Home Science Yellowstone volcano: Earthquake swarm blasts National Park - fears supervolcano may erupt

Yellowstone volcano: Earthquake swarm blasts National Park - fears supervolcano may erupt

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported the Yellowstone National Park, which is home to one of the most powerful volcanoes on the planet, was hit by 11 earthquakes on Friday. The tremors were relatively small, ranging from 1.6 to 3.1 magnitude on the Richter scale, according to the USGS. The area has been hit by a total of 34 quakes in the past month.

And some social media users said they were fearful the increased activity around Yellowstone could be a sign the supervolcano is set to blow.

One person wrote on Twitter: "Multiple earthquakes within 24 hours at Yellowstone... this is for real our last year on Earth so make it count."

Another person added: "Yellow stone have [SIC] had multiple earthquakes in the last 24 hours too. Which is overdue an eruption. That will be bad."

A third posted: "Yellowstone Supervolcano looking at 2020 ready to go off for 60 points in game 5 to close out the series."

Another tweeted: "Honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the Yellowstone supervolcano, which is already 40,000 years overdue for an explosion, erupts this year and we all die.

Yellowstone: Stock image of park's geyser spurting; and, inset, earthquake swarm over 24 hours (Image: GETTY)

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Yellowstone could pack a mighty explosion (Image: GETTY)

"I’m ready at this point tbh, I’m done, I’m coming up god."

One Twitter user wrote: "Yellowstone has been an active geological zone for a very long time. If that one goes, it will definitely be the biggest disaster in decades if not centuries. That’s this country sleeping dragon!"

However, others were, probably justifiably, unconvinced the earthquake swam would spark an eruption.

One posted: "I think Ebola has had a few outbreaks, and Yellowstone has loads of seismic activity always. Nothing to see here!"

Another tweeted: "Yellowstone has around 3000 earthquakes from horrible to ok annually."

READ MORE: How scientists found volcano 30 times LARGER than Yellowstone

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World's most dangerous volcanoes (Image: EXPRESS)

Whether or not earthquakes can cause volcanic eruptions is a hotly contested topic among scientists but experts are united in playing down concerns.

The USGS says "sometimes, yes" an earthquake can cause an eruption - but there are a number of other factors at play.

The US-based agency said: "A few large regional earthquakes (greater than magnitude 6) are considered to be related to a subsequent eruption or to some type of unrest at a nearby volcano.

"However, volcanoes can only be triggered into eruption by nearby tectonic earthquakes if they are already poised to erupt. "

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Whether or not earthquakes can cause volcanic eruptions is a hotly contested topic among scientists (Image: GETTY)

Yellowstone's predicted ash cloud (Image: EXPRESS)

For this to happen, two conditions must be met. These are:

• Enough "eruptible" magma within the volcanic system.

• Significant pressure within the magma storage region.

Some experts warn it is not necessarily the size of an earthquake which is an indicator a volcano might erupt, but 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.”

But others disagree about whether an earthquake swarm near a volcano could be a sign of things to come.

"Volcanoes can only be triggered into eruption by nearby tectonic earthquakes" (Image: GETTY)

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."

Yellowstone's National Park Service said that the region usually has about 700 earthquakes a year.

On the upper scale, Yellowstone can experience up to 3,000 quakes in a year.

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.

Yellowstone National Park (Image: GETTY)

"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 Yellowstone supervolcano, located in the US state of Wyoming, last erupted on a major scale 640,000 years ago.

According to the USGS, the chances of a Yellowstone eruption is around one-in-730,000.

With 640,000 years having passed since the last major eruption, Yellowstone is edging 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, which could instantly wipe out large swathes of the US, could be prevented.

One NASA employee believes he has found a unique way to stop a major eruption (Image: GETTY)

One NASA employee believes he has found a unique way to stop a major eruption – by feeding cold water into Yellowstone’s magma chambers.

NASA engineer Brian Wilcox hopes to stave off the threat of a super-eruption is to cool down the magma in the chambers inside the volcano.

Around 60 to 70 percent of the heat generated by Yellowstone seeps into the atmosphere, but the remainder builds up inside. If enough builds up, it can trigger an eruption.

By drilling 10 kilometres into Yellowstone, the NASA employee believes that it would be possible to pump high-pressure water which will allow the cool liquid to absorb some of the heat, before it is pumped out again.

Yellowstone could obliterate the west coast of America (Image: GETTY)

Mr Wilcox told journalist Bryan Walsh in the latter’s new book End Times that the plan could cost $ 3.5bn (£2.9bn) and would have the added benefit of using the 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.

Mr Wilcox told Mr Walsh: “The thing that makes Yellowstone a force of nature is that it stores up heat for hundreds of thousands of years before it all goes kablooey all at once. It would be good if we drained away that heat before it could do a lot of damage.”

Others, however, are not so convinced about the feasibility of Mr Wilcox’s idea.

USGS scientist Jake Lowenstern told Mr Walsh: “It all seems a bit fanciful.”

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