Posts Tagged ‘Yellowstone’


A new study of ancient ash suggests that the dormant giant could develop the conditions needed to blow in a span of mere decades.

By Victoria Jaggard

If the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone erupts again, we may have far less advance warning time than we thought

After analyzing minerals in fossilized ash from the most recent mega-eruption, researchers at Arizona State University think the supervolcano last woke up after two influxes of fresh magma flowed into the reservoir below the caldera

And in an unsettling twist, the minerals revealed that the critical changes in temperature and composition built up in a matter of decades. Until now, geologists had thought it would take centuries for the supervolcano to make that transition.

A 2013 study, for instance, showed that the magma reservoir that feeds the supervolcano is about two and a half times larger than previous estimates. Scientists also think the reservoir is drained after every monster blast, so they thought it should take a long time to refill. Based on the new study, it seems the magma can rapidly refresh—making the volcano potentially explosive in the geologic blink of an eye.

“It’s shocking how little time is required to take a volcanic system from being quiet and sitting there to the edge of an eruption,” study co-author Hannah Shamloo told the New York Times.

Still, Yellowstone is one of the best monitored volcanoes in the world, notes Michael Poland, the current Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory for the U.S. Geological Survey. A variety of sensors and satellites are always looking for changes, and right now, the supervolcano does not seem to pose a threat.

“We see interesting things all the time … but we haven’t seen anything that would lead us to believe that the sort of magmatic event described by the researchers is happening,” says Poland via email, adding that the research overall is “somewhat preliminary, but quite tantalizing.”

The new paper adds to a suite of surprises scientists have uncovered over the last few years as they have studied the supervolcano.

Today, Yellowstone National Park owes much of its rich geologic beauty to its violent past. Wonders like the Old Faithful geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring are products of the geothermal activity still seething below the park, which is driven in turn by the vast magma plume that feeds the supervolcano.

About 630,000 years ago, a powerful eruption shook the region, spewing forth 240 cubic miles’ worth of rock and ash and creating the Yellowstone caldera, a volcanic depression 40 miles wide that now cradles most of the national park.

That eruption left behind the Lava Creek Tuff, the ash deposit that Shamloo and her ASU colleague Christy Till used for their work, which they presented in August at a volcanology meeting in Oregon. The pair also presented an earlier version of their study at a 2016 meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Based on fossil deposits like this one, scientists think the supervolcano has seen at least two other eruptions on this scale in the past two million years or so. Lucky for us, the supervolcano has been largely dormant since before the first people arrived in the Americas. While a handful of smaller belches and quakes have periodically filled the caldera with lava and ash, the last one happened about 70,000 years ago.

In 2011, scientists revealed that the ground above the magma chamber bulged by up to 10 inches in a span of about seven years.

“It’s an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high,” the University of Utah’s Bob Smith, an expert in Yellowstone volcanism, told National Geographic at the time.

The swelling magma reservoir responsible for the uplift was too deep to create fears of imminent doom, Smith said, and instead the caldera’s gentle “breathing” offered valuable insights into the supervolcano’s behavior.

In 2012, another team reported that at least one of the past super-eruptions may have really been two events, hinting that such large-scale events may be more common than thought.

But almost everyone who studies Yellowstone’s slumbering supervolcano says that right now, we have no way of knowing when the next big blast will happen. For its part, the U.S. Geological Survey puts the rough yearly odds of another massive Yellowstone blast at 1 in 730,000—about the same chance as a catastrophic asteroid collision.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/10/yellowstone-supervolcano-erupt-faster-thought-science/

Bison attacked two more visitors at Yellowstone National Park over the past week, for a total of four attacks in the park so far this season.

A 68-year-old Georgia woman remained hospitalized Thursday after encountering a bison while hiking Wednesday on Storm Point Trail, according to the National Park Service.

As she passed the bison, it charged and gored her. A witness reported the attack to a nearby ranger leading a hike, who called for help. Due to the serious nature of the woman’s injuries, she was taken by helicopter ambulance to a hospital outside the park. Her condition was unknown Thursday.

The other incident happened on June 23, when a 19-year-old Georgia woman and three friends who work at nearby Canyon Village were walking to their car after a late-night swim at the Firehole River. They saw a bison lying about 10 feet away, and one friend turned and ran. But the animal charged the teen and “tossed her in the air,” the park service said.

After the teen went to bed, she awoke a short time later feeling ill and called for medical help. She took an ambulance to a hospital outside the park and “was released with minor injuries later that day,” the park service said.

Four incidents in less than two months is a lot more than usual, Yellowstone spokeswoman Amy Bartlett said. “We usually have one to two incidents per year,” she said.

Almost 5,000 bison live in Yellowstone, located mostly in Wyoming and the only place in the United States where the animals have lived continuously since prehistoric times.

Yellowstone’s regulations require visitors to stay at least 25 yards away from all large animals and 100 yards away from bears and wolves. “Bison can sprint three times faster than humans can run and are unpredictable and dangerous,” park officials warn.

Some tourists may provoke animals by getting too close to them. The consequences of treating wild animals like they’re domesticated or in a zoo can be deadly, officials say.

On June 2, a 62-year-old Australian man visiting Yellowstone was seriously injured after getting too close to a bison near Old Faithful Lodge.

The man was reportedly within 5 feet of the bison while taking pictures when the animal charged him and tossed him into the air several times, according to park reports. The man was taken to a hospital for further medical treatment.

On May 15, a 16-year-old Taiwanese girl was gored by a bison while posing for a photo near Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s famous geyser. She had been hiking near the bison, which was grazing next to a trail.

The girl suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries from the attack, the park service said.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/travel/yellowstone-bison-attacks-feat/index.html

By Laura Zuckerman

Montana wildlife managers are asking the public to weigh in on a plan that could see the state establish a herd of wild bison that originated at Yellowstone National Park.

The state for three years has crafted measures that would need to be in place for the return of a publicly managed wild bison herd to Montana after a decades-long absence, state Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Tom Palmer said on Friday.

The agency has opened a 90-day comment period for proposals that range from taking no steps to restore bison to the landscape to reintroducing them on private or public acreage where there would be less competition with livestock for grass and a lower threat of disease transmission.

The state is not pinpointing where bison might be restored, Palmer said.

The options floated by the state come less than a year after it gave 145 bison that originated at Yellowstone National Park – which spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho – to a Native American tribe in Montana to further the conservation of the country’s last herd of wild, purebred bison.

Those animals had been quarantined to create a herd free of a disease, brucellosis, that could be transmitted to cows and cause them to miscarry.

The brucellosis-free band was later confined to a Montana ranch owned by media mogul Ted Turner before the state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved giving the animals to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

Bison that wander out of Yellowstone into neighboring Montana in winter in a search for food have been targeted for capture or death by government officials because roughly half the herd has been exposed to brucellosis.

Montana wildlife managers will make no firm plans before assessing the public response. Systematic hunting reduced the nation’s vast wild herds to the fewer than 50 of the animals that found sanctuary at Yellowstone in the early 20th century.

Jay Bodner, natural resource director for Montana Stockgrowers Association, said the industry would seek to ensure that any projects eyed by the state spelled out how the massive creatures would be contained or fenced to prevent them from damaging private property and mingling with livestock.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2015/0613/Montana-considers-releasing-wild-bison-outside-Yellowstone

An American bison being trailed by cars inside Yellowstone National Park took its anger out on a parked SUV in its path, ramming into the car that had two passengers inside.

Tom Carter, a 60-year-old attorney from Texas, was sitting inside a Nissan Xterra with his friend, Suzie Hollingsworth, a Yellowstone tour guide, when they saw a group of bison approaching them head-on.

Carter pulled out his phone just in time to record a video of the bison veering off on its own and ramming their SUV.

“We did everything we could think of to do to avoid problems,” Carter told ABC News. “I figured that they would just keep running right by us at a full gallop but at the last minute it intended to hit us.”

“It was mad,” he said. “It pretty clearly intended to hit us.”

Carter, who spent six summers as a Yosemite tour guide in the 1970s, says the bison were being followed by, “essentially a line of cars that was chasing them into us.” The incident occurred in an area of the park known as Lamar Valley.

Carter says the bison’s angry outburst is likely attributed to the agitation of the cars as well as the mild winter the area of Wyoming in which Yosemite is located has received.

“It’s been a really light winter and the animals are a lot more feisty this winter,” he said. “Normally the winters are so harsh they don’t want to expend any outside fuel.”

The bison caused nearly $2,800 in damages to the SUV, which belongs to Carter’s friend, Hollingsworth. Neither she nor Carter was injured inside the vehicle.

“We turned the engine off which was a good thing because the air bags probably would have deployed,” said Carter, who estimated the bison weighed around 2,000 pounds.

“We were never concerned about safety,” he said. “The buffalo picked on something about its own size. We were laughing about it because it was kind of crazy.”

Carter’s video of the mid-February event has received nearly 400,000 views on YouTube. He later posted a video showing the damage to Hollingsworth’s car.

He says the bison walked away unscathed. “It sort of shook its head and continued along the road,” Carter said.

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Tourists at Yellowstone National Park are being barred from areas of the park because the massive underground supervolcano beneath it is melting the asphalt roads.

“It basically turned the asphalt into soup. It turned the gravel road into oatmeal,” Yellowstone spokesman Dan Hottle said. In particular, Hottle said that the road between the park’s most popular attraction, Old Faithful, and Madison Junction has been dangerously compromised.

Park officials also asked tourists not to hike into the affected areas, as the danger of stepping through what appears to be solid soil into boiling-hot water was “high.”

There are plenty of other great places to see thermal features in the park,” park spokesman Al Nash told The Weather Channel. “I wouldn’t risk personal injury to see these during this temporary closure.”

It is not known when the road, which services the three million people who visit the park every year, will be reopened.

The last time the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone actually erupted was 640,000 years ago, U.S. Geological Survey records show.

Late last year, geologists discovered that the supervolcano was more than twice as large as previously thought.

“We found it to be about two-and-a-half times larger than we thought,” the University of Utah’s James Farrell told National Geographic. “That’s not to say it’s getting any bigger,” he added, “just that our ability to see it is getting better.”

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/14/parts-of-yellowstone-national-park-closed-after-massive-supervolcano-beneath-it-melts-roads/?onswipe_redirect=no&oswrr=1