If Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, two-thirds of America will be left uninhabitable

07/29/2014 21:48

This simulation of the supervolcano eruption in Yellowstone National Park is just a digital snap shot of its potential impact. (Photo: CBC)

MONTANA - Deep in America’s northwest, there lies a supervolcano that, if erupted, has the potential to wipe out the majority of the United States. What is a supervolcano exactly? I think the name says it all, but officially, scientists define it as a volcano capable of an eruption thousands of times greater than any ordinary volcanic explosion. These supervolcanoes burst when a growing pressure of molten rock, or magma, rises up from the Earth’s mantle. When the crust can’t contain the buildup anymore — boom. In historic times, we luckily haven’t experienced a supervolcano explosion. The most recent eruption occurred 27,000 years ago in New Zealand. But, mankind isn’t out of the woods yet. Deep below Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming lies a supervolcano that is very much alive.
A volcanic winter: A massive underground chamber filled with magma sits miles below the surface in America’s oldest national park. Though scientists are mixed as to whether the place could blow anytime soon, there is one thing they do agree on — if it did, it would push much of Earth to the verge of extinction. Its immediate effects would be deadly enough, with some estimates saying that 87,000 people would be killed instantly. A 10-foot layer of ash would spread up to 1,000 miles away, leaving two-thirds of the country completely uninhabitable. Once the plume rises high into the stratosphere, the released sulfuric gases would mix with the Earth’s water vapor, which National Geographic reports could launch the country and other parts of the globe into a “volcanic winter.” Essentially, the United States and much of the world would be brought to its knees.
Storm is ComingBut the carnage doesn’t stop there. The spread of volcanic ash, rocks and gas would immediately cease any sort of air transportation in much of the world. Just take into account the traffic shutdown following the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland. The relatively small explosion caused the closure of large swaths of European airspace, as well as a six-day travel ban in the impacted area. Those who do survive would be left with a big bill too. Doug Bausch, a senior scientist at FEMA, told WND that such a scenario would cause an estimated $3 trillion in damage for North America. The last time Yellowstone erupted — roughly 640,000 years ago — the American continent was devastated, with volcanic materials reaching as far as Louisiana, over 1,500 miles away. In the past decade, there has been some increased activity at the site. Since 2004, the supervolcano has been rising and just this month, roads were closed in Yellowstone after extreme heat from below was melting the asphalt on roads up above.
An explosion of “volcanic winter” magnitude; however doesn’t seem likely according the U.S. Geological Survey. They say that the chances of a large-scale eruption at Yellowstone “are exceedingly small in the next few thousand years.” However other geologists told the Huffington Post in a 2014 interview: “The bulging pocket of magma swishing around beneath Old Faithful might never blow its lid again. Or, it might put on a surprise fireworks show next Independence Day. Scientists just don’t know.” EP


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