Yellowstone Volcano - Could Earthquake Trigger It?

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Yellowstone National Park experienced its biggest recorded earthquake in 34 years at 6:34 am Sunday. The magnitude was only 4.8, but what is disturbing about the quake is that it was centered near the worlds largest super-volcano.

The tremor struck the northwest corner of the park, followed by a flurry of smaller quakes since Thursday, geologists at the University of Utah Seismograph Stations said in a statement.

To check on geysers and hot springs, a U.S. Geological Survey team is touring the Norris Geyser Basin on Sunday, to be sure nothing was affected.

About 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes strike Yellowstone each year, according to the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, a research partnership of the park, the University of Utah and the U.S. Geological Survey.

What has people buzzing is the possible trigger from earthquake activity to the ancient super-volcano (caldera) that lies beneath the surface of the park, discovered by scientists to be 2.5 times larger than they previously thought and measuring 30 miles wide, according to the park.

The increasing earthquake activity at Yellowstone is caused by the upward movement of molten rock beneath the Earth's crust, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Fortunately, there was no indication that the recent seismic activity signaled an impending eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, scientists said.

Observatory researchers said that the eruption of the super-volcano, which was catastrophic in the past, is unlikely for tens of thousands of years, but added that less extreme lava releases could happen within thousands of years.

Those numbers make sense, because according to the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, the last super-volcano's cataclysmic eruption happened 2 million years ago when half of North America was covered in ash, killing prehistoric animals all the way into what is now Nebraska.

It is less likely to erupt because of the heat that is released from a vast chamber of molten rock, via the park's famous geothermal activity, which includes the famous Old Faithful Geyser.

Scientists report that if the super volcano erupted it would decimate the United States with ash and affect the entire earth.

Many people are concerned about seismic activity, which could indicate that the super volcano is due for an eruption. Peter Cervelli of The US Geological Survey says this particular rattle is nothing to worry about and the caldera is not about to erupt.

The earthquake is interesting though because of the amount of time between the two strongest tremors. The data scientists will collect from the event will add to the insight of volcanoes and tectonics, he added. But this particular super volcano is still sleeping and should bring no concern.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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