When will Yellowstone erupt again?

We do not know. Future volcanic eruptions could occur within or near Yellowstone National Park for the simple reason that the area has a long volcanic history and because there is hot and molten rock, or magma, beneath the caldera now. USGS scientists monitor Yellowstone for signs of volcanic activity using seismographs (to detect earthquakes) and GPS (to detect ground motion).

There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone is imminent, and such events are unlikely to occur in the next few centuries. Scientists have also found no indication of an imminent smaller eruption of lava.

Yellowstone's 2-million-year history of volcanism, the copious amount of heat that still flows from the ground, the frequent earthquakes, and the repeated uplift and subsidence of the caldera floor also testify to the continuity of magmatic processes beneath Yellowstone and point to the possibility of future volcanism and future earthquake activity.

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory website has information on Yellowstone history and hazards.

Related Content

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Are earthquakes at Yellowstone related to volcanism?

Almost all earthquakes at Yellowstone are brittle-failure events caused when rocks break due to crustal stresses. Though we've been looking at Yellowstone for years, no one has yet identified " long-period (LP) events " commonly attributed to magma movement. If LP events are observed, that will NOT mean Yellowstone is getting ready to erupt. LP...

How large is the magma chamber that is currently under Yellowstone?

Yellowstone is underlain by two magma bodies . The shallower one is composed of rhyolite (a high-silica rock type) and stretches from 5 km to about 17 km beneath the surface and is about 90 km long and about 40 km wide. The chamber is mostly solid, with only about 5-15% melt. The deeper reservoir is composed of basalt (a low-silica rick type) and...

Is Yellowstone monitored for volcanic activity?

Yes. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO), is a partnership between the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Yellowstone National Park, the University of Utah, the University of Wyoming, UNAVCO, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, the Idaho Geological Survey, and the Wyoming State Geological Survey. YVO closely monitors volcanic...

How do the giant eruptions in the Yellowstone National Park region compare to other large historic eruptions?

The diagram below shows that the three largest Yellowstone eruptions emitted much more material than the eruptions of Mount St. Helens (1980), Mount Pinatubo (1991), Krakatau (incorrectly known as Krakatoa, 1883), and Tambora (1815). The largest eruption in the last two million years was at Toba Volcano about 74,000 years ago on the island of...

How far in advance could scientists predict an eruption of the Yellowstone volcano?

The science of forecasting a volcanic eruption has significantly advanced over the past 25 years. Most scientists think that the buildup preceding a catastrophic eruption would be detectable for weeks and perhaps months to years. Precursors to volcanic eruptions include strong earthquake swarms and rapid ground deformation and typically take place...

How hot is Yellowstone?

Yellowstone is a plateau high in the Rocky Mountains, and is snowbound for over six months per year. The mean annual temperature is 2.2°C (36°F), barely above the freezing point of water. However, Yellowstone is also an active geothermal area with hot springs emerging at ~92°C (~198°F) (the boiling point of water at Yellowstone's mean altitude)...

Can we use the heat from Yellowstone for energy?

Geothermal energy (heat energy from the Earth's interior), is used to generate electricity in a variety of places throughout the world. Although Yellowstone and its surroundings are a significant geothermal resource, the Park itself is off limits to development. Because geothermal developments often cause a decrease in flow of nearby hot springs...

Can you release some of the pressure at Yellowstone by drilling into the volcano?

Scientists agree that drilling into a volcano would be of questionable usefulness. In addition to the enormous expense and technological difficulties in drilling through hot, mushy rock, drilling is unlikely to have much effect. At near magmatic temperatures and pressures, any hole would rapidly become sealed by minerals crystallizing from the...

Could a large Yellowstone eruption significantly change weather patterns?

If another catastrophic caldera-forming Yellowstone eruption were to occur, it would probably alter global weather patterns and have enormous impacts on human activity (especially agricultural production) for many years. At this time, however, scientists do not have the ability to predict specific consequences or durations of possible global...

What is the relationship between volcanism and the geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone?

Heat and volcanic gases from slowly cooling magma rise and warm the dense salty water that occupies fractured rocks above the Yellowstone magma chamber. That brine, in turn, transfers its heat to overlying fresh groundwater, which is recharged by rainfall and snowmelt from the surface. Water boiling at depth below the surface is hotter than the...
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column of water and steam shooting up out of the ground. Golden sky at sunset with backlit clouds.
December 31, 2017

Lion Geyser at Sunset

Lion Geyser erupting at sunset in Yellowstone National Park

boiling water and white steam blasting up out of erupting geyser with snow on the ground
December 31, 2017

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone

Old Faithful Geyser erupts on a clear winter day in Yellowstone National Park

river meandering through wide valley, with wisps of stem rising at various spots. Illuminated at sunset, with golden reflections
December 31, 2016

MIdway Geyser Basin at Sunset

Midway Geyser Basin at Sunset, Yellowstone National Park

May 26, 2016

Forecasting Ashfall Impacts from a Yellowstone Supereruption

  • Yellowstone is one of a few dozen volcanoes on earth capable of "supereruptions" that expel more than 1,000 cubic km of ash and debris.
  • The plumes from such eruptions can rise 30 to 50 km into the atmosphere, three to five times as high as most jets fly.
  • Yellowstone has produced three supereruptions in the past 2.1 million years. The most recent was
...
erupting geyser with rainbow in midground. tall trees in background
November 30, 2014

Lone Star Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

eruption of Lone Star Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

January 22, 2014

The Yellowstone Volcano: Past, Present and Future

Public Lecture on Yellowstone Volcano by Jake Lowenstern at Menlo Park, CA on January 23, 2014. The Q&A at the end of the talk can be found on the original source video (Source URL).

Image: Eruption of Old Faithful Geyser
July 31, 2013

Eruption of Old Faithful Geyser

Visitors watching an eruption of Old Faithful Geyser from the Old Faithful Inn's balcony.

video thumbnail: Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (Part 2 of 3)
January 29, 2009

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (Part 2 of 3)

USGS Scientist-in-Charge of Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, Jake Lowenstern, answers
the following questions to provide a tour of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory: "What is YVO?", "How
do you monitor volcanic activity at Yellowstone?", "How are satellites used to study deformation?", "Do
you monitor geysers or any other aspect of the Park?", "Are

...
Attribution:
video thumbnail: Yellowstone Eruptions (Part 3 of 3)
January 29, 2009

Yellowstone Eruptions (Part 3 of 3)

USGS Scientist-in-Charge of Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, Jake Lowenstern, answers
the following questions to explain volcanic eruptions at Yellowstone: When was the last supereruption at
Yellowstone?", "Have any eruptions occurred since the last supereruption?", "Is Yellowstone overdue for
an eruption?", "What does the magma below indicate about a

...
Attribution:
video thumbnail: Yes! Yellowstone is a Volcano (Part 1 of 3)
January 29, 2009

Yes! Yellowstone is a Volcano (Part 1 of 3)

USGS Scientist-in-Charge of Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, Jake Lowenstern, answers
the following questions to explain volcanic features at Yellowstone: "How do we know Yellowstone is a
volcano?", "What is a Supervolcano?", "What is a Caldera?","Why are there geysers at Yellowstone?",
and "What are the other geologic hazards in Yellowstone?"

View

...
Attribution:
Image: Old Faithful Erupting
May 30, 2008

Old Faithful Erupting

Photograph of the Old Faithful Geyser erupting in Yellowstone Nationl Park. Old Faithful was named in 1870 during the Washburn-Langford-Doane Yellowstone expedition and was the first geyser in the Park to be named.