Yellowstone Park is home to the largest volcano in the world. But, is this massive geological formation dying?
Ken Sims of the University of Wyoming led a research team to study the gigantic volcano at the Yellowstone Caldera. There, they sampled water and air near Mammoth Hot Springs. They also ran tests on water from the feature, looking at acidity in water samples and radon in the air. Sims looked at how gas and water mix as the rise from under the ground. By understanding these processes, researchers hope to improve techniques to predict eruptions.
According to the study, the supervolcano may be slowly dying out. The last time the volcano erupted was 70,000 years ago. That event was relatively small compared to previous eruptions, which occurred hundreds of thousands of years before that time.
Geologists believe an eruption of the supervolcano could send 2,000 times more debris into the air than Mount Saint Helen's did when it erupted in 1980.
Conditions at the volcano have remained relatively steady since monitoring began 30 years ago, according to the National Park Service. Over 10,000 geysers, hot springs and mud pots help drain heat from the feature, which stretches over parts of three states.
Water coming up from beneath the ground forms limestone deposits, raising the surface in parts of the park. This process can lift parts of Mammoth Terraces in the north of the park by three feet a year in some areas.
"The heat from the Yellowstone volcano is what drives the hydrothermal system. It gets hot and rises, and the magma chamber, or reservoir, is at a relatively shallow depth," Henry Heasler, park geologist, told the press.
Yellowstone was the first national park in the United States, and has become a hotbed of research for scientists from a wide variety of fields. Hot springs and geysers sitting over the world's largest volcano provide a unique testing ground for geologists, biologists and seismologists, among many others. Researchers are investigating how life may have started on Earth by looking at the unique conditions at the Yellowstone Caldera.
These is still good reason to believe the volcano could still be active.
"The Yellowstone Volcano is still active. Evidence for the activity of the Yellowstone Volcano are the 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes per year, active ground deformation, and the over 10,000 thermal features found in Yellowstone," the National Park Service explains on their web site.
Yellowstone may be quiet now, but don't count it out yet.