USGS monitoring services have detected 170 tremors near the Yellowstone caldera in the past 28 days. All earthquakes were relatively weak, with the largest being a 3.1 magnitude tremor that occurred on May 29. Some experts warn that it is not necessarily the size of an earthquake that is an indicator of the eruption of a volcano, but the number of them.
Portland State University Professor Emeritus of Geology Scott Burns said: “If they swarm under a working volcano, the working hypothesis is that magma is moving there.”
But others disagree on whether an earthquake near a volcano could be a sign of what’s to come.
Jamie Farrell of the University of Utah at Salt Lake City believes this is just part of the Yellowstone volcano natural cycle and says, “Earthquake swarms are quite common in Yellowstone.”
The Yellowstone National Park Service said the region generally has about 700 earthquakes a year.
Yellowstone Volcano: Over 170 Earthquakes Hit, Will Yellowstone Erupt?
“If you have swarms under a running volcano, the working hypothesis is that the magma is moving down.”
At the top scale, Yellowstone can experience up to 3,000 earthquakes in a year.
The USGS says: “Almost all earthquakes in Yellowstone are fragile fault events caused when rocks break due to stresses in the crust.
“Although we have been looking at Yellowstone for years, no one has yet identified ‘long period (LP) events commonly attributed to the magma movement.
“If LP events are observed, that will NOT mean Yellowstone is preparing to erupt. LP earthquakes commonly occur on other volcanoes in the world, including volcanoes in California, which have not erupted in centuries or millennia.”
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A Yellowstone eruption would be devastating
The Yellowstone supervolcano, located in the U.S. state of Wyoming, last erupted on a large scale 640,000 years ago.
According to the USGS, the chances of a Yellowstone eruption are around one in 730,000.
With 640,000 years since the last major eruption, Yellowstone is closer to exploding, but it could still be thousands of years away.
However, experts are preparing for the worst now, and are studying how a major eruption could be prevented, which could instantly destroy large swaths of the United States.
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A NASA employee believes he has found a unique way to stop a large eruption: by feeding Yellowstone’s magma chambers with cold water.
NASA engineer Brian Wilcox hopes to avoid the threat of a super eruption to cool magma in the chambers inside the volcano.
About 60 to 70 percent of the heat generated by Yellowstone leaks into the atmosphere, but the rest accumulates inside. If enough builds up, it can trigger a rash.
Drilling 10 kilometers into Yellowstone, the NASA employee believes it would be possible to pump high-pressure water that will allow the cold liquid to absorb some of the heat, before it is pumped again.
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Wilcox told journalist Bryan Walsh in the latter’s new book, End Times, that the plan could cost $ 3.5 billion (£ 2.9 billion) and would have the added benefit of using steam from the water and magma combo to create Carbon-free geothermal electricity at a much cheaper rate than any alternative energy currently available on the market.
Wilcox told Walsh: “What makes Yellowstone a force of nature is that it stores heat for hundreds of thousands of years before everything becomes kablooey at once. It would be nice if we drained that heat before it could cause a lot of damage. “
Others, however, are not so convinced of the feasibility of Wilcox’s idea.
USGS scientist Jake Lowenstern said to Mr. Walsh, “It all seems a bit fanciful.”