Yellowstone volcano: USGS admits ‘rare’ eruption stunned scientists – ‘Extraordinary!’

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The Yellowstone caldera gets its chilling label as a supervolcano due to its capability to inflict devastation on a global level, despite the groans of scientist Mike Poland. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) researcher claimed in this month’s Caldera Chronicles that the tag is “trite” and “misleading”. However, days later, Dr Poland was discussing the power of the caldera below Yellowstone National Park and how it previously caught his team by surprise.

In a video shared on USGS’s site, he said: “I’m coming to you today from the upper geyser basin in the Yellowstone National Park with the activity update from 2019.

“I thought this would be a fun place to do the update because it is an anniversary.

“You might remember from mid to late September of 2018, there was a rare eruption of Ear Spring, the pool that is right here next to me.

“It hadn’t erupted in a few decades, and when it did erupt, it destroyed the prestige area and littered rocks all around the area.”

Ear Spring is a hot spring located close to the Old Faithful geyser, which is capable of shooting debris 25 feet in the air.

Dr Poland added: “In addition to bringing up a load of rocks it also brought up a bunch of human garbage, coins, pacifier, it clearly had been a while since it erupted.

“It really was an extraordinary event and a great example of the dynamic nature of the geyser system at Yellowstone.

“But one constant here is change, it’s always changing.

“Although September was a pretty quiet month for earthquakes in the Yellowstone region.”

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Dr Poland then gave viewers an update on the recent situation at Yellowstone.

He continued: “The University of Utah seismographs stations which are responsible for the operation and analysis of the Yellowstone network located only 71 earthquakes in the month.

“The largest was this earthquake here, just south of West Yellowstone, and it was only a magnitude 2.4.

“There was no swarm activity detected during the month, this is below average for the region, particularly when we expect to see 1,500 to 2,000 earthquakes a year.

“This year, however, we are not quite up to 1,000, so earthquake activity for the year has been a bit subdued.”

In 2016, geologist Ken Pierce also warned of “heavy breathing” occurring in the caldera.

He said: “Yellowstone has been deflated and inflated in the last part of the Holocene time or what we might call post-glacial time.

“One of the things that I’ve been working on is documenting changes in the Yellowstone caldera through time.

“Part of the geology of Yellowstone is set up really nice for this, there is Yellowstone Lake and a channel of the Yellowstone River that goes across what is the threshold in the centre of the caldera.

“If the caldera inflates, this makes Yellowstone Lake get higher, if the caldera deflates, this makes Yellowstone Lake get lower.

“This process of deflation and inflation, I call it the heavy breathing of the Yellowstone caldera because it’s a big process.”

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