Yellowstone National Park is the site of a confluence of scientists from around the country lately where they are attempting to piece together the clues to the secret of the supervolcano that lies beneath the surface of the park. Amazingly, the volcano is so massive that its mouth is big enough to swallow the better part of three states: Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.
What is frightening, however, is how much destruction a single eruption could wreak on our nation, as well as on the planet itself.
Beneath Yellowstone National Park lies a supervolcano, a behemoth far more powerful than your average volcano. It has the ability to expel more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of rock and ash at once — 2,500 times more material than erupted from Mount St. Helens in 1980, which killed 57 people. That could blanket most of the United States in a thick layer of ash and even plunge the Earth into a volcanic winter.
The size of the supervolcano is still hard to imagine when reading the information above, but seeing images of just how enormous the natural occurrence is creates a clearer indication in the mind of just how frightening and devastating it could actually be.
Think about the two hurricanes that blew through the United States just recently. They affected, by and large, a couple of states. The deaths, in reference to population size, were minimal, yet they were demoralizing and devastated many American families.
This supervolcanic eruption would, at a minimum, affect 21 states, with 5 of them in the kill zone alone!
Now think about Puerto Rico, where a single hurricane was able to destroy the entire island territory. What did that look like?
The photo above speaks volumes about the level of helplessness and devastation. Picture this sort of vulnerability to the states that are located near the epicenter of a super volcano. Many within hundreds of square miles would suffer instantaneous deaths by hot magma that measures not in the hundreds of degrees, but in the thousands!
[S]cientists are seeking lessons from Yellowstone’s past. And the results have been surprising. They show that the forces that drive these rare and violent events can move much more rapidly than volcanologists previously anticipated.
The early evidence, presented at a recent volcanology conference, shows that Yellowstone’s most recent supereruption was sparked when new magma moved into the system only decades before the eruption.
The time scale is the blink of an eye, geologically speaking. It’s even shorter than a previous study that found that another ancient supervolcano beneath California’s Long Valley caldera awoke hundreds of years before its eruption. As such, scientists are just now starting to realize that the conditions that lead to supereruptions might emerge within a human lifetime.
“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.
While this, of course, carries a level of fright with it, NASA claims that it is working on a solution to save the planet from doomsday. Move to the next page to see what NASA is up to: