The Yellowstone caldera spreads beneath the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and gets its nickname as a supervolcano due to its ability to inflict devastation on a global level. It is constantly monitored by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for signs that a supereruption is on its way, something that has only happened three times in history, 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and 640,000 years ago, leaving some to claim a massive eruption is overdue. Scientists admit they do not completely understand what is going on below the Earth’s surface, but there is one mystery that baffles them most – the Old Faithful geyser.
History’s ‘The Unexplained’ documentary revealed why this cone geyser in Wyoming has experts scratching their heads.
The series said last week: “Yellowstone National Park – each year more than four million people travel from all over the world to experience its canyons, the hot springs and other natural wonders.
“But the most wonderful site of them all is a geyser that shoots a jet of superheated water more than 150 feet into the air.
“And it does so at such regular intervals that you can practically set your watch by it, which is why they call this geyser Old Faithful.
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“For centuries we thought of it as a mere tourist attraction, a quant example of mother nature, but what if we are wrong? What if it is providing a geological countdown to mankind’s extinction?”
Michael Wysession, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University, explained why the geyser is an enigma.
He said: “If you visit Yellowstone, it’s spectacular, there are geysers all over the place – some erupt every few minutes, some every few hours.
“But what is remarkable about Old Faithful, is you can go there with a stopwatch and you can time, almost to the minute, when the next eruption will be.”
Michael Dennin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California Irvine, revealed Old Faithful shows there is still so much more to learn about Yellowstone.
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Michael Dennin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California Irvine
He added: “Most of nature is radical and unpredictable, but the really surprising feature of Old Faithful is not that it’s periodic and regular, because that happens in many places.
“It’s that it has been periodic and regular for so long, that’s something that really shows us there’s a lot we don’t know about nature and a lot we need to learn.”
American theoretical physicist and futurist, Michio Kaku, left viewers with a more sobering thought.
He said: “Yellowstone is famous for bears, for magnificent geysers, but underneath your feet, is a supervolcano at least 44 miles across.
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American theoretical physicist and futurist Michio Kaku
The supervolcano can be found beneath Yellowstone National Park
“It’s a whole network of magma pools that could one day blow up and cause tremendous havoc.
“It has happened three times in recorded history and we are due for another one, who knows when, maybe tomorrow, maybe 1000, 2000 years from now.
“It will happen.”
However, the USGS has previously put minds at ease regarding any “overdue” claims.
Yellowstone Volcano Observatory’s Scientists-in-Charge Jacob Lowenstern said in 2014: “When you see people claiming it’s overdue, usually the numbers they come up with say the last eruption was 640,000 years ago, but it erupts every 600,000 years.
“But, in fact, if you average the eruption intervals, there’s 2.1 million to 1.3 million and then another 640,000 years ago.
“If you average those numbers you come up with something that’s over 700,000 years.
“So, in reality, even if you tried to make this argument, it wouldn’t be overdue for another 70,000 years.”