An eruption would send an untold amount of rock and ash into the sky, unleash torrents of lava, and potentially bring about a planetary volcanic winter. According to researchers, the super eruption use to scar the planet in every 100000 years.
Tiny crystals left over from underground magma at Yellowstone show the first sign of the last supereruption was a spike in temperature that coincided with the movement of new magma into the reservoir beneath the supervolcano. Previous estimates assumed that the geological process that led to the event took millenniums to occur.
According to National Geographic, researchers at Arizona State University analyzed minerals in fossilized ash and concluded that the supervolcano woke up after "two influxes of fresh magma flowed into the reservoir below the caldera". There, they hauled rocks under the heat of the sun to gather samples, occasionally suspending their work when a bison or a bear roamed nearby. They had previously thought it would take centuries for such changes to take place.
Scientists working in and around Yellowstone National Park say that the supervolcano sitting under the tourist attraction may blow sooner than thought, an eruption that could wipe out life on the planet. Instead, the crystals revealed an increase in temperature and a change in composition that had happened more quickly.
The theory that an eruption could be coming sooner rather than later was developed by Hannah Shamloo, an Arizona State University graduate student, and several of her colleagues who spent weeks studying at Yellowstone.
This is the first indication that "the conditions that lead to supereruptions might emerge within a human lifetime", which one researcher describes as "shocking", per the Times.
"We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption", said Till said in an interview with the New York Times. The information suggests an eruption is possible in just a matter of decades.