If another eruption were to take place, the researchers found that the supervolcano would spare nearly nothing in its wrath.
The theory that an eruption could be coming sooner rather than later was developed by Hannah Shamloo, an Arizona State University graduate student, and several of her colleagues who spent weeks studying at Yellowstone.
The supervolcano last erupted about 630,000 years ago, according to National Geographic.
Researchers estimate that the supervolcano could send more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of rock and ash spewing into the sky, according to a New York Times report.
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A Yellowstone eruption would be absolutely devastating, covering half the Earth in an ash cloud that could trigger a nuclear winter. There, they hauled rocks under the heat of the sun to gather samples, occasionally suspending their work when a bison or a bear roamed nearby. Inside, they tracked the changes that the volcano went through before its eruption. What they discovered surprised them - the changes in temperature and composition only took a few decades, much faster than the centuries previously thought.
'We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption, ' said Christy Tillat Arizona State, in an interview with the New York Times.
Based on the latest study, it appears the magma can rapidly refresh - making the volcano potentially explosive in the geologic blink of an eye. It's even shorter than a previous study that found that another ancient supervolcano beneath California's Long Valley caldera awoke hundreds of years before its eruption.
Scientists hope to use the research to predict when future supereruptions might occur - allowing enough time to develop technologies to prevent the disaster. But understanding the largest eruptions can only help scientists better understand, and therefore forecast, the entire spectrum of volcanic eruptions - something that Cooper thinks will be possible in a matter of decades.