YELLOWSTONE, Wyo. — In the days following a 4.8-magnitude earthquake in Yellowstone National Park, many bloggers and tourists have been expressing concerns about large droves of animals leaving the area.
Could this be evidence that the infamous Yellowstone Supervolcano is on the verge of eruption, ready to wipe out civilization in North American as we know it?
Park rangers and scientists say no.
Yes, Yellowstone Public Affairs Chief Al Nash said, the March 30 earthquake was the biggest Yellowstone has seen in 34 years. However, Nash said some people living less than a mile away from the quake’s epicenter, which was located in the Norris Geyser Basin, didn’t even feel the earth shake.
The 4.8 quake was part of a series of smaller quakes that have hit the greater Yellowstone region over the past few weeks. Many believe those quakes are linked to a recent 5.1-magnitude quake (and aftershocks) that hit in the Los Angeles region earlier in March.
This news didn’t seem all that alarming to Nash, who said the park experiences 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes every year.
“It’s just part of the geological situation we find here in Yellowstone,” he said.
Nash also addressed the reports that a large number of animals — particularly bison and elk — have been seen leaving the park in recent weeks. He didn’t deny the reports, either. He confirmed them.
“We did have a large group of bison, elk and other animals that moved outside the park recently,” Nash said. “They do it every year around this time in an effort to move to lower elevations where they can find food that’s easier to access. When things start to green back up, those same animals will walk right back into the park.”
The nearby University of Utah Seismograph Station, considered an authority on seismic activity in Yellowstone, has also downplayed fears about any impending Supervolcano eruptions.
“There is no evidence to suggest a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone National Park is imminent,” the station told the Epoch Times. “Current geologic activity at Yellowstone has remained relatively constant since earth scientists first started monitoring some 30 years ago. Though another caldera-forming eruption is theoretically possible, it is very unlikely to occur in the next thousand or even 10,000 years.”
Still, many rumors continue to spread about a possible Supervolcano eruption. And the fears aren’t completely unreasonable. After all, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has reported that an eruption 2 million years ago covered half of North America with ash and wiped out all prehistoric animals.
What’s more, another Supervolcano eruption would reportedly devastate the United States, dumping a 10-foot deep-layer of volcanic ash up to 1,000 miles away and rendering much of the nation uninhabitable for years to come.
Scientists believe the last full-on caldera eruption in Yellowstone was 640,000 years ago. Smaller eruptions have reportedly occurred in between and after the big blasts — most recently about 70,000 years ago.
Fears about an impending eruption seem to have been sparked by a YouTube video that shows a herd of bison sprinting along a roadway in Yellowstone. The video has been re-posted several times by different YouTube users, with many claiming the sprinting bison are fleeing the park.
However, a man who goes by “Yellowstone Leo” claims to have been the source of the original video, which was posted on March 14, 2014 — over two weeks days before the 4.8 earthquake. Leo also expressly notes in the clip’s description that the video shows a group of bison running deeper into the park.
Yellowstone spokesperson Dan Hottle confirmed that the bison in Leo’s video are in fact running back into the park. He also went a step further.
“If I pointed a camera out my window for 15 minutes, I could probably get another shot of bison running down my cul de sac,” Hottle said. “Those bison (in the YouTube video) are running because that’s what they do every day in Yellowstone.”