I've spent a fair amount of time in close study of volcanoes and volcanic activity, and, while it is possible the seismic activity is a precursor to some sort of eruption, it is extraordinarily unlikely to be a "big one" ["Yellowstone Earthquakes Under Supervolcano Caldera," usnews.com]. Aside from the big three supereruptions known to have occurred in the caldera, there have been literally scores, if not hundreds, of smaller events. Very common to this area are what are called phreatic eruptions, where water (in this case from under the lake, where the swarm is located) encounters magma or heated bedrock and causes a large explosion. There are numerous phreatic craters all across Yellowstone, including on the bottom of Yellowstone Lake. The area immediately around the loci of the earthquakes is a known hydrothermal area; it would not be too big a stretch to imagine this sort of event may be in progress. While potentially unpleasant to anyone close by or on the lake, it would not be anywhere close to the world-devastating event people are ranting about. From my perspective, it will be fascinating to follow.
Comment by Jeff of WA
We all saw the movie "SuperVolcano," and, yes, the effects were great. I have no doubt that if that were to ever take place, it would be nothing short of the catastrophe that was portrayed. However, it seems to me that if the Yellowstone caldera were moving toward a full-blown eruption, it would be doing more than just setting off a small swarm of earthquakes. Yes, there have been strange gasses in other parts of the caldera, but this system is extremely active on a relatively cool scale. Gasses, seismic energy, and even magma over the years are released in different parts of the system. I don't call that denial; I call it simple scientific fact. Worry about asteroid before you worry about this.
Comment by J. R. Benight of WA
The Mayan calendar indicates 2012 as the year of world change. The solar 22-year cycle occurs late that year, as well as the alignment of the planets not seen in over 2,000 years. Gravitational forces must be considered always in our universe! Yellowstone will likely be affected—maybe the ancient Maya found the key that we still seem to search for!
Comment by Thomas Cole of TX
Do we have a plan for a worst-case scenario event at Yellowstone? One would think that the government would have at least considered this global threat in the last 20 years as this information surfaced. I want to hear a statement from the White House. If this truly is a threat, than all of this talk about economic reform and company bailouts will all prove to be a huge waste of precious time. This is yet another example of our government ignoring the welfare and safety of its own people (New Orleans, anyone?).
Comment by Andrew P. of MA
I don't know if this has been mentioned before, but one of the few other supervolcano calderas is in California, east of the Sierras; Mammoth Mountain is a remnant volcano on the caldera's rim. It's called the Long Valley caldera and last blew around 750,000 years ago in a near-Yellowstone-size event and is also supposedly overdue. The point is, it has had swarms of earthquakes for decades, including some quite active ones a few years back that I could feel from my house 75 miles away, but Mammoth Mountain ski resort and points east are still there. It could be 100,000 years before these things blow again. If not, oh well. Fretting won't change when the cork pops.
Comment by Brian B. of CA