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FAQs & Facts

Scientists at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory receive numerous questions about the history, activity, and eruption probability of Yellowstone volcano. Based upon these questions, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked with answers provided by geologists and geophysicists who monitor activity and conduct research at Yellowstone volcano. Below is a list of subjects and specific questions. Please click the subject to access the answers.

Five Things Most People Get Wrong About Yellowstone Volcano

We can't help but notice the comments in social media, and even the ticklers and headlines in the newspapers and blogs. Sometimes, people spread misinformation even when they think they know the facts. Read these simple explanations that dispel five of the most common misunderstandings about Yellowstone.

Yellowstone's "supervolcano" status

  • What is a supervolcano?
  • What are some other examples of supervolcanoes?
  • I read that scientists couldn't find the Yellowstone caldera until they looked at a photo of Yellowstone from space. Is this true?

Volcanic History of Yellowstone

  • When was the last time there was volcanism at Yellowstone?
  • How much volcanic activity has there been at Yellowstone since the most recent giant eruption?
  • How often do volcanic eruptions occur at Yellowstone?
  • What was the extent of ash deposition from the largest Yellowstone eruptions?
  • How many caldera-forming eruptions have occurred from the long-lived hotspot that is currently beneath Yellowstone?
  • How many giant eruptions have occurred in the Yellowstone National Park region and how large were they?
  • How do the giant eruptions in the Yellowstone National Park region compare to other large historic eruptions?

Monitoring Activity at Yellowstone

  • What are the main monitoring instruments of YVO?
  • How are Yellowstone earthquakes analyzed and mapped?
  • What techniques does YVO use to measure ground deformation?
  • Have uplift and subsidence been seen on other volcanoes? Does uplift mean that an eruption is coming?
  • What is the normal volcanic activity level for Yellowstone?
  • What is the current status of volcanic activity at Yellowstone?

Future Volcanic Activity

  • Is it true that the next caldera-forming eruption of Yellowstone is overdue?
  • When will Yellowstone erupt again?
  • What type of eruption will occur if Yellowstone erupts again?
  • When will the next large earthquake occur in Yellowstone?
  • Could a large Yellowstone eruption significantly change weather patterns?
  • Can you release some of the pressure at Yellowstone by drilling into the volcano?

Heatflow and Geothermal System at Yellowstone

  • How hot is Yellowstone?
  • What is heat flow?
  • How is heat released in Yellowstone?
  • Can we use the heat from Yellowstone for energy?

Research Lessons from Yellowstone Volcano

  • How fast is the hotspot moving under Yellowstone?
  • How large is the magma chamber that is currently under Yellowstone?
  • How much magma is there under Yellowstone?
  • Why is Yellowstone called Yellowstone?
  • Are earthquakes at Yellowstone related to volcanism?
  • What is the relationship between volcanism and the geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone?

The 2003 bulge beneath Yellowstone Lake

  • Is there a bulge beneath the lake?
  • Why was it called the "inflated plain"?
  • Has the "inflated plain" been growing?
  • So what's the big deal?
  • What's a hydrothermal explosion?
  • Do any of the features beneath the lake relate to possible volcanic eruptions?
  • Is there any possibility of a toxic gas emission from Lake Yellowstone as occurred in Africa some years ago?
  • Is anybody assessing the hazards from new hydrothermal explosions?

Modeling the Ash Distribution of a Yellowstone Supereruption

  • Why did you write this paper?
  • What about the maps showing Yellowstone deposits across the U.S.? Don't they indicate where ash will go?
  • What is new and significant about this study?
  • Did you learn anything new of scientific interest through this modeling?
  • What's happening geologically at Yellowstone now?
  • Is there any evidence that Yellowstone will erupt soon?
  • If Yellowstone erupts, will it be the "big one" modeled in this recent article?
  • How will you know if an eruption is beginning?
  • Who is YVO?
  • Should I prepare for an eruption?