Disaster Fact Checks

FACT CHECK: Yellowstone supervolcano not due to erupt anytime soon


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FACT CHECK: Yellowstone supervolcano not due to erupt anytime soon
Volcanic eruptions 'do not follow predictable schedules,' according to the United States Geological Survey

Claim: The Yellowstone supervolcano is due for an eruption any time soon.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this:  The claim was made in a YouTube video posted by a religious Filipino channel with 240,000 subscribers. As of this writing, the video has 6,400 views.

Referring to the supervolcano underneath the Yellowstone National Park in the United States, the narrator says: “Sabi ng mga scientists, around 640,000 years ago daw ay nakapatay [ang Yellowstone supervolcano] ng tens of thousands ng mga living beings, at ika pa nila, ito raw ay mangyayari ulit anumang oras sa panahon natin ngayon.”

(According to scientists, around 640,000 years ago, [the Yellowstone supervolcano] killed tens of thousands of living beings, and they claim that this will happen again any time soon.)

Not supported by scientists: Volcanic eruptions “do not follow predictable schedules,” according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Claims that the Yellowstone supervolcano is due to erupt any time soon is not supported by scientists.

Michael Poland, a geophysicist and the current scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, explained in a 2023 Live Science report: “[Volcanoes] erupt when there is enough eruptible magma beneath the surface, and pressure to cause that magma to ascend. Neither condition is in place at Yellowstone right now.”

History of eruptions: The Yellowstone supervolcano, located in northwestern Wyoming in the US, is also called a volcanic caldera – a large ground crater formed when a volcano erupts and its mouth collapses

Yellowstone has an extensive history of eruptions, with the most notable being three massive and caldera-forming eruptions in the past three million years.

The first of these major eruptions is called the Huckleberry Ridge eruption and occurred 2.1 million years ago. This eruption – the largest in Yellowstone’s history – ejected 2,450 cubic kilometers of volcanic material. The second violent eruption, the Mesa Falls eruption, happened 1.3 million years ago and released 280 cubic kilometers of volcanic material.

The most recent of these major eruptions is the Lava Creek eruption, which happened 640,000 years ago and resulted in the release of 1,000 cubic kilometers of volcanic material.

Since then, Yellowstone has had around 80 smaller eruptions, most of which were non-explosive.

Armageddon unlikely: The YouTube video implies that the eruption of Yellowstone is tantamount to Armageddon, but this is not the case. According to the USGS, a hydrothermal eruption (an explosion that can occur when hot water suddenly flashes into steam and releases large amounts of energy) or a lava flow are the most likely events to occur at Yellowstone should it erupt again.

In an explainer on future volcanic activity at Yellowstone, the USGS says that a catastrophic caldera-forming eruption similar to the ones that occurred 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago is “exceedingly low.”

Debunked predictions: Most predictions of natural disasters are often unfounded and not supported by the scientific community. As stated in many of Rappler’s fact checks, most natural disasters cannot be predicted with absolute certainty.

Miguel Batallones/Rappler.com

Miguel Batallones is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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