Yellowstone reaches 878 earthquakes in just two weeks as scientists wonder when the volcano will blow
You don’t have to be a geologist to understand that an earthquake in the vicinity of a volcano could be a disaster waiting to happen, but what if there were nearly 900 quakes near a supervolcano?
That is the situation that is playing out right now in Yellowstone National Park, where 878 earthquakes have struck since June 12. Most of the quakes had a very low magnitude, but the strongest one, which was recorded on June 15, had a magnitude of 4.4. The park rests atop one of the most dangerous supervolcanoes on the planet, prompting fears that it could be about to blow. Any doubts about its active state can be dispelled by the sight of Old Faithful, shooting water up every few hours.
While earthquake swarms are not unusual in Yellowstone, the week of June 12 saw the highest number of quakes to be noted in a single week in five years. Although the risk of eruption remains low overall and the volcano alert level has not been raised from green, it is believed that if it does erupt, it could be 1,000 times as powerful as the one at Mount St. Helens in 1980.
This particular volcano has been dormant for more than 70,000 years, but that does not mean it won’t erupt again eventually. It’s impossible to predict when that might occur, but seismic activity can signal a potential eruption. Four years ago, researchers discovered that the underground magma chamber of the volcano was more than twice as big as previously believed, encompassing an area of land that measures 56 by 19 miles.