While there seems to have been no shortage of claims and speculations about the possibility of a devastating eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, scientists actually attempted to determine whether it's possible to make a long-term prediction regarding such an event, the Daily Express reports.
According to the newspaper, geochemist Professor Kenneth Sims from the University of Wyoming studied the volcano's radiocarbon isotopes in order to achieve that goal.
"That’s the hard aspect of the science, that long-term prediction", he said. "I can use the radon as a clock, it helps me understand how fast the gas is rising from the magma deep down and coming to the surface."
Delving into the matter at hand, the Discovery Channel’s ‘Curiosity’ series explained how exactly "radon gas might provide the answer", as when "radon decays it forms radioactive isotopes with unique chemical signatures that scientists can measure".
The series also provided a rather graphic description of why exactly scientists might want to predict a future Yellowstone eruption.
"Thousands of times more powerful than Mount St Helens, an eruption on this scale would bury western North America", it explained. "A sulphur haze would dim the Sun and plunge the entire world into a volcanic winter."
And the newspaper also points out that a previous study actually suggested that the volcano's power may be waning, with the research's author, University of Leicester volcanologist Thomas Knott, saying that “the Yellowstone hotspot” has apparently “experienced a three-fold decrease in its capacity to produce super-eruption events”.