A large 5.8 earthquake struck Montana Thursday, July 6, with an epicenter 6 miles southeast of Lincoln. The quake was soon followed with a 4.9 aftershock.
The largest recorded earthquake in Montana was a magnitude 7.5 near West Yellowstone in 1959. While the ’59 quake leveled a mountain, the recent earthquake swarm spurred fears of an eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. This could be fueled in part by modern findings of a larger magma chamber under Yellowstone.
Yet, the swarm of quakes was typical for the region, according to Jacob Lowenstern of the USGS.
“The swarm in 2010 on the Madison Plateau lasted at least three weeks. In 1985, there was one that lasted several months,” he told Newsweek. “Yellowstone has had dozens of these sorts of earthquake swarms in the last 150 years it’s been visited. The last volcanic eruption within the caldera was 70,000 years ago. For magma to reach the surface, a new vent needs to be created, which requires a lot of intense geological activity.”
The recent activity in Montana was not the only recent swarm in the area. Beginning June 12, the Yellowstone supervolcano was besieged for a few days by a swarm of more than 450 earthquakes, including a 4.5 magnitude temblor. This was the largest earthquake to strike Yellowstone since the 4.8 quake of March 2014. The last time an earthquake swarm hit the area was in 2010.
While quake swarms are quite common for earthquake-prone areas, scientists closely monitor any geographical activity around Yellowstone due to its violent history. The previous large Yellowstone eruptions (between 630,000 and 2.1 million years ago) deposited ash across much of the continental United States.
A Yellowstone Eruption Could Cause Death On A Massive Scale
Preppers have been warning about the potential a Yellowstone catastrophe. The most dire of warnings claim that if the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone explodes, millions or even billions of people could die.
“Hundreds of cubic miles of ash, rock and lava would be blasted into the atmosphere, and this would likely plunge much of the northern hemisphere into several days of complete darkness,” explains Tyler Durden on The Burning Platform. “Virtually everything within 100 miles of Yellowstone would be immediately killed, but a much more cruel fate would befall those living in major cities outside of the immediate blast zone such as Salt Lake City and Denver.”
Models from previous eruptions at Yellowstone show volcanic ash covering approximately half the country, with areas closer to the epicenter buried under deep layers.
“In fact, it has been estimated that 90 percent of all people living within 600 miles of Yellowstone would be killed,” says Durden.
According to the USGS, the odds of a volcanic eruption at Yellowstone are 1 in 730,000. This does not mean the eruption will be an explosion, but it could result in lava flowing from the vent.
The Yellowstone supervolcano is not the only one with the potential to do great damage. A supervolcano named Campi Flegrei lives under Naples, Italy. It last erupted in 1538, when it created a new mountain after eight days of lava flow.