ANIMAL EXODUS: Will Yellowstone 'super volcano' erupt? - KMSP-TV

ANIMAL EXODUS: Will Yellowstone 'super volcano' erupt?

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Everyone has heard the old adage that animals can sense when bad weather will strike, and a mass exodus of bison and elk from Yellowstone National Park has some wondering if it's an ominous sign.

Video footage of bison and elk literally hitting the road has fueled fears, especially after the strongest earthquake in 38 years struck the park on Sunday.

It may be that Old Faithful isn't the only thing on a schedule in Yellowstone. The park itself sits on an enormous super volcano that hasn't erupted in 650,000 years, but though it may be due for an eruption soon, soon is relative.

"Given the life span of the average human, we don't really have anything to worry about," Jenni McDermott, a geologist at St. Thomas University, assured.

Yet, whether it erupts in a few years or 1,000, many people wonder whether there will be any warning. McDermott told Fox 9 News there may be, or there may not.

"We see a little activity, and then a lot more, and then a lot more, and then a lot more, and then we'll see an eruption," she explained.

The 4.8-magnitude earthquake that hit at the end of last week has some wondering if that activity is ramping up. After seeing footage of bison hoofing it away from the hills, many began to speculate that the animals had a sixth sense telling them to flee.

If the super volcano were to have a large eruption, the force would be equivalent to 10,000 eruptions of Mount St. Helens -- and that would mean the bison, and everything else in Wyoming, would be gone.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the blast kill zone would stretch to the Dakotas, but a poisonous ash cloud would then cover half of the continental United States -- including the Twin Cities and Wisconsin. Scientists say the gray ash -- which is seven times heavier than snow -- could fall for days or months.

"It would be life-altering because it would dramatically effect the climate and it would effect crop growing," McDermott said.

The speculation hasn't escaped the attention of the National Park Service either, which responded to rumors of an impending eruption with a YouTube video of their own that explains the quake, while noteworthy, is one of 3,000 the park may experience this year.

As for the bison, rangers say that's a lunch line, not a coordinated, single-file escape attempt. Rather, the animals are following regular migratory patterns that direct them to lower elevations in search of food this time of year.

The NPS says there are no signs that would suggest the Yellowstone super volcano is nearing an eruption -- at least not yet.

The super volcano has erupted three times in the last 2.3 million years, and some geologists believe it may be on a 700,000-year cycle. That would put the next eruption about 50,000 years out, give or take.

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