Contact Us

Scientists Report Yellowstone Supervolcano Bigger Than Previously Thought

Yellowstone Sign
NBC Montana

The world’s authority on Yellowstone National Park’s supervolcano says it’s more than twice as big as scientists once thought.

Millions of people visit Yellowstone each year to see its geysers, fumaroles, hot springs and mud pots.  It’s the largest concentration of thermal features in the world.

The park sits on top of the world’s largest active volcano — the supervolcano.  Its most recent eruption was more than 600,000 years ago.  All that remains is the top, or caldera.

A map of the park with an overlay of the caldera shows it’s huge.

“Anytime you come to Yellowstone you have to drive uphill,” explained supervolcano scientist Dr. Robert Smith. “And the reason is this giant plume of magma is very hot, therefore it’s ebullient, it’s low density and it just lifts the surface up.”

Smith has been studying Yellowstone’s earthquakes and its supervolcanoes for almost 60 years.

“And these giant eruptions in Yellowstone – the supervolcano, if you wish — probably last many, many months, maybe even years,” Smith said.

Not only that, they’re huge, thousands of times as large as Mount St. Helens.

Smith and his students use seismographs to map the magma pool underneath Yellowstone’s volcano and satellites to determine how much the land swells or bulges.

They found that the magma is, “2.5 times larger than we had originally imaged,” Smith said.

The magma movement is signaled by earthquakes.

Smith mentioned the 4.8 magnitude Norris-area earthquake that damaged Lake Hotel last spring. “It’s the biggest earthquake in 30 years.”

So, how likely is it that the big one will blow soon?

“If we were to have another big eruption, it would affect a large area, on the order of several states,” Smith said.  “But, as I said, that probability is very, very, very, very small. In my calculations, it’s .0001 percent.”

Smith says the magma pool isn’t getting bigger. His team added more seismographs, and they’re getting a clearer picture of the magma.

More from AM 1240 KLYQ

Best of the Web

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your points and personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account with your Facebook account, just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing profile and VIP program points. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://klyq.com using your Facebook account.

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

Register on AM 1240 KLYQ quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!

Not a Member? Sign Up Here

Register on AM 1240 KLYQ quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!