PUBLISHED: 08:20, Fri, Oct 23, 2020 | UPDATED: 08:22, Fri, Oct 23, 2020
The caldera inside Yellowstone National Park poses a significant threat in the event of a supereruption – something that has not happened for more than 630,000 years. Located below the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the area is constantly monitored by the USGS (United States Geological Survey) for any changes to the system. But not every eruption is a full-scale catastrophe, non-explosive eruptions of lava and less-violent events have occurred in and near the caldera since the last supereruption.
The most recent lava flow occurred about 70,000 years ago, while a violent eruption excavated the West Thumb of Lake Yellowstone around 150,000 years ago.
These are still dangerous, with rivulets of magma forcing their way out of the eruptive vents which can spew lava and gas to the surrounding areas.
The locations and threat levels of these vents have historically been difficult to predict – eruptions can sometimes occur miles from the caldera's centre – meaning cities located near the volcanoes are at constant risk.
However, a group of scientists may have figured out how to accurately pinpoint where on a caldera’s volcanic fields these eruptions are likely to occur.
Yellowstone volcano poses a significant threat (Image: GETTY)
The USGS constantly monitors the park for any changes (Image: GETTY)
Eleonora Rivalta, the lead author of the study published in the journal 'Science Advances,' said: "These vents have lava coming out of them like fountains, which then leaks across the landscape like a slug.”
When magma, the liquid or semi-liquid rock under Earth’s crust, makes its way to the surface, that causes a volcanic eruption.
Dr Rivalta’s team set out to figure out what path that magma takes to enable scientists to predict where it will breach the planet's surface in the future.
The researcher found the easiest route was for magma to move through rocks that are more "stretched out" than their nearby counterparts.
Although many geologists thought the path of least resistance would be through an existing