Its most famous geyser, Old Faithful, shoots up into the sky as crowds tilt their heads just to see how high it really can go. The saturated blues and greens of geothermal pools appear to be otherworldly.
Towering mountains wrap themselves around the park, providing shelter for wild animals to roam. But below the beauty of Yellowstone, is a volcano powerful enough devastate most of the United States and change the entire world.
“Yellowstone and other volcanoes around the world are called supervolcanoes and the reason is they’re like a super sized drink. It means it’s just big,” says Hank Hessler, a geologist at Yellowstone in the U.S. state of Wyoming.
Supervolcano describes a geological phenomenon never witnessed by man. Supervolcanoes are off the charts big when comparing them to a normal volcanic eruption.
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens in the northwest corner of the United States erupted. It killed 57 people and expelled one cubic kilometer of ash.
The first Yellowstone supervolcanic eruption 2.1 million years ago was at least 25,000 times larger than the Mount St. Helens eruption. Two other Yellowstone super eruptions 1.3 million and 640,000 years ago, though smaller than the first one, would still dwarf any normal volcanic eruption.
Few would expect the tranquil national park would actually be sitting on the mouth of a sleeping giant.
The physical characteristic of a supervolcano isn’t a typical cone-shaped mountainous peak.
Instead, supervolcanoes have what are called calderas. These are vast sunken areas that are formed after previous super eruptions as the ground was blown out and fell back to rest.
Geophysicist Bob Smith first called Yellowstone a “living breathing caldera” in 1979. He now heads the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory at the University of Utah.
“Yellowstone has been very important. It’s my laboratory,” says Smith.
He sees Yellowstone as more than a supervolcano, in fact he doesn’t even like that term. “I prefer to use the term hotspot because it reflects a zone of concentrated and active volcanism.”
Hawaii and Iceland are other examples of hot spots, but Yellowstone is the only hot spot located underneath land rather than sea which has made it easier for Smith to study.
His team has setup a series of different sensors around the park so that they can keep a close eye on its vital signs. They measure ground movement and record the frequent earthquakes that occur in the area.
The sensors have also helped Smith’s team figure out what they were dealing with. As little as eight kilometers below the surface is a shallow reservoir of solid rock and magma. And below the reservoir is an enormous 57,000-cubic-kilometer plume of very hot rock, the fuel behind every bubbling pool and geyser in Yellowstone.
With all of this heat just sitting, waiting beneath Yellowstone, what exactly would it look like if it were all to blow? Smith and other scientists all have scenarios and every one is bleak.
In Smith’s book, “Windows into the Earth,” he says, “Devastation would be complete and incomprehensible.” Before the super eruption, large earthquakes would likely swarm the surrounding areas until the huge blast that would erase Yellowstone completely off the map.
When the eruption finally happens it will dwarf the effect of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which erupted in April last year, causing travel chaos around the world.
After the initial eruption, clouds of gas and rock would burn everything in its path with temperatures reaching to hundreds of degrees Celsius. Ashfall would cover the western United States and also enter the jet stream becoming uninhabitable as toxic air sweeps through it, with the potential to cripple air transportation, forcing millions to leave their homes and threaten the world’s food supply.
There are some estimates that 87,000 people would die immediately.
You can imagine that with this kind of catastrophe on the line, the question Smith gets asked the most is, “When is going to blow next?”
The three Yellowstone super eruptions have occurred about 800,000 years apart, so people have started to speculate that another one is due.
Also, in 2004 Smith noticed that the ground had started to rise then lowered again in 2010. It was like the supervolcano was breathing.
For him, the more immediate threat is earthquakes and smaller eruptions since the probability of one of those instances occurring is much higher.
Whether that may be comforting or not, millions of visitors will still make their way each year to the geological wonderland that is Yellowstone National Park.
Right now, the ground underneath Yellowstone National Park is rising at a record rate. In fact, it is rising at the rate of about three inches per year. The reason why this is such a concern is because underneath the park sits the Yellowstone supervolcano – the largest volcano in North America. Scientists tell us that it is inevitable that it will erupt again one day, and when it does the devastation will be almost unimaginable.
A full-blown eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would dump a 10-foot-deep layer of volcanic ash up to 1,000 miles away, and it would render much of the United States uninhabitable. Sleeping underneath Yellowstone is a volcanic beast that could destroy our nation in a single day and now that beast is starting to wake up.
The Yellowstone supervolcano is so vast that it is hard to put it into words. According to the Daily Mail, the magma “hotspot” underneath Yellowstone is approximately 300 miles wide…
The Yellowstone Caldera is one of nature’s most awesome creations and sits atop North America’s largest volcanic field.
Its name means ‘cooking pot’ or ‘cauldron’ and it is formed when land collapses following a volcanic explosion.
In Yellowstone, some 400 miles beneath the Earth’s surface is a magma ‘hotspot’ which rises to 30 miles underground before spreading out over an area of 1,000 sq. miles.
Atop this, but still beneath the surface, sits the slumbering volcano.
When most Americans think of volcanic eruptions in the United States, they remember the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens back in 1980. But that eruption would not even be worth comparing to a full-blown eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano.
And now the area around Yellowstone is becoming increasingly seismically active. In fact, Professor Bob Smith says that he has never seen anything like this in the 53 years that he has been watching Yellowstone…
Until recently, Bob Smith had never witnessed two simultaneous earthquake swarms in his 53 years of monitoring seismic activity in and around the Yellowstone Caldera.
Now, Smith, a University of Utah geophysics professor, has seen three swarms at once.
In September, 130 earthquakes hit Yellowstone over the course of a single week. This has got many Yellowstone observers extremely concerned…
Yellowstone’s recent earthquake swarms started on Sept. 10 and were shaking until about 11:30 a.m. Sept. 16.
“A total of 130 earthquakes of magnitude 0.6 to 3.6 have occurred in these three areas, however, most have occurred in the Lower Geyser Basin,” a University of Utah statement said. “Notably much of seismicity in Yellowstone occurs as swarms.”
So what is the worst case scenario?
Well, according to the Daily Mail, a full-blown eruption of Yellowstone could leave two-thirds of the United States completely uninhabitable…
It would explode with a force a thousand times more powerful than the Mount St Helens eruption in 1980.
Spewing lava far into the sky, a cloud of plant-killing ash would fan out and dump a layer 10ft deep up to 1,000 miles away.
Two-thirds of the U.S. could become uninhabitable as toxic air sweeps through it, grounding thousands of flights and forcing millions to leave their homes.
Can you think of another potential disaster that could accomplish the same thing?
#1 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone could be up to 1,000 time more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.
#2 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone would spew volcanic ash 25 miles up into the air.
#3 The next eruption of Yellowstone seems to be getting closer with each passing year. Since 2004, some areas of Yellowstone National Park have risen by as much as 10 inches.
#4 There are approximately 3,000 earthquakes in the Yellowstone area every single year.
#5 In the event of a full-scale eruption of Yellowstone, virtually the entire northwest United States will be completely destroyed.
#6 A massive eruption of Yellowstone would mean that just about everything within a 100 mile radius of Yellowstone would be immediately killed.
#7 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone could also potentially dump a layer of volcanic ash that is at least 10 feet deep up to 1,000 miles away.
#8 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone would cover virtually the entire midwest United States with volcanic ash. Food production in America would be almost totally wiped out.
#9 The “volcanic winter” that a massive Yellowstone eruption would cause would radically cool the planet. Some scientists believe that global temperatures would decline by up to 20 degrees.
#10 America would never be the same again after a massive Yellowstone eruption. Some scientists believe that a full eruption by Yellowstone would render two-thirds of the United States completely uninhabitable.
#11 Scientists tell us that it is not a matter of “if” Yellowstone will erupt but rather “when” the next inevitable eruption will take place.
What makes all of this even more alarming is that a number of other very prominent volcanoes around the world are starting to roar back to life right now as well.
For example, an Inquisitr article from back in July described how “the most dangerous volcano in Mexico” is starting to become extremely active…
Popocatepetl Volcano is at it again. The active volcano near Mexico City erupted again this morning, spewing ash up into the sky.
The volcano is currently in the middle of an extremely active phase. According to the International Business Times, the volcano has registered 39 exhalations in the last 24 hours.
An eruption earlier this month caused several flights to be canceled in and out of Mexico City.
The BBC notes that officials raised the alert level yellow following Popocateptl’s eruption on Saturday morning. Yellow is the third-highest caution level on the city’s seven step scale.
And an NBC News article from August noted that one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Japan has erupted 500 times so far this year…
Ash wafted as high as 3 miles above the Sakurajima volcano in the southern city of Kagoshima on Sunday afternoon, forming its highest plume since the Japan Meteorological Agency started keeping records in 2006. Lava flowed just over half a mile from the fissure, and several huge volcanic rocks rolled down the mountainside.
Though the eruption was more massive than usual, residents of the city of about 600,000 are used to hearing from their 3,664-foot neighbor. Kagoshima officials said in a statement that this was Sakurajima’s 500th eruption this year alone.
So what does all of this mean?
Are we now entering a time when volcanic eruptions will become much more common all over the globe?
Could we rapidly be approaching the day when an absolutely devastating volcanic eruption will paralyze much of North America?
- Supervolcano Even More Colossal (4umf.com)
- Scientists Believe the Yellowstone Park Supervolcano is 250% Larger Than Previously Thought (inhabitat.com)