Yellowstone Helium Leaks: What Do They Mean?

By: Ellisha Rader Mannering - February 22, 2014

Yellowstone National Park releases a variety of gases every day. These gases range from carbon dioxide to methane and according to scientists, helium. Although helium is a gas that is commonly leaked from volcanic rocks, scientists have discovered that the helium they have found is millions of years old and is just now being released from rocks that are deep below Yellowstone’s surface.

Scientists believe that the helium is slipping out of rocks that were formed during the Archaean eon, about 2.5 billion years ago. These rocks contain minerals and heavy elements that have slowly decayed over time and allowed helium to build up underneath the surface.

Bill Evans, a researcher with the USGS in Menlo Park, California, explained how the helium is released,

“Volcanoes most always form on the edges of tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust. But Yellowstone sits directly over the middle of a plate,” he said. “It’s a part of the crust that formed a very long time ago, billions of years ago, and it’s basically been stable since that time. They’ve had this boring, peaceful existence and now suddenly they’re put on the front burner.”

He went on to explain how important the helium discovery is to scientists and why they need to study it more saying, “It’s kind of an interesting thought to us, how these rocks behave, because it’s very rare on the face of the Earth to have [volcanism] come into rocks that have been that stable for that long.”

Scientists plan to study the helium and the rocks that are releasing it to determine what exactly is happening and why the helium is being released.

The super volcano that is situated below Yellowstone is due to erupt and many people are wondering when it will happen. Scientists have assured nearby residents that before it erupts, it will start to show signs and give off signals that an eruption will occur. Many are wondering if the recent leak of helium could be one of these signs.

Do you think the helium leaks could be a sign that a volcanic eruption will occur soon?

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ellisha Rader Mannering

About the Author

Ellisha Rader ManneringEllisha is a writer, wife, and mommy to Cyrus and Milo. She enjoys fishing, hiking, being outdoors, shopping, traveling with her family and teaching baton twirling. Follow her on Twitter @lishann

View all posts by Ellisha Rader Mannering
  • Jim Griffin

    Have they started testing for helium just recently or have they been looking for years and just seeing it now?

    • Gim Nahganub

      They have been testing it for many years. Within days they witnessed levels 100 or even 1000 times normal amounts.

      • Astroraider

        Can you cite a source for your “facts”

        • Rudy

          Jacob Lowenstern, lead study author and scientist-in-charge at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. “the quantity of helium-4 in Yellowstone’s gas emissions is hundreds to thousands of times greater than it should be — a sign that the crust is releasing its ancient stores of the rare isotope”

  • Woody
  • Tom

    The news stories say the helium has been “leaking” for the entire time the Yellowstone area has been a volcano. Ms. Mannering has written a fluff piece to get buzz.

    • Gim Nahganub

      I disagree. If you would do a little independent research, maybe realize that your lack of technical understanding in this area will contribute to how “boring” this story seems to you, and lastly, look around. Do you see any buzz? Two stories on the webs when H4 is suddenly released at rates close to 1000 times greater than ever recorded in history for this area. Also note that sudden and highly elevated releases of helium4 and helium3 from the mantle usually precede eruptions. Do you even science bro?

      • Tom

        I have done independent research on this. I read the paper in Nature. It does not see “sudden” releases. Read the LA Times article if you can’t handle the original. It’s much better than the one above.

  • Demonykangyl

    It’s not just regular Helium, it”s Helium 4, is a non-radioactive isotope. Alpha decay of heavy elements in the Earth’s crust is the source of most naturally occurring helium-4 on Earth.

  • Krakondack

    I get how helium comes from alpha decay, but it’s also in coal mines, for example. I seem to recall that this is where most industrial helium came from. So how is this different from sulfurous gasses and others that are associated with volcanoes? Yellowstone has always shown signs of that.

  • Astroraider

    Yellowstone WILL erupt SOON in terms of geologic time! In my lifetime? Probably not. Will it be a huge eruption? Probably not. It will likely ooze lava like many of the past eruptions. Super Eruptions are few and far between and, perhaps, this volcano is out of “gas” so to speak. Will the hotspot erupt someplace else – most likely and most likely NOT in the very near future, geologically speaking.

  • WealthyNot

    Imagine that. All this gas comes from a container with a date stamp.
    It’s all made up to fit someone’s theory.

    • Karen Ardagna

      Interesting isn’t it.
      What we think we know about alpha decay makes a reasonable argument for the length of time. However, we were also so sure the speed of light was a constant and Hawking was correct about black holes!

  • Cappen Kirk
  • ShirleyMG

    A thought to ponder…every time America has tried to force Israel to give up ‘land for peace’ we have had some type of disaster hit our shores. Genesis 12:2-3 states that God will bless those that bless Israel and curse those that curse Israel. Within a few days of the U.S. threatening to withhold or vote against Israel’s security in the UN we suffered the greatest oil spill in history in the gulf.
    Again, when the official US policy was demanding that Israel create a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, which means dividing Jerusalem and our president made two speeches in May, During his speech on May 22 he reaffirmed the dividing of Jerusalem. Within hours of Obama’s speech, a powerful tornado storm tore through Missouri and devastated Joplin. It was one of the most destructive tornadoes in US history with high loss of life and billions of dollars in property damage.
    President Bush had pressured Israel to give up the Gaza strip. The news showed Israelis being moved out of their homes. That was when Katrina devastated Louisiana.
    So you ask if I think the helium leaks could be a sign that a volcanic eruption could occur soon? I say it all depends on what America does with Israel. I believe if we continue to pressure Israel to divide Jerusalem, God will divide our nation as well.
    Something to think about…

    • Pinkerton

      I’m sorry honey, but the adults are talking now. Save your bedtime story for someone else.

      • SusanJJ

        That was quite rude “Pinkerton” and your comment sounds more childish than the comment made by Shirley.

        • Mills616

          He or she’s not being rude, also is talking about science and to bring up crappy stories doesn’t make sense.

      • ignorance is not bliss

        That is your entire contribution huh? If Shirley is right then you are way wrong and will have eternity to regret. If you are rite, Shirley is more than likely still going to live a happier more fulfilling life and end up in the same non-existence as you. Good luck with your illusions of superiority.

      • ShirleyMG

        Obviously you’re a far-left liberal Democrat. I can tell because instead of coming back with a valid comment you rely on name calling and patronizing. I would also guess you are under 30 and attended/ing an institution of higher learning. I say that because the adage:
        ‘If you’re a Republican before 30, you have no heart. If you’re a Democrat after 30 you have no brains.’
        You seem so smuggly self-assured that I am wrong. Do some research on your own, then come back to me with a rebuttal…’honey’.

      • Mills616

        Haha your cool!

    • Shosh 7154

      Shirley I am so happy to read your words of wisdom…Katrina was no coincidence. The word Katrina means Katyusha which is what the arabs are launching into Jewish neighborhoods, killing, maiming and destroying property, creating a lifetime of nightmares for children and adults, exactly as Hurricane Katrina (Katyusha) was a devastating explosion of destruction in the U.S. It is written in Obadiah 1:15 that what the nations do to Israel, the same will be done to the nations… it was George Bush who forced the Prime Minister of Israel to throw 9,000 Jewish families out of their homes, businesses and farms, along with their synagogues, even having to dig up their dead to prevent unspeakable acts of desecration on the part of the arabs as the Jewish were forced off their land. A sizable number of Americans lost everything ONLY A FEW DAYS LATER as Hurricane Katrina slammed into their lives, driving multiple thousands off their land causing even their dead to surface, just as it was in Israel. The real threat though is this April on Passover when Mr. Obama promises to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the heart of Israel. If he is able to follow through with his threats against Israel to initiate a major European boycott and bring sanctions against Israel, he will no doubt convince the Jewish State to abandon their eternal capital to their worst enemies and then the United States will be cut into pieces. There is talk about the New Madrid fault which erupted in the early 1800’s causing the Mississippi River to reverse course perhaps becoming active again with the potential of dividing the continental U.S. Look what G-d says about dividing His Land: Zechariah 12:3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. And since G-d foretold King Cyrus by name 150 years before he was born causing the Jews to return to their land and rebuild their temple, G-d is able to make His word happen. The Outline of History, concedes that the Jews “returned to their city, Jerusalem” and “rebuilt their temple there under the auspices of Cyrus,” the Persian monarch. Exactly as G-d foretold in Isaiah 44:28, being fulfilled in 2 Chronicles 36:22, 23 and Ezra 1:1-4, 7, 8; 3:7; 4:3. We are about to see the Son of G-d come home as Matthew 24:32 states that the generation that sees the FIG TREE (Hosea 9:6) ISRAEL re-established as a nation will see the SON OF MAN COMING IN THE CLOUDS TO ESTABLISH HIS KINGDOM ON EARTH. That generation is 1948…in Matthew 24, the L-rd states that the generation seeing Israel return after 2,000 years of exile will NOT DIE OFF BEFORE HE RETURNS. Are you ready ?

      • ShirleyMG

        Thanks so much for your comments. I do research for a number of groups and I appreciate others who share their knowledge.

        • waynewatson

          It will be as in the times of Noah. Those that turn their noses up when referring to posts such as Shirley and Shosh will, unfortunately, be in an unenviable position of too little, too late. Whether Yellowstone is part of the mix really is inconsequential. If you are one that disregards the accuracy of prophecy, and the ultimate return of Christ very soon, may your eyes be opened before it is too late.

          • ShirleyMG

            And as we know, Noah warned the people for 120 years. And in the end it was on he and his family that were saved out of the flood. I, too, pray that eyes will be opened and souls saved. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

          • Trish

            An just remember, Revelation speaks of the Abyss being opened and the releasing of the fallen angels upon this planet, then all hell will let loose upon this world…!!!

  • EndOfAge

    I’ve studied earthquake, volcano, and storm patterns a long time. While there’s

    much info archived at the USGS site, rumor suggests their data is now ‘minimized’
    (corrupted) by the ‘puppeteers’ in Washington. MANY WEATHER/GEOLOGIC

    a more credible geologic site ( in Hungary.

    Their data’s in real-time. It even includes ‘Earth Approaching Objects’ with

    NASA coordinates. While SOME of their info comes from USGS, much

    of it is gathered via other sources.

    Imagine my shock a few months ago when searching for updated
    geologic info as I noticed a yellow ‘circle’ suddenly appearing around
    Yellowstone Park! It wasn’t there a couple of years ago on the RSOE
    map! No explanation is given on the Hungarian site, yet THIS article

    gives a clue to the inclusion of the yellow circle now shown at Yellowstone! Helium!

    Shirley and Shosh are correct. The mega-increase in ‘natural disasters’

    over the last 10 years is astounding (Scoffers and doubters, please research
    this yourselves). They correlate with all political/economic/religious upheavals. Mankind is given numerous WARNINGS in the Bible of the
    ‘signs of the End’. “The wise see danger and take refuge, but the

    foolish ignore it and suffer.” (Prov. 27:12)

    Increased helium readings at Yellowstone is another SIGN, a precursor
    of God’s coming wrath. Didn’t you see the ‘2012’ movie with John
    Cusack? Geologic anomalies at Yellowstone signaled global disasters.

  • Dean Allen

    Wow, I expected some kind of answer and all this article did was ask the same question a the end of it. Waste of time to even say anything more than helium leak- yrllowstone-yeah what do you think it means?? Der

  • Dean Allen

    here’s a source of info that is likely the leading edge of Yellowstone activity—-

  • Dean Allen

    Wow!! All the links to Yellowstone are 404 cannot be found. That might be telling…

  • Phillip

    a geologic fart if you will