Rangers have temporarily closed off parts of Grand Teton National Park after guides noticed growing fissures in the area just over a week ago.
Since Grand Teton is connected to Yellowstone, and Yellowstone is well known for sitting on top of what could well be a giant volcanic time bomb, the news has rung some alarm bells. It really shouldn’t.
Sure, Yellowstone National Park in the US state of Wyoming happens to be perched on top of the magma equivalent of a powder keg. And, yes, if it blew, we could expect the US to have a new belly button and a climate event that would disrupt global civilisation for a while.
So it’s understandable that people are anxiously looking out for signs.
“Yesterday, Exum guides noticed cracks in the rocks,” says Teton park spokeswoman Denise Germann.
“They communicated that to rangers this morning, and when they went to investigate they realized it had actually gotten bigger and expanded.”
According to Germann, the cracks were a noticeable difference to the usual fractures, at around 30 metres (about 100 feet) in length, running along a rock wall about 30 metres high in an area called Hidden Falls.
Rangers have sealed off the spot out of concerns that tourists could be crushed should the wall collapse, and are awaiting further investigation.
Good call. But is it a sign that is Yellowstone is yawning, or just snoring?
While Grand Teton doesn’t technically sit on top of Yellowstone’s magma chambers, the whole area is prone to ground movement thanks to geological activity – so a few cracks here and there shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Visible fissures splitting through a rock face would certainly make for a dramatic opening to a Hollywood blockbuster.
Thankfully, there’s every reason to think if the nearby supervolcano was doing anything unusual, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) would be well on top of it.
They’ve been keeping a close eye on recent swarms of tremors in the area, which we’re assured are just “Yellowstone being Yellowstone“.
The exact amount of warning we’d have before a cataclysmic eruption is still up for debate. Recent research has suggested it could be less than previously estimated.
But that’s still not a cause to have your bags packed and one eye on the horizon – or a reason to think a few cracks are heralding the ‘big one’.