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Yellowstone's supervolcano may erupt sooner than expected

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Yellowstone supervolcano

A supervolcano now lies dormant underneath the Yellowstone National Park, but once it prepares for its next eruption, we will not have much time to prepare for the disastrous event.

The odds of any supervolcano erupting in the near future remain small, the researchers say - but the forces that drive these rare events may move faster than anyone thought.

Unsettling new research shows it could take only decades for the giant Yellowstone volcano to reawaken, plunging the world into a volcanic winter and potentially destroying all humanity. The crystals also reveal a supereruption followed much quicker than scientists previously thought-perhaps within decades, or what Popular Mechanics calls "a geologic snap of the finger". And a study in 2013 showed that the volume of magma moving into the supervolcano is almost three times larger than previously thought.

A study co-author and student from the Arizona State University, Hannah Shamloo stated that, "It's shocking how little time is required to take a volcanic system from being quiet and sitting there to the edge of an eruption".

Yet a massive eruption in the middle of the U.S.is still an unlikely event.

Yellowstone's last super-eruption happened 631,000 years ago. A variety of sensors and satellites are always looking for changes, and right now, the supervolcano does not seem to pose a threat. The only change apparent with this research is our understanding of pre-eruption dynamics.

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In fact, in 2011 scientists found that the ground above the magma chamber had swelled by 10 inches.

"It's an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high", Bob Smith, a Yellowstone expert at the University of Utah, told National Geographic at the time.

The previous eruption occurred in about the same time frame before that - 1.3 million years ago - meaning that the volcano may be primed for another explosion, reports the New York Post.

But nearly everyone who studies Yellowstone's slumbering supervolcano says that right now, we have no way of knowing when the next big blast will happen.

Lead Image: Steam rises off the Grand Prismatic Spring, one of the most stunning hydrothermal features in Yellowstone National Park.

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