That super-volcano under Yellowstone? Well, it’s waaay bigger than they thought. And that’s not the bad news.

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According to WNCT
“Underneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, there is a reservoir of magma that is more than twice the size that researchers previously thought. It’s not getting bigger. It’s just that new technology has made the ability to see it better. This will also have implications on the extent of the volcano’s impact when it erupts. Researchers with the U.S.G.S. say that the last time the volcano erupted was some 640,000 years ago. They also say that this supervolcano has the potential to spew more than 240 cubic miles of magma across Montana, Idaho and Wyoming with global effects. Scientists do believe that it will erupt again one day, but do not know when.”

The Yellowstone Caldera, to give the supervolcano its proper name, could blow anytime. But that doesn’t mean it’s due – or even overdue according to geologists.

The last full-scale eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, the Lava Creek eruption which happened approximately 630,000 years ago, ejected approximately 240 cubic miles (1,000 km3) of rock, dust and volcanic ash into the sky. Geologists are closely monitoring the rise and fall of the Yellowstone Plateau, which measures on average 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) yearly, as an indication of changes in magma chamber pressure.

The upward movement of the Yellowstone caldera floor between 2004 and 2008 — almost 3 inches (7.6 cm) each year — was more than three times greater than ever observed since such measurements began in 1923. From mid-summer 2004 through mid-summer 2008, the land surface within the caldera moved upward as much as 8 inches (20 cm) at the White Lake GPS station. By the end of 2009, the uplift had slowed significantly and appeared to have stopped. In January 2010, the USGS stated that “uplift of the Yellowstone Caldera has slowed significantly” and that uplift continues but at a slower pace.

The U.S. Geological Survey, University of Utah and National Park Service scientists with the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory maintain that they “see no evidence that another such cataclysmic eruption will occur at Yellowstone in the foreseeable future. Recurrence intervals of these events are neither regular nor predictable.” This conclusion was reiterated in December 2013 in the aftermath of the publication of a study by University of Utah scientists finding that the “size of the magma body beneath Yellowstone is significantly larger than had been thought.” The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory issued a statement on its website stating,

Although fascinating, the new findings do not imply increased geologic hazards at Yellowstone, and certainly do not increase the chances of a ‘supereruption’ in the near future. Contrary to some media reports, Yellowstone is not ‘overdue’ for a supereruption.

In reality, studies and analysis may indicate that the greater hazard comes from hydrothermal activity which occurs independently of volcanic activity. In a 2003 report, USGS researchers proposed that an earthquake may have displaced more than 77 million cubic feet  (576,000,000 US gallons) of water in Yellowstone Lake, creating colossal waves that unsealed a capped geothermal system and led to the hydrothermal explosion that formed nearby Mary Bay.

So what would happen if Yellowstone erupted?

We’d be in a bad way. A mixture of magma, rocks, vapour, carbon dioxide and other gases would eventually push out from the ground, creating a dome shape with cracks. The dissolved gases would them explode, releasing the magma (lava) across the park.

The eruption could kill as many as 90,000 people almost instantly and release a 10 ft layer of molten ash 1,000 miles from the park. The ash would in all probability  block off all points of entry from the ground, and the spread of ash and gases into the atmosphere would stop most air travel, just as it did when a much smaller volcano erupted in Iceland in 2010. sulphuric gases released from the volcano would spring into the atmosphere and mix with the planet’s water vapor. The ash would cut off the sun, and cast a pall over the globe. This would cool down the earth fast and considerably impacting agriculture, communications and travel.

But, the USGS believes that while local ash impact would be severe, further afield, the impact would be less.

In a 2014 study by the United States Geological Survey concluded that a volcanic eruption at Yellowstone would indeed cover cities across the country with ash and shut down air travel and most communications. But it added that it would not herald the end of the United States as we know it.

The scientists used the program called Ash 3D to model the effects of a Yellowstone ‘super eruption’ and found that cities up to 300 miles from the park would be covered by up to three feet of ash. Cities further afield in the Midwest would be covered by a few inches and coastal cities such as New York and California would get only a fraction of an inch.

There would, however, probably be a “winter without a summer” as there was during 1815 when a large eruption in the Pacific  shot so much ash into the atmosphere it took a year to disperse.

Now for the bad news

This email allegedly explains all the preparations in FEMA Region Three for the Yellowstone eruption. This man maintains he has intel that reveals the government is so concerned it has moved nukes from Arizona. (I have not checked this, does any Reader have intel on this?)  Allegedly supplies are being moved to the East Coast.

 

What if the Yellowstone super volcano erupted? HowStuffWorks