Now, the whole idea might freak you out (especially if you are living in southern California, what with all of those fracking operations there and all.
But thankfully, according to experts, you are not in any immediate danger. An eruption is not going to happen tomorrow. However, considering the uptick in activity, the United States Geological Society (USGS) is keeping a close eye on the supervolcano. And the USGS does state on their website that the “Threat Potential” is very high for this particular volcano. So it’s undoubtedly a good idea to monitor it and certainly learn more about it if you live in California.
What Is the Long Valley supervolcano, and why have I never heard about it?
We’ve all heard plenty about the supervolcano lying beneath Yellowstone National Park, and there have been numerous articles about the risk of that one blowing. That volcano was the star in the movie 2012 along with John Cusack, Danny Glover, and Woody Harrelson. Who could forget Woody Harrelson declaring from his front-row seat to the eruption as a gigantic burning rock hurls toward him, “It’s beautiful.”
Many of us though (myself included) probably do not know that much about the other major supervolcano here in the U.S., the Long Valley Caldera (or as it’s also called the Long Valley supervolcano).
The Long Valley Caldera was created from a supervolcano eruption 760,000 years ago and was about 500 times larger than the Mount St. Helen’s eruption. If the LVSV ever blew now the amount of material it would spew would be about 800 times more than the 1980 Mount St. Helen’s eruption. It would result in a considerable loss of life and widespread destruction. As I mentioned before, most experts believe that these massive eruptions are unlikely, but they monitor them closely nevertheless.
What is changing underneath the Long Valley supervolcano?
The LVSV is growing. Scientists first noticed this expansion in 1978, and it’s not stopped growing since. According to Forbes: “This gradual growing likely represents the influx of magma into the magma chamber below the supervolcano, essentially filling the tank in preparation for the next eruption.”
This video by The Science Channel does an excellent job of explaining the more technical aspects of how researchers are learning more about the Long Valley supervolcano.
The one thing that scientists are not sure though is just how much magma is actually in the tank and how rapidly it’s filling up. Recently, a new study in the journal Geology increased our knowledge of just how full the “tank” might be. The team used seismic tomography to create a sort of image map of changes in the volume of the magma reservoir.
According to Forbes: “By using a supercomputer at NASA’s Ames Research Center, the team was able to decode an image of the subsurface and map the reservoir of both solid and molten rock beneath the Long Valley supervolcano. The team found 240 cubic miles of semi-molten magma, with 27 percent in the liquid state.”
Cross-section through the Long Valley supervolcano. FLINDERS ET AL., 2018
“While the Long Valley supervolcano isn’t an immediate threat, the potential scale of an eruption urges scientists and the public to keep a close watch on the happenings around Long Valley Caldera in California.” You too can search for the status of every volcano on the planet, (including this one) for yourself here.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment on my Facebook page.
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