The Yellowstone volcano gets its chilling label as a supervolcano due to its ability to inflict devastation on a global level. Located between the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the volcano is constantly monitored by the USGS (United States Geological Survey) for signs that a supereruption is on its way. However, scientists at the University of Utah made an astonishing discovery themselves in 2013.
James Farrell, alongside a team of scientists, found the magma reservoir below the caldera far exceeded previous estimates.
Dr Farrell and his team calculated the size by analysing earthquake measurement data collected from 1984 to 2011 from about 40 seismometers installed around Yellowstone National Park.
The team used software to calculate how long it took for the seismic waves to travel from the epicentre of an earthquake to the surface seismometers.
Next, they analysed the data to find regions where the seismic waves appeared to slow down, which is a sign that the waves were travelling through magma.
Dr Farrell then used that information to create a map of the underground magma reservoir beneath Yellowstone.
He said in 2013: “We found it to be about two-and-a-half times larger than we thought.
“That’s not to say it’s getting any bigger, it’s just that our ability to see it is getting better.
“We believe it will erupt again someday, but we have no idea when.
“What we’re seeing now agrees with the geological data that we have about past eruptions.
“And that means there’s the potential for the same type of eruption that we’ve seen in the past.”
The Yellowstone caldera formed during the last three supereruptions, 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and 630,000 years ago.
Scientists believe these would have been monumental and created effects on a global level.
It is capable of spewing more than 240 cubic miles of magma across Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, causing climate effects worldwide.
However, experts are not sure when this will happen again.
Dr Farrel explained: “You’ll get ashfall as far away as the Great Plains, and even farther east.
“A lot of people say that the Yellowstone volcano is overdue to erupt, but there’s no evidence that it is overdue.
“We can’t say when the next eruption is going to happen.
“However, I think we’ll have anywhere from weeks to months of warning that magma is moving up into the shallow crust and [that] something is going on.”