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The Threat of Yellowstone’s Supervolcano

Yellowstone National Park
Clipart 2013

The last Yellowstone eruption happened approximately 640,000 years ago according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Now, observers tracking earthquake swarms under Yellowstone have warned the caldera is overdue to erupt.

Scientists studying the Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming have recently concluded that molten rock beneath Yellowstone is significantly larger than estimated, making any future eruption “a global event.”

We do believe there will be another eruption, we just don’t know when.” – Jamie Farrell of the University of Utah

Geologists were able to map the magma chamber underneath the Yellowstone caldera as 55 miles long, 18 miles wide, and an impressive 3 to 9 miles deep. In  January 2013, scientists have reported that the grounds have raised as high as ten inches in some areas of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park
Clipart photo

The study also found that there is enough volcanic material below the surface to match the largest of the super-volcano’s three eruptions over the last 2.1 million years, including Mt. St. Helen’s. By comparison, should the Yellowstone super-volcano erupt, it would be with 2,000 times the power of the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption in May 1980.

What would a Yellowstone eruption mean for the United States? According to Mother Nature Network, a thick blanket of ash would cover most of the country, though it would only be thick enough to collapse roofs in the states closest to Yellowstone, such as South Dakota, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana.

Vegetation would be smothered and the water supply would be polluted, quickly leading to a nationwide food crisis, according to Jacob Lowenstern, scientist-in-charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

The rest of the planet would see a mild climate change caused by an ash cloud that could block the sun for months.

Yellowstone’s last full-scale outburst occurred roughly 640,000 years ago, and the ones before that occurred 1.3 million and 2.1 million years ago, each one stronger than the one before.

In this video from CNN, Michio Kaku explains that when Yellowstone’s dormant volcano erupts, it will annihilate America. This video is from 2011 but is still very relevant today.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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