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 "

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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

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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 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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boiling water and white steam blasting up out of erupting geyser with snow on the ground
2017 (approx.)

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

column of water and steam shooting up out of the ground. Golden sky at sunset with backlit clouds.
2017 (approx.)

Lion Geyser erupting at sunset in Yellowstone National Park

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

Midway Geyser Basin at Sunset, Yellowstone National Park

May 26, 2016
  • 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 0.6 million years ago.
  • Eruptions this large can create their own continental- scale wind field, pushing ash more than 1,000 km against the prevailing, ambient wind  field.
erupting geyser with rainbow in midground. tall trees in background
2014 (approx.)

eruption of Lone Star Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

January 22, 2014

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

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

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

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 Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this video.

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

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 possible eruption?", "What else is
possible?", and "Why didn't you think the Yellowstone Lake earthquake swarm would lead to an
eruption?"

View Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this video.

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

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 earthquakes and ground deformation
common at Yellowstone?", "Why is YVO a relatively small group?", and "Where can I get more
information?"

View Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this video.

Image: Old Faithful Erupting
May 30, 2008

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.