There is a massive volcano underneath Yellowstone National Park and it's feeling frisky.
"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", said Hannah Shamloo, an Arizona State University graduate student involved in the study, to The New York Times.
"We expected that there might be processes happening over thousands of years preceding the eruption", Christy Till, a geologist at Arizona State who is Shamloo's dissertation adviser, told the paper. According to NASA, supervolcano eruptions are a bigger danger to life on Earth than any asteroid.
According to The New York Times, an eruption would spew 2,500 times more material than the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption in which 57 people were killed. Instead, the crystals revealed an increase in temperature and a change in composition that had happened more quickly.
More time is needed to predict a more exact timeframe, but prior to the most recent study, scientists from NASA were seeking ways to prevent an eruption.
The new discovery, which was presented in August, comes after another study in 2011, in which researchers found the ground above the magma chamber bulged by up to 25 centimetres in a span of about seven years.
The supervolcano, which last erupted more than 600,000 years ago, could spew ash across most of the continental US, sending Earth into a volcanic winter.
Yellowstone's volcano is closely monitored, however, and Michael Poland, the scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory for the U.S. Geological Survey, told National Geographic that the supervolcano does not pose an immediate threat.
In June, the Yellowstone supervolcano was hit with more than 400 earthquakes in one week, though researchers cautioned it was nothing nothing to be alarmed about.
They usually have highly infrequent and intense explosive blasts that measure magnitude eight on the Volcano Explosivity Index (erupting more than 1,000 cubic kilometres).