Yellowstone National Park assured guests and the public on Thursday that a supervolcano under the park was not expected to erupt anytime soon, despite an alarmist video that claimed bison had been seen fleeing to avoid such a calamity.
Yellowstone officials, who fielded dozens of calls and emails since the video went viral this week following an earthquake in the park, said the video actually shows bison galloping down a paved road that leads deeper into the park.
"It was a spring-like day and they were frisky. Contrary to online reports, it's a natural occurrence and not the end of the world," park spokeswoman Amy Bartlett said.
Assurances by Yellowstone officials and government geologists that the ancient supervolcano beneath the park is not due to explode for eons have apparently done little to quell fears among the thousands who have viewed recent video postings of the thundering herd.
Commentary with one of the clips by a self-described survivalist wearing camouflage, dark sunglasses, and a black watch cap suggests the wildlife exodus may be tied to "an imminent eruption here at Yellowstone."
The 4.8 magnitude earthquake that struck early Sunday near the Norris Geyser Basin in the northwest section of Yellowstone, which spans 3,472 square miles of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, caused no injuries or damages and did not make any noticeable alterations to the landscape, geologists said.
Though benign by seismic standards, it was the largest to rattle Yellowstone since a 4.8 quake in February 1980, and it occurred near an area of ground uplift tied to the upward movement of molten rock in the supervolcano, whose mouth, or caldera, is 50 miles long and 30 miles wide.
But neither the quake, the largest among hundreds that have struck near the geyser basin in the last seven months, nor the uplift suggest an eruption sooner than tens of thousands of years, said Peter Cervelli, associate director for science and technology at the US Geological Survey's Volcano Science Center in California.
"The chance of that happening in our lifetimes is exceedingly insignificant," said Cervelli, a scientist with the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.
Cervelli said the area of uplift that scientists have been tracking since August is rising at a rate of between 4 and 6 inches per year. Geologists who tracked uplift in the same area from 1996 to 2003 also saw elevated seismic activity, he said.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Steve Orlofsky)