About 630,000 years ago, National Geographic reported, a powerful eruption shook the region and created the Yellowstone caldera, a bowl 40 miles wide that forms much of the park. Scientists suspect that a supereruption scars the planet every 100,000 years, causing many to ask when we can next expect such an explosive planet-changing event. This supervolcano has ability to exile a rock of around 1,000 cubic kilometers with a huge amount of ash at the same time. Until now, geologists believed it would take centuries for the supervolcano to make that transition.
But researchers from Arizona State University, analysing rocks in Yellowstone, say that the process might take just decades.
The latest revelation comes after a 2013 study found the magma reservoir that feeds the supervolcano was almost triple the size of previous estimates.
"It's an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high", volcano expert Bob Smith from the University of Utah told the magazine at the time. As the crystals grew outward, layer upon layer, they recorded changes in temperature, pressure and water content beneath the volcano, much like a set of tree rings. Instead, the outer rims of the crystals revealed a clear uptick in temperature and a change in composition that occurred on a rapid time scale.
"We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption", said Till said in an interview with the New York Times.
In 2012, other scientists reported that at least one of the past super-eruptions may have really been two events - suggesting that such large-scale events may be more common than thought. It's also news because, as the Times notes, decades are but "a blink of an eye, geologically speaking".
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