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The Yellowstone Caldera was formed by a series of supervolcano eruptions. Photo: lucky-photographer / iStock

Scientists think they've uncovered the process that precedes a super-volcanic eruption, potentially allowing them to read the signs leading up to these rare, catastrophic events, per the NYT. They believe underground magma heats up relatively quickly before an eruption, awakening dormant supervolcanoes.

Why it matters: The findings mean that the mechanisms behind super-volcanic eruptions might take place on human timescales — maybe only decades. This research might help to predict these potentially apocalyptic events as well as more typical volcanic activity.

What they did: The researchers looked at crystals in fossilized ash deposits from the eruption of the supervolcano that created the Long Valley Caldera in California and found they contained argon, which can't be trapped in crystals when the magma around them is heated above 500 degrees Celsius. But magma in the Long Valley eruption is calculated to have been at 785 degrees Celsius. The researchers think the process must have been so fast it didn't give argon time to dissipate.

Yes, but: It's worth noting that supervolcanic eruptions are exceedingly rare. The Long Valley eruption occurred 765,000 years ago — and there have been only four suspected supervolcanic eruptions in the last 2,000 years.

Go deeper

Updated 10 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

11 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.