Don’t worry too much about the Yellowstone supervolcano, UW professor says

Dormant volcano in Yellowstone.

SEATTLE — The supervolcano underneath Yellowstone National Park would devastate the country if it erupted, Q13 News and other media outlets reported Thursday.

But the chance of an eruption happening in our lifetime? Not likely at all.

George Bergantz, a professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, said the recent headlines about the Yellowstone supervolcano draw the clicks, but they shouldn’t draw your worry.

“Currently, Yellowstone is not thought to be predicatively active,” Bergantz said.

New research out of Arizona State University shows that the process to create a supereruption, like the one Yellowstone saw more than 600,000 years ago, only takes decades. Crystals reveal a supereruption formed much quicker than scientists previously thought.

Some scientists called the revelation of a quicker timeline for supervolcanoes “shocking.” Still, Bergantz said it shouldn’t worry you.

“These aren’t likely to happen,” Bergantz said.

He says unlike earthquakes, there is no rough or predictable rhythm to eruption schedules. We can’t predict when we are “due” for an eruption, Bergantz said, and we don’t even know if Yellowstone’s supervolcano will ever erupt again.

Yellowstone is one of the most monitored places in the world for volcano activity. So even if conditions for a supererpuption began to form, it would be quickly realized.

“We would see it coming,” Bergantz said. “We would have an understanding of what would happen.”

No need to worry about Rainier or other Pacific Northwest volcanoes as supervolcanoes either, Bergantz said.

“Our volcanoes here don’t produce eruptions of that size,” he said.

Bergantz did say the next supervolcano would be a destructive event. An area roughly the size of Connecticut would be destroyed, and ash would cover most of the country.

But again, it’s very, very, very unlikely we’ll see a supervolcano eruption from Yellowstone in our lifetime.