The Yellowstone volcano has erupted three times in history – 2.1 million years ago, 1.2 million years ago and 640,000 years ago. Experts have previously revealed that, should an earthquake occur, it could take less than two weeks before a catastrophic reaction is triggered. As a result, scientists from USGS are constantly monitoring the volcano, on the lookout for any changes.
In April 2018, Scientist-in-Charge Mike Poland, along with Deputy Scientist-in-charge Wendy Steel, hosted a Facebook Live event where they took questions from the public.
During the broadcast, the pair revealed how the Norris Geyser inside Yellowstone National Park has continued to rise over the last few years.
Mr Poland said: “We are measuring how the ground forms in Yellowstone and the best measures by far are the GPS stations.
“There are over a dozen scattered in various places, including in the caldera, outside the caldera and outside the system.
Mike Poland from USGS
The Norris geyser basin is rising
In terms of the overall caldera, it is subsiding, but Norris has these interesting events when it shoots upwards
“So I would like to show a plot and how to interpret it.”
The expert then displayed some data to the camera, before explaining what it meant.
He added: “Here we have some data from a station near the Norris Geyser.
“We have the east deformation, the north and the up.
“The way you interpret this is in the east plot – if you see it going up, that means the station is moving to the east.
Yellowstone volcano poses a threat
“If it goes negative it means it is moving west.
“If the north plot goes down that means the station is moving south and if it goes up, it is moving north.
“The up plot is the vertical deformation – if it goes down then the station is subsiding and up means it’s up lifting.”
Mr Poland then explained how the Norris Geyser was acting differently to the rest of the caldera.
He continued: “Right now it is in a period of uplift moving south and east.
“In terms of the overall caldera, it is subsiding, but Norris has these interesting events when it shoots upwards.
“It is the most dynamic place in the park and perhaps it is because of all the water that is under the surface.
“So we are monitoring it and while the caldera is going down, Norris is rising.”
It was revealed in 2015 how there is now an increased risk of a supervolcano erupting by the end of this century.
The Norris geyser is within the caldera
Dr Michio Kaku, renowned professor of physics at City College in New York, described the caldera below the park as a “sleeping Godzilla”.
He told Fox News in January: “Forget the image of Yogi Bear representing Yellowstone, we are talking about a sleeping Godzilla underneath Yellowstone.
“If it erupts in a maximum eruption of Category 8 it will literally tear the guts out of the US.
“Instead of having 50 states we would be left with 30.
Michio Kaku described Yellowstone as a “sleeping Godzilla”
“This report looked at a Category 7, which is more likely once every thousand years, rather than once every million years.
“That means in every century there is a 10 per cent chance that somewhere on the planet there could be a supervolcanic Category 7 eruption.”
However, Dr Kaku reminded viewers there would be plenty of time to evacuate.
He explained: “Category 7 will be many times the size of Mount St Helens, enough to cause widespread destruction across a state, but not enough to destroy the USA.
“But still, it’s something that we have to take very seriously now.
“Unlike a meteor from outer space, where you get no warning whatsoever, we get warnings.
“If you see movies like Pompeii, you know that there are days, in fact, weeks of eruptions building up, rumbling inside, underneath the pocket of lava.
“So there would be enough time, several weeks, to begin evacuations if and when such an unlikely event were to take place.”