By Logan Smith
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (CBS4) – Despite the increased frequency of steam eruptions at the famous Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, and a ‘swarm’ of small earthquakes in the region this year, researchers are downplaying the likelihood Yellowstone’s supervolcano will explode.
A Twitter message Saturday from the United States Geological Survey explained the recent activity is more indicative of a favorable geyser viewing season for park visitors this summer.
The Steamboat Geyser erupted once in March and twice in April.
“Based on seismic data,” the USGS stated in a May 1st report, “all three eruptions have been smaller than the major events of 2013 and 2014, but these 2018 eruptions each still discharged about 10 times more water than a typical eruption of Old Faithful. Although a bit unusual, such frequent eruptions are not unique. Steamboat behaves randomly. It experienced five eruptions in 2002-2003 and dozens of eruptions during 1982-1984, but the geyser can also go dormant for years at a time. The recent activity has no bearing on the potential for a volcanic eruption, the probability of which remains remote. Geyser activity reflects only the conditions in the upper few tens of meters of the surface.”
In addition, the USGS reported 200 earthquakes located in the park’s region during the month of April. Another 115 were recorded over six days in mid-April — and referred to as a ‘swarm’ — about eight miles east of West Thumb, Wyoming.
None of those quakes measured larger than 2.7 magnitude, and the USGS called the activity common for the region.
The USGS describes Yellowstone as “the largest and most diverse collection of natural thermal features in the world.”
Through measurements, materials, and observations gathered by geologists during the 1960s and 1970s, scientists drew their first conclusions about Yellowstone’s volcanic history.
The park is, in effect, a giant caldera.
“Yellowstone has had at least three such eruptions,” explains the park’s website. “The three eruptions — 2.1 million years ago, 1.2 million years ago and 640,000 years ago — were about 6,000, 700 and 2,500 times larger than the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State.”
The resulting caldera measures 1,500 square miles and sits atop two magma chambers of different size and depth.
But, the USGS states, an eruption of any size is not imminent.
“Although it is possible, scientists are not convinced that there will ever be another catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone,” the USGS states on its the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory website. “This probability is roughly similar to that of a large (1 kilometer) asteroid hitting the Earth.
“The many earthquakes and steam explosions in the past 10,000 years at Yellowstone have not led to volcanic eruptions.
In a separate matter, the USGS responded via Twitter Saturday to a question speculating about potential links between volcano eruptions in Hawaii and Indonesia, and said, “At any given time, around 50 volcanoes are erupting all around the world – just because eruptions are happening at the same time doesn’t mean they’re connected!”