
        Models based upon reality, where processes are understood, are valid.
        And, as I showed, their results comport with those derived from direct measurement.

      • Gabro…you corrected Bill when he said modelling… said “No models involved. Just measurements”
        ….everything they did was modeled

      • Most likely not. Without the full paper (or asking, or Googling), I don’t know where that came from.
        The USGS paper I reference says “0.639±0.002 Ma” so I suppose the answer is “Probably not.” Unless they’ve improved in the last 10 years.

      • You be the judge (full article available):
        The last supereruption from the Yellowstone Plateau formed Yellowstone caldera and ejected the >1000 km3 of rhyolite that composes the Lava Creek Tuff. Tephra from the Lava Creek eruption is a key Quaternary chronostratigraphic marker, in particular for dating the deposition of mid Pleistocene glacial and pluvial deposits in western North America. To resolve the timing of eruption and crystallization history for the Lava Creek magma, we performed (1) 40Ar/39Ar dating of single sanidine crystals to delimit eruption age and (2) ion microprobe U-Pb and trace-element analyses of the crystal faces and interiors of single zircons to date the interval of zircon crystallization and characterize magmatic evolution. Sanidines from the two informal members composing Lava Creek Tuff yield a preferred 40Ar/39Ar isochron date of 631.3 ± 4.3 ka. Crystal faces on zircons from both members yield a weighted mean 206Pb/238U date of 626.5 ± 5.8 ka, and have trace element concentrations that vary with the eruptive stratigraphy. Zircon interiors yield a mean 206Pb/238U date of 659.8 ± 5.5 ka, and reveal reverse and/or oscillatory zoning of trace element concentrations, with many crystals containing high U concentration cores that likely grew from highly evolved melt. The occurrence of distal Lava Creek tephra in stratigraphic sequences marking the Marine Isotope Stage 16–15 transition supports the apparent eruption age of ∼631 ka. The combined results reveal that Lava Creek zircons record episodic heating, renewed crystallization, and an overall up-temperature evolution for Yellowstone’s subvolcanic reservoir in the 103−104 year interval before eruption.

      • I was hoping to see a sign of the Yellowstone eruption in the graphic of Temperature and Dust EPICA Ice cores, 800,000 years long. Well, around 630 or 640 thousand years ago, there was a large plume of dust registered over the ices of Antarctica. When I checked about the Toba volcano, we can see another huge plume of dust over Antarctica. I think this graphic of EPICA could be a good indicator of past supervolcanic volcanic events. After covering a lot of ice with dust, it is reasonable to assume an ice age era ended, and a new interglacial started. Not in the case of Toba explosion.

    • So… a liberal president would have regulated this and hence the problem is solved? 🙂 Or would it need an agency created to monitor compliance?

  3. Eruptions 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 630,000 years ago. Gaps of ~800K and ~670K years. Let’s hope that the intervals aren’t becoming shorter.

    • Let’s not worry about it. The paper suggests there will be a few decades warning. From the USGS paper I linked to:

      Although the probability of a large caldera-forming eruption at Yellowstone is exceedingly small, it is exceedingly difficullt to make a defensible quantitative estimate of that probability. As there have been three such eruptions in about the past 2,100,000 years, there are only two inter-eruptive periods from which to gauge any additional possible interval between the third and a potential fourth such event. The first interval, between the Huckleberry Ridge (2.059±0.004 Ma) and Mesa Falls (1.285±0.004 Ma) caldera-forming events, was 774,000±5700 years. The second interval, between the Mesa Falls and Lava Creek (0.639±0.002 Ma) events, was 646,000±4400 years. A statement, widely repeated in popular media, regards such eruptions as occurring at Yellowstone “every 600,000 years” with the latest eruption having been “600,000 years ago”. This is commonly taken to imply that another such eruption is “overdue”. Such a statement is statistically indefensible on the basis of the extrapolation of two intervals. (Even the simple arithmetic average of the two intervals is 710,000 years, not 600,000 years). From the line of reasoning outlined here, the probability of a fourth large caldera-forming event at Yellowstone can be considered to be less than 1 in a million, below the threshold of hazards interest unless future premonitory phenomena, probably more severe than those recorded historically in caldera systems around the world (Newhall and Dzurisin, 1988), were to be recognized.

    • We could just drill a hole in in at release the pressure. After all, it’s 10,000 years from now.

  4. I guess the point of this article is how inaccurate the media is at reporting science. Perhaps ‘inaccurate’ is not the right word, for that implies that they make mistakes in any direction. That is not the case. They only make mistakes in the direction of sensationalism. Consequently, a better word would be ‘biased’.
    If you want to get somewhere with the media, give them something they can sensationalize. It doesn’t matter how stupid it is. You could even tell him that CO2, currently near the lowest concentration it has ever been in the billions of years the atmosphere has existed, is going to destroy the planet if it increases! They won’t even question it.
    It it bleeds, it leads, baby!

  5. I am sure that the NY Times headline and article was another sky is falling day after tomorrow story. In the US if I were going to worry about any “sudden” volcano problems it would be in the NW, around Seattle, etc. Mt St. Helena was made into a big deal but it could have actually blown the entire mountain instead of just one side.

    • Mt St. Helena was a big deal. It was just that the shock wave and mud flows did not impact large populations because of the remote location.

  6. “Yellowstone Volcano Could Erupt Much Sooner Than Previously Thought, According to New Study”
    Get me my brown pants.

  7. “…much more rapidly than [relevant alarminologists] previously anticipated…”
    Does anyone else experience excessive grimacing, muscle spasms and random eye twitches whenever this phrase turns up in a science paper? Or is it just me.

  8. I’m a lot more interested (which isn’t saying much) in what is going with Campi Flegrei in Naples, Italy, than I am with Yellowstone. Apparently, the alert level is Yellow.

  9. Why are you spreading this misinformation?
    I’ve reviewed the data carefully, and I can assure you: THE SkY IS FALLING.
    It’s just science denial when you try to raise red herrings like what part of the sky exactly, and what’s causing it to fall, and just what is a falling sky likely to crush anyway?

  10. Since this is Friday …
    Journalists … what can you say about them …
    Fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.
    Couldn’t pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel.
    Proof that evolution CAN go in reverse.
    The logs are ablaze but the chimney is clogged.
    The light’s on but no one’s home.
    Not the brightest bulb in the box.
    About as sharp as a marble.
    The elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.
    The engine is running but nobody is behind the wheel.
    Would argue with a signpost.
    If you gave them a penny for their thoughts, you’d get change.
    Not the quickest bunny in the forest.
    Doesn’t know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt.
    Has a full six-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy that holds them all together.
    Most people drink from the fountain of knowledge, they only gargled.
    Has some lug nuts rattling in the hubcaps.
    Nice house, not much furniture
    Batteries not included.
    Can’t find their butt with two hands and a road map.
    The laptop’s on but there’s no internet connection.
    Hard to believe he beat out 100 million other sperm.
    Oh well … they could always go back to school … or maybe, that’s where their problems started.

  11. As the earth cools overall, volcanic eruptions become less frequent overall…probably by millions of years though…I would think that the magma a billion years ago was hotter than it is today…
    As Al Gore says …magma is millions of degrees…(sarc)

      • Earth’s interior is gradually cooling at about 100 degrees C per billion years. But that’s not fast enough to offset the increasing energy output of the sun.
        Radioactive decay accounts for about half of the heat given off by earth. It’s also cooling thermodynamically from the heat of its assembly, which is the only factor which Lord Kelvin took into account in his famously erroneous estimation of the age of our planet.

      • I’m saying that you were wrong to imply that radioactive decay was increasingly heating the earth.
        The fact is that on the time scale that matters, ie the long-term trend in the Holocene, earth has been cooling for 3000 years, but warming slightly for the past 300 years in a natural cycle.
        That the earth will over the next four or five billion years heat from increasing solar power, then possibly be engulfed by the sun when it goes red giant, is irrelevant.

      • I should also say this is still under serious study with a paradox called “The New Core Paradox”. The problem comes from extreme heat/pressure diamond anvil studies which show the core will have very different characteristics to those historical thought. The old calculations from first principles are a mile off the core can not transport heat by convection in anywhere near the rate the old numbers suppose.

    • They used to teach the old overturned idea that the core and Earth are cooling. You are correct most of the modern dynamic core models predict it is in equilibrium otherwise you would get noticable effects. The decays you mention have half-lives in millions and billions of years and the current theory is the Earth core will not change in any large way until the planet is destroyed by the suns death in 4.5 – 5.5 billion years.

      • The New Core Paradox is probably going to end up like the Young Sun Paradox, ie much ado about nothing.
        After much ado, no conclusive evidence has emerged against the original observation that earth’s internal heat from thermodynamic and radioactive energy source is cooling.

      • No it is that all the historic MODELS are based on data that is wrong, they made assumptions which now we have technology to take materials to those extremes we can show was totally wrong. So it’s much like climate change old outdated MODELS versus new experimental data.
        Whether or not it’s still cooling may end up the same but the original models are complete rubbish and gave the right answer answer by sheer blind luck. You are also excluding the possibility the core reached balance which is compatible with all the observations and not possible on the old MODELS.
        I certainly don’t call that much ado about nothing, the old MODELS are garbage.

      • LdB October 14, 2017 at 7:20 am
        There is no more evidence in favor of the NCP than for previous models of the core.

      • However, I’m not a geophysicist nor do I play one on the Internet, and probably haven’t read a paper on core modeling for around two years.

  12. Some how, as All Hallows Eve approaches, this seems appropriate for conjecture about ‘super caldera’!
    From Macbeth: Song of the Witches
    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and caldron bubble.
    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the caldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
    Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

  13. If you want to take a trip through time, go west on US Route 20 from Yellowstone through Idaho to Craters of the Moon National Monument. You’re following the Yellowstone Hotspot back in time as it travels under the North American plate.

  14. I am in Bali at the moment, waiting for G. Agung to blow. Probably has a small magma chamber beneath, so no worry except for local villages and the tourism in that part. But there has been increased activity at G. Sinabung, about 25 kilometers from Lake Toba crater. And a recent paper implied the magma chambers of Toba and Sinabung were linked. Now if Toba erupted, that would be a Climate changer (as it was 75,000 years ago). Cheers.

      • Temperature goes up and down a little on centennial-scale cycles within interglacials. It goes up and down more dramatically during the longer glacial phases.
        While earth’s internal heat is slowly cooling, on the longest possible scale of billions of years, we’re doomed to burn up due to the sun’s increasing power.
        Earth was cooler than today 300 years ago. It was warmer 3000 years ago. It was colder 30,000 years ago. It was warmer three million years ago and even more so 30 million years ago. It was about the same as now during the ice age of 300 million years ago. It was even colder three billion years ago, which was during a Snowball Earth episode. But 4.5 billion years ago, earth was covered in an ocean of molten rock rather than frozen water.

    • I go every year but decided to head over to Langkawi instead this year due to the possible eruption. Always a treat though to watch the sun set behind the Bail volcanoes. A real “not in Kansas” moment.

  15. I was trying to show the progression of headlines getting worse as they emphasize the erroneous interpretation. I needed more samples, but I also needed to go make dinner.
    Popular Mechanics did pretty well with their headline “The Supervolcano Under Yellowstone Could Erupt Faster Than Anyone Expected”.
    USA Today reported, according to Snopes: “Yellowstone supervolcano may blow sooner than thought — and could wipe out life on the planet.” They seem to have tamed the story, it has a note at the end saying “Clarification: Updates have been made to an earlier version of this story.”
    The original may still be at , its headline is “Yellowstone supervolcano eruption could wipe out life on Earth”

  16. BBC’s Blue Planet may have been worth the compulsory UK TV license fee. Looks like somewhere around the time of “Supervolcano: The Truth About Yellowstone”, it all went pear-shaped. Perhaps the future generations will categorise Absolutely Fabulous as a BBC documentary.

  17. Good stuff here for assembling my Dirt Model of Climate.
    Because we hear that California is burning, ‘northern forest’ is also burning and succumbing to disease (pine beetle)
    Was it true that the indigenous people had a catastrophic plague just before the Europeans arrived?
    Also what about the Sahara, supposedly green and lovely 6000 years ago? Or Australia, 30,000 years ago?
    Or Syria & Lebanon 3000 years ago?
    My Big Question is, How long does dirt last? How long can plants continue to extract food from any given patch of crumbling rock before their food is all gone? (Wake up you there at the back, plants need more than CO2 and water)
    Dirt Theory of Climate says that plants determine what happens inside ‘weather’ via their control of water – the thermal inertia it gives to a landscape and of course its evapo-transpiration effects.
    The trees that are dying of pine beetle could have been dying from any number of things by the simple fact they are becoming extremely malnourished. Their food supply is fading fast. Same with animal critters, feed them poorly and they become ‘poorly’
    Also a generous food supply would have enabled them to lay down a thick carpet of ‘dead trees & stuff’ which would retain huge amounts of water and become extremely resistant to catching fire.
    That carpet is not there, thermal inertia is gone, evaporative cooling is gone, a damp forest floor is gone and so, the trees burn.
    (Even before the forest is filled with Petrol Bushes and liberally sprinkled with electric arc & spark welders. Mother Nature is gonna give us humans a *really* Big Slap one of these times and by fook, are we gonna deserve it.)
    And here we have an idea of how old the North American dirt is because things like Yellowstone are what makes new dirt and covers over the old (worn out, weathered and nutrient-free) stuff.
    At 630K years, North American dirt is very old, very poor and its no wonder the trees burn, the beetles bore and the people take badly. Yes, I mean obesity, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer and dementia.
    But but but, it gets boring beyond belief to hear the oft repeated cry ‘life expectancy is greater than ever’
    Even more tedious in the belief that cows fart, CO2 makes plants grow ‘better’ and is a GHG
    Yesterday on the landing page of MSN UK, they ran an obituary for a celebrity who had recently passed away and to fill out the story, a photo gallery of 148 other celebrities who had died inside the last year. Since Christmas or 12 months I do not know,
    The average age that those 148 celebrities died at was 72
    Colour me unimpressed, The Bible talks of ‘three score plus ten’
    Remind me, just *how much* money is spent. annually or per lifetime, on healthcare is the Western world.
    To get 2 years of extra life, typically spent in these modern times with all the physical and mental capacities of a cabbage……..?
    It’s arguable we need a volcano, a big one, a little more urgently than a cure for cancer.
    (Simply not eating vegetable oil would go a long way in the cancer fight anyway – that’s one little reason why we need that slap from Ma Nature)

    • The soil in SW Australia is probably the oldest in the world. Millions of years since being “refreshed”. It’s also a very lush place with giant Tingle trees and a few hundred other kinds as well. I’ll credit that volcanoes do enrich the soil. I walked in the lava flow from the last eruption in Bali. It’s a very fertile place now chock full of farms growing food 12 months a year.

  18. Took two full days to explore Yellowstone this summer. Been to most of the National Parks but not Yellowstone. Hit all of the features within easy walking distance of the roads except the obsidian cliff. No parking near that place because of road work. Two days not even enough to really scratch the surface but was lucky enough to see two Grizzly bears in that short time. One of them digging roots on a hill side about 30 yard of us. Will be going back again. What a magnificent place.

  19. It is assumed that some 30% in the Earth’s surface magnetic variability is due to change in electro magnetic coupling between outer core and the mantle.
    Comparing the surface radial magnetic field variability at Yellowstone and at the North Pole (Yellowstone is at midway between North Pole and the Equator both on the left-hand scale) it appears the last ‘critical’ point (green line right-hand scale) was around 3500 BC, but we may be approaching another one, still possibly 500 years away to get to the previous peak. Since Yellowstone didn’t go off in 3500 BC it is unlikely to erupt around 2500AD.
    For those intrigued by the ‘out of the trend’ peak around year 0 BC it was actually 30-40 BC (scale resolution is 10 years).

  20. I would recommend Volcano cafe. Post bu Carl: June 2017.
    “What is interesting is that Yellowstone’s magma reservoir is now deemed to be larger than previously believed. It is now rated at between 200 to 600 cubic kilometers. Problem is just that most of it is not in the form of melt, between 85 to 95 percent is solid. Only 5 to 15 percent is now believed to be molten. This means that Yellowstone can’t erupt in its current state.
    And if we assume a maximum intrusion rate of 1 cubic kilometer per year it would still take between 68 years and 228 years at best until Yellowstone reached the presumed barrier for when an eruption can occur. On top of that there is no evidence at all that magma is intruding into the magma reservoir at that speed. If it had done that Yellowstone would erupt quite often (every few years or so). In reality the magma influx seems to be miniscule at Yellowstone, if it is even influxing at all.”

  21. Hate to say it but Snopes is not exactly the best information site. It’s like getting stock advice from…Jim Cramer.

    • For the sort of stuff I get from Snopes they’ve been quite good. I was especially pleased we both homed in on the NY Times article, though the trail was an easy one to follow. Perhaps you can come up with examples, preferably with science/engineering topic.

  22. The reason we have these volcanoes is that the Juan de Fuca plate and the Gordo Plate just south of it, as subducting under North America.
    These and other plates are responsible for the Rocky Mountains and the subducted plate extends 100s of kms under North America. This has been happening for over 100 million years.
    The subducted plates slowly melt as they are pushed into the Mantle and being oceanic crust, it is lighter, has more water content and is more likely to melt into magma and produce volcanoes. The Juan de Fuca is responsible for the Cascade volcanoes, the Columbia River super-Eruptions and probably Yellowstone as well. Yellowstone is not a magma plume, other than the fact the Juan de Fuca plate is melting below it.
    There has been a huge earthquake swarm over the last few months just south of Yellowstone at Soda Springs, Idaho which is the site of ancient volcanoes as well. Maybe something is happening here.

    • Good overview. Thanks. I’m leaving the Pacific NW for Chile soon. The volcanoes there behave better, although the earthquakes are worse. Or at least are until the next Cascadia Subduction Zone megathrust quake and tsunami. If just the southern end of the zone slips, we suffer a Mag 8 quake. If both the southern and northern, as happens about half the time, the last in AD 1700, then a Mag 9 or greater causes a megatsunami to hit CA, OR, WA and BC.

  23. ‘erupotion’ is not a spelling error. It’s a very important potion that’s obtained from the rare and mighty eru tree that only grows in eru lands. The important potion derived from the important eru tree (which wouldn’t be important if it didn’t produce the important potion called ‘erupotion’) is used for very important purposes which is what makes the potion so important.

  24. Since we know it will erupt eventually maybe we should look at ways to survive / adapt. Maybe such an investigation would give us insight about surviving and adapting to any global natural disaster that might happen….

    • Who is ‘we’ and ‘us’?
      Since you will already be dead, adapting will not be necessary.
      This falls under the general category of folks who put solar panels on the roofs because we might run out of fossil fuel some day.

  25. in belgium we had an article on this too in the press. Amazing to see what the press made of it in the USA…
    what we had was
    “eruption of yellowstone may happen faster as expected” (the bait link)
    but second header was “scientist found that the eruption seuence may happen faster instead of the presumed hundreds of years”.
    the article was pretty neat: it said the following main topics:
    – the finding is the eruption seaquence not the interval between eruptions
    – yellowstone erupts every roughly 600,000 years
    – the earth sees a supervolcabno eruption roughly every 100,000 years as yellowstone is not the only supervolcano
    it was for a mainstream press article pretty accurate after reading the paper….
    moral of the story in a more humoristic way: yes the earth can sneeze big time it will burp and rumble big time, it will say boom big time and… we can have a rock on our head from out of space big time….
    when it happens it happens
    we only can adapt 🙂

  26. Hey we need more eruptions to cause the earth to cool even more!!
    something wicked this way comes!
    oh it’s Al Gore….

  27. “631,000 years ago.
    3 digits of accuracy, are the measuring mechanisms that accurate?”
    Let me explain why that is a stupid question by asking another. Do you have food, water, and a plan to be without power for 5 days?
    As an engineer who started using a slide rule, this number would be 6.31 x 10^5. However, design criteria for natural events is 2×10^2.
    In terms of experience this even during a human life span, 631,000 years is an insignificant number and accuracy does not matter.
    There seems to be an inverse relationship to what folks find interesting in science and what is important in science. Science tells us when water freezes. Mundane but very significant.
    I do not expect a NYT headline, “Frost Warning, Who Will Die”

  28. Yellowstone is a batholith in progress. It’s not in a subduction zone. As soon as I see ‘Super’ as a prefix (as in superfood) I know someone is trying to sell me something.

    • Supervolcano is used (and apparently defined) by the USGS. Don’t worry, they won’t sell you a used volcano, and I recommend you avoid new volcanoes for at least 100,000 years.

    • I’m no geologists or volcanologist but somehow I suspect that a massive eruption at Yellowstone would proceeded by many events including smaller volcanic eruptions, before the big one comes, or not. This is not the impression though that such articles give. They always seem to leave me with the impression that if Yellowstone goes it will come as one big massive eruption proceeded only by more minor events like increased earthquake frequency and intensity, land form changes, increased releases of gases, and blow outs at the geysers and mud pots.

      • Well, there was the movie and things went boom real quick and even the girl got dead so you can’t argue with that and maybe we should worry?

    • QuakeFeed is an app that monitors earthquakes. You can set the timeframe you want, last day, week, month, etc.

  29. Geology is scary. Bigly, bigly scary.
    New Madrid fault could go off again, 9 on the Richter scale in 1811, St Louis would be toast.
    Wasatch fault is overdue for a quake near Salt Lake City.
    Las Palmas Island (part of the Canary Islands) could drop a chunk off if volcanos continue, sending a tsunami that would go 15 miles inland on the US eastern seaboard.
    San Andreas!
    Etc., etc., etc.

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