An eruption would send an untold amount of rock and ash into the sky, unleash torrents of lava, and potentially bring about a planetary volcanic winter. Until now, geologists believed it would take centuries for the supervolcano to make that transition.
Perhaps ominously, according the ZME Science website, the previous eruption occurred in about the same timeframe before that - 1.3 million years ago - meaning that the system might be ready for another explosion.
Scientist believe such eruptions take place about every 100,000 years, but they've been surprised by some of the things they've learned at Yellowstone.
The Yellowstone supervolcano could blow quicker than thought, according to researchers at Arizona State University who examined materials from its last mega-eruption about 630,000 years ago, National Geographic magazine reported.
"We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption", said Till said in an interview with the New York Times.
Much like reading a set of tree rings, Shamloo and her team were able to record temperature and composition changes by analyzing crystals found beneath the earth's surface. That could mean the supereruption transpired only decades after an injection of fresh magma beneath the volcano.
Study co-author Hannah Shamloo told the New York Times that "It's shocking how little time is required to take a volcanic system from being quiet and sitting there to the edge of an eruption". Geologists must now figure out what kick-starts the rapid movements leading up to supereruptions.
"It's one thing to think about this slow gradual buildup - it's another thing to think about how you mobilize 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma in a decade", she said, she told the Times. The odds of Yellowstone, or any other supervolcano erupting anytime soon are small. Instead, the work showed signs that an infusion of magma under the volcano may have occurred just decades before the eruption.