World’s Top Seismologist: Yellowstone Volcano Is Still Not Going to Blow-Up Soon

The world's foremost seismologist said the volcano under Yellowstone National Park is not going to explode any time soon, despite the speculation.

Jimmy Orr

August 12, 20213 min read

Earthquake and volcano

Good news. Yellowstone National Park is still unlikely to blow up any time soon.

Despite speculation by some in the media that Yellowstone’s so-called “super-volcano” is getting ready to blow up, the world’s foremost seismic expert scoffed at the thought.

Bob Smith, who has studied seismology in Yellowstone for more than 60 years, told Cowboy State Daily that the latest round of discussion about the volcano exploding is just “hyperbole”.

“There is no imminent threat,” Smith said while laughing. “There is no likelihood that it’s going to happen any time soon.”

The longtime professor at the University of Utah and the founding member of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory said his office is used to “near constant” speculation that the park is going to blow up but said there was “no evidence to support the speculation.”

What seems to have started the discussion are reports that the seismic activity in the park in July — which was above normal — is something to be concerned about.

Anything but, Smith said. He said although there were more earthquakes — the overwhelming majority of which couldn’t be felt — but the activity was so insignificant that his office didn’t even put out a press release on it.

“There’s always a chance it could happen,” Smith said. “But that chance is .00014% per year. That’s an exceedingly small probability.”

The professor acknowledged the volcano will have an eruption at some point as it is still a living volcano, but there would likely be signs beforehand that would portend a major explosion.

“We have a very modern seismograph network of 35 stations which report back in real-time to the University of Utah,” Smith said.  “And we have a staff of people who are trained to analyze all of the earthquake activity in Yellowstone.”

Smith said no one on his staff was concerned with the earthquake activity in July.  

“We have a mathematical physics-based approach, not wild speculation,” Smith said, laughing again.

He said the largest earthquake in July registered a 3.6 — which is the “minimum range of people being able to feel it.”

“The activity in July wasn’t unusual at all,” he said.

Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich was in Yellowstone on a fishing trip the last time a magnitude 4 earthquake hit Yellowstone.

“There was some screaming going on and people worried that the volcano was going to explode,” Ulrich said of the June, 2017 quake. “Their screams — not the earthquake — were startling. So much so that I accidentally dropped my flyrod in the river and this wasn’t a cheap-ass Snoopy flyrod you buy at K-Mart. Sadly, it could not be retrieved. I hate that damn volcano.””

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Jimmy Orr

Executive Editor

A third-generation Wyomingite, Jimmy Orr is the executive editor and co-founder of Cowboy State Daily.