Scientists studying a massive volcano beneath Yellowstone National Park have determine that it is possibly 2.5 times larger than previously thought. When the "supervolcano" last erupted, 640,000 years ago, it blanketed North America in suffocating ash and drastically altered the planet's climate.
A research team from the University of Utah found that the volcano's magma chamber stretches for more than 55 miles and contains between 200 and 600 cubic kilometers of molten rock. “We’ve been working there for a long time, and we’ve always thought it would be bigger," University of Utah Professor Bob Smith told the BBC. "But this finding is astounding."
To get an accurate reading of the massive chamber, the team planted seismometers around the park and measured Yellowstone's small but frequent earthquakes. “The waves travel slower through hot and partially molten material," said Dr Jamie Farrell. "With this, we can measure what’s beneath.” They found that not only was the chamber larger than previously thought, but that it pushed much farther into the north east end of the park. “To our knowledge there has been nothing mapped of that size before," Farrell adds.
So, how soon until the molten chamber of destruction unleashes hell upon mankind? That's hard to say given the lack of data. So far there are only three known eruptions of the volcano, 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 640,000 years ago. That works out to an average of about 700,000 years based on two events, meaning the next blow could be around the corner. Professo Bob Smith, however, is circumspect: “How many people would buy something on the stock market on two days of stock data," he asked.