When it comes to the end of the world, it seems as though there are as many theories as to what doomsday could look like as there are people on the planet.
Some believe that we will face a fate not unlike that of the dinosaurs, with a giant space rock hurtling to earth and ending it all. Others are of the opinion that climate change will force our overpopulated planet into a global conflict for food and water, and eventually a nuclear holocaust.
Others still believe that the tectonic activity below earth’s surface will one day turn Yellowstone Park’s enormous caldera into a natural bomb with the potential to blot out the sun with dust and debris, ushering in another ice age.
For those who subscribe to that last theory, a peculiar series of events in the park has their interests piqued.
If you’re headed to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, there’s a good chance that visiting the park’s iconic geysers will be near the top of your to-do list. In 2019, tourists were treated to plenty of activity from the Steamboat Geyser, which is the tallest currently-active geyser on the planet.
That’s great news for park-goers, and perhaps even for the park itself, but with over 45 eruptions in 2019, the geyser’s highly active streak is leaving scientists scratching their heads. The geyser erupted a whopping 32 times in 2018 before ramping up even further this year.
Just how strange was the activity?
As NPRreports, Steamboat Geyser didn’t erupt at all in 2015, 2016, or 2017. Park visitors weren’t treated to an eruption for three full years. 2018 was different, and 2019 has seen even more activity from the geyser. But why? Researchers can only guess.
“It’s such a big geyser. And the bigger something is, the easier it is to study,” Michael Manga of the University of California, Berkeley, told NPR. “But it also captures people’s imagination. When it got active again there was lots of press and it reminded people that there are fundamental things about the Earth we don’t understand.”
The Yellowstone “Super Volcano” last erupt approximately 630,000 years ago, and scientists have no idea if or when it could blow again.
In the meantime, these researchers will surely be keeping an eye on the geyser activity in Yellowstone, searching for clues.
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