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Supervolcano beneath Yellowstone: Life could be wiped out in North America

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A supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park is much 2.5 times bigger than geologists had previously thought and an eruption is overdue, ABC News reported Monday.

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The giant super volcano underneath Yellowstone is also estimated to be about 2,000 times as strong as Mt. Saint Helens.

An eruption on the Yellowstone supervolcano could wipe out most animal, human and plant life on the planet, geologists said.

Although it might sound like science fiction, scientists say the giant volcano under Yellowstone could wipe out human life in North America and possibly the planet.

The information about the super volcano came from a new study released in San Francisco last week. It shows that the Yellowstone volcano has a magma chamber more than twice as large as previous estimates. The so-called supervolcano stretches for more than 55-miles and contains between 200 to 600 cubic kilometers of molten rock.

The cavern containing the red-hot lava is 20 miles wide and a little under two miles deep.

“We’ve been working there for a long time, and we’ve always thought it would be bigger,” said Bob Smith a University of Utah geology professor. “But this finding is astounding.”

The study results were presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California.

“We record earthquakes in and around Yellowstone, and we measure the seismic waves as they travel through the ground,” said Dr. Jamie Farrell, a professor at the University of Utah. “The waves travel slower through hot and partially molten material (and) with this, we can measure what’s beneath.”

It’s been quite a while since we had a disastrous volcano in North America. The last major eruption happened 640,000 years ago and blanketed the continent with ash causing dramatic global cooling. Scientists agree that an eruption now could possibly wipe out human life on the planet.

Scientists say the cavern of molten rock is much further east than was previously thought.

“To our knowledge there has been nothing mapped of that size before,” the geologists, Farrell said.

When will the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone erupt?

Scientists say they can’t predict when it will erupt but they expect then can give us an early warning by monitoring seismic activity.

"There is no evidence of an imminent volcanic eruption or hydrothermal explosion. That's the bottom line," said seismologist Robert Smith, lead author of the study and professor of geophysics at the University of Utah in a press release six years ago. "A lot of calderas [giant volcanic craters] worldwide go up and down over decades without erupting."

Some scientists say we are overdue for an eruption on Yellowstone because its super volcano erupts every 700,000 years or so.

Scientists believe the previous Yellowstone supervolcano eruptions occurred about 2 million years ago and 1.3 million years ago.

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