SUPERVOLCANO Yellowstone has been assessed as “high risk” in a new assessment published by the United States Geological Survey today, with any eruption likely to pose a global disaster.
The document, which updates similar research published by the USGS in 2005, was published by the government agency today.
Yellowstone, which is located in Yellowstone National Park in California, is ranked 21st out of 161 volcanoes assessed as part of the study.
The USGS looked at 24 hazard and exposure factors to assesses the volcanoes and update the volcanic threat assessment published by scientist John Ewert and colleagues 13 years ago.
In total, the US has seen 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic unrest at 44 US volcanoes since 1980, the USGS said.
The assessment classed 18 as very high threat, 39 high threat, 49 moderate threat, 34 low threat, and 21 very low threat volcanoes.
Yellowstone is given an overall threat score of 115, compared with Hawaii’s Kilauea, which is top of the list with a score of 263.
It also has an aviation threat score of 27, making it a moderate danger to aircraft as they fly over.
Yellowstone last erupted 664,000 years ago, but scientists still monitor it constantly.
The last three eruptions have taken place every 600,000-700,000 years, with the most recent happening 664,000 years ago leading some scientists to speculate another could be due.
In March, the Yellowstone based Geyser Steamboat erupted for the first time since 2014 – but USGS has said hydrothermal changes in Yellowstone’s geysers are not linked to any volcanic activity at Yellowstone itself.
Nevertheless, were Yellowstone to blow, the result would be a worldwide catastrophe.
A paper published four years ago in the scientific journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems discussed what an eruption would be like.
Scientists hypothesised it would be preceded by unmistakeable warning signs.
It would then eject at least 240 cubic miles of material.
Pyroclastic flows would hurl volcanic ash miles into the air and disperse it across United States.
The northern Rockies would likely be buried by three feet of ash, while states including Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, and Utah would.
Millions of people would be killed, together with plants and animals and massive destruction to infrastructure.
The latest USGS report offered some reassurance, saying: “The threat ranking is not an indication of which volcano will erupt next.
“Rather, it is an indicator of the potential severity of impacts that could result from future eruptions at any given volcano.”
Source : EXPRESS