Scientists have long been observing the Yellowstone supervolcano in hopes that we will someday have warning signs if it ever erupts.
According to Michael Poland, the scientist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, if the supervolcano were ever to erupt it would, “devastate much of the United States”. The supervolcano has erupted three times in the past, but luckily researchers are not expecting another eruption for a very long time. If it were to erupt it would look a lot like the following.
How will they know if the Yellowstone supervolcano was going to erupt? Researchers have been measuring and recording seismic activity, and usually, there are between 1,500 and 2,500 earthquakes per year in Yellowstone. “If we saw earthquake activity begin to pick up in very significant ways. Instead of seeing thousands of earthquakes every year, we would see tens of thousands.” Poland also says that if the number were to rise suddenly, then that would be an indicator of an eruption.
While some research does suggest Yellowstone is overdue for an eruption, it still doesn’t mean that coming eruption would happen anytime soon, and with more and more research being done all the time we should all be quite content in knowing that an eruption is extremely unlikely in our lifetime. According to the USGS if you break things down in numbers we’re still about 100,000 years off from another eruption if that were to mean anything at all.
Back in 2019, one thing that made a lot of headlines was Bryan Walsh’s book ‘End Times’ which went over a potential eruption from the Yellowstone supervolcano, and well, I guess you could say in that sense also had some panicking.
Walsh and many others believe we should be using more resources to try and keep this kind of thing in check as while we can guess as to when it may blow once again, we never truly know when things will come forth. It could erupt tomorrow or it could erupt 300 thousand years from now. We just don’t know when things will happen and that in itself for some is quite horrifying.
Walsh actually wrote in the NY Times on this topic back in August of 2019 and well, his words are quite intense as you can read below:
If you’re planning to visit Yellowstone National Park this Labor Day weekend, I have good news: It is very, very, very unlikely that the supervolcano beneath it will erupt while you’re there.
The Yellowstone supervolcano — an 8 out of 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index — has erupted three times over the past 2.1 million years, most recently 640,000 years ago. A Yellowstone eruption would be like nothing humanity has ever experienced.
First would come increasingly intense earthquakes, a sign that magma beneath Yellowstone was rushing toward the surface. Then magma would burst through the ground in a titanic eruption, discharging the toxic innards of the earth to the air. It would continue for days, burying Yellowstone in lava within a 40-mile radius.
A bad day at the park. But the devastation around Yellowstone would be just the beginning. Volcanologists believe a Yellowstone supereruption would bury large swaths of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah in up to three feet of toxic volcanic ash. Depending on the weather patterns, much of the Midwest would receive a few inches, too, plunging the region into darkness. Even the coasts — where a majority of Americans live — would most likely see a dusting as the ash cloud spread. Crops would be destroyed; pastureland would be contaminated. Power lines and electrical transformers would be ruined, potentially knocking out much of the grid.
That’s just the United States. Modeling by meteorologists has found that the aerosols released could spread globally if the eruption occurred during the summer. Over the short term, as the toxic cloud blocked sunlight, global average temperatures could plunge significantly — and not return to normal for several years. Rainfall would decline sharply. That might be enough to trigger a die-off of tropical rain forests. Farming could collapse, beginning with the Midwest. It would be, as a group of researchers wrote in a 2015 report on extreme geohazards for the European Science Foundation, “the greatest catastrophe since the dawn of civilization.”
He notes that while the eruption of a supervolcano would be unlikely it’s not impossible and that we as the public need to be aware of the difference between those two words. I guess that in itself is worth letting sink in within reason.
To learn more about what could happen in the rare and unlikely event that this supervolcano was to erupt take a look below. Things like this are always going to be making their rounds when it comes to headlines, and we need to figure out where we stand for ourselves. It might be overdue, but it also might not and at the end of the day we shouldn’t lose sleep over it.