April 19, 2010

‘Severe’ Yellowstone Volcano Eruption Not Expected Soon

While the ongoing eruption of a volcano in Iceland has caused havoc for local farmers and travelers throughout Europe, a possible eruption of a much stronger volcano at the Yellowstone National Park would be potentially devastating, a representative from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) told reporters on Monday.

"The impact would be severe," Bill Burton, a volcanologist with the agency, told the AFP news agency. Fortunately, he adds, "The next major eruption for Yellowstone, if you have a guess, is probably thousands of years in the future."

The Yellowstone volcano last erupted about 640,000 years ago, and before that had last erupted 1.3 million years ago, according to geologists. Experts believe the event occurs once every 730,000 years or so, meaning that an eruption isn't due at Yellowstone for another 90,000 or so years. However, Burton warns, "You cannot be totally complacent and assume nothing is going to happen."

According to the most recent monthly update from the USGS Yellowstone Volcano Observatory: "During the month of March 2010, 66 earthquakes were located in the Yellowstone region. The largest event was a magnitude 2.7 on March 29th at 7:35 PM MDT, located about 8 miles northeast of Canyon Junction, YNP. No earthquake swarms were recorded during March and seismicity continues at background levels"¦ Continuous GPS data show that uplift of the Yellowstone Caldera has slowed significantly. Uplift rates for YVO GPS stations are less than 2.5 cm per year."

Volcano eruptions have been in the news and on the minds of people as a result of the ongoing eruption at a volcano located beneath the ice caps of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland. As a result of the ash spewed forth from that volcano since last Wednesday, air travel throughout much of Europe was suspended over the weekend, and farmers in the vicinity of the event were forced to move their livestock indoors.

"We are all doing our utmost to make sure that the farming community in this area survives this disaster," Icelandic President Olafur Grimsson told Reuters Television on Sunday. "What we are experiencing here in Iceland is forces of nature on display... And that is a spectacle--the combination of volcanic eruption and glaciers you cannot see anywhere else in the world."


Imaeg Caption: The northeastern part of Yellowstone Caldera, with the Yellowstone River flowing through Hayden Valley and the caldera rim in the distance. Courtesy Ed Austin/Herb Jones/NPS


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