"Until now, the magazine reported, geologists had thought it would take centuries for the supervolcano to make the transition".
The theory that an eruption could be coming sooner rather than later was developed by Hannah Shamloo, an Arizona State University graduate student, and several of her colleagues who spent weeks studying at Yellowstone.
Researchers studying at Yellowstone National Park believe a supervolcano resting beneath the popular Wyoming destination could erupt sooner rather than later - and the results could be devastating.
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. There, they hauled rocks under the heat of the sun to gather samples, occasionally suspending their work when a bison or a bear roamed nearby. Each crystal once resided within the vast, seething ocean of magma deep underground.
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This allowed them to pinpoint the exact changes that occurred to Yellowstone right before the last eruption.
And in an unsettling twist, the minerals revealed that the critical changes in temperature and composition built up in a matter of decades. That could mean the supereruption transpired only decades after an injection of fresh magma beneath the volcano. It's also news because, as the Times notes, decades are but "a blink of an eye, geologically speaking". It's even shorter than a previous study that found that another ancient supervolcano beneath California's Long Valley caldera awoke hundreds of years before its eruption.
Researchers recently studied the fossilised ash deposit from its last supereruption.
In 2012, other scientists reported that at least one of the past super-eruptions may have really been two events - suggesting that such large-scale events may be more common than thought.