Last Updated: Wednesday, June 3, 2015

5 common misconceptions about Yellowstone Volcano you shouldn't believe

It is often heard that Yellowstone Park is a Super Volcano - an eruption would destroy America and cause huge devastation. Taking it into consideration, United States Geological Survey (USGS) has forwarded five of the most common misunderstandings about Yellowstone volcano which you shouldn't believe.

Misconception #1: When Yellowstone erupts…. it'll be Armageddon.

It is seen that most past eruptions at Yellowstone were not highly explosive. Of the past 50 or so eruptions, almost all were simple lava flows. If they occurred tomorrow, or next year, they would have minimal direct effect outside Yellowstone National Park.

Misconception #2: The Yellowstone magma chamber is growing.

There's no evidence for that one. Given Yellowstone's past history, the yearly probability of another caldera-forming eruption could be calculated as 1 in 730,000 or 0.00014%. However, this number is based simply on averaging the two intervals between the three major past eruptions at Yellowstone — this is hardly enough to make a critical judgment.

 A study, done by scientists at the University of Utah (and colleagues at Caltech and the University of New Mexico), reveals a lot of partly molten rock, but nearly all of it appears too "frozen" to erupt.

Misconception #3: Yellowstone is overdue for a supereruption.

yellowstone volcano
 Comparison of eruption sizes using the volume of magma erupted from several volcanoes (USGS)
The term "supervolcano" implies a volcanic center that has had an eruption of magnitude 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index (VEI), meaning the measured deposits for that eruption is greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers (240 cubic miles). 

If Yellowstone erupts, it need not be a large eruption. It is not valid to calculate a recurrence period solely on two values (the two intervals between supereruptions). Therefore, the calculations you may hear stating that Yellowstone is some number of years overdue for a supereruption is mathematically inaccurate.

Misconception #4: Yellowstone is rapidly rising

Not as of June 2015. Yellowstone clearly can move up and down regularly without erupting. The most recent volcanic activity consisted of rhyolitic lava flows that erupted approximately 70,000 years ago.

Misconception #5: Earthquake data indicates moving magma.

Almost all earthquakes at Yellowstone are brittle-failure events caused when rocks break due to crustal stresses. Though we've been looking for years at Yellowstone, no one has yet identified "long-period (LP) events" commonly attributed to magma movement. When they are observed, that will not mean Yellowstone is getting ready to erupt.

The latest update of the Yellowstone volcano by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has shown total 75 registered earthquakes in the Yellowstone National Park region in May 2015. The largest event was a small earthquake of magnitude 3.0 on May 18, at 5:00 PM MDT, located about 3 miles north northeast of Lake, YNP.