Volcano 2 of 2: Yellowstone caldera awakening

(News & Editorial/ Volcano 2 of 2: Yellowstone caldera awakening)

A.  Yellowstone Supervolcano Alert: The Most Dangerous Volcano In America Is Roaring To Life
2 October 2013, EndOfTheAmericanDream.com,  by Michael Snyder
Pasted from: http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/yellowstone-supervolcano-alert-the-most-dangerous-volcano-in-america-is-roaring-to-life

volcano2 yellowstone np

[Area of outstanding natural beauty: The Yellowstone caldera (circled in red) in Wyoming is the world’s largest super-volcano]

Right now, the ground underneath Yellowstone National Park is rising at a record rate.  In fact, it is rising at the rate of about three inches per year.  The reason why this is such a concern is because underneath the park sits the Yellowstone supervolcano – the largest volcano in North America.  Scientists tell us that it is inevitable that it will erupt again one day, and when it does the devastation will be almost unimaginable.  A full-blown eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would dump a 10 foot deep layer of volcanic ash up to 1,000 miles away, and it would render much of the United States uninhabitable.  When most Americans think of Yellowstone, they tend to conjure up images of Yogi Bear and “Old Faithful”, but the truth is that sleeping underneath Yellowstone is a volcanic beast that could destroy our nation in a single day and now that beast is starting to wake up.

The Yellowstone supervolcano is so vast that it is hard to put it into words.  According to the Daily Mail, the magma “hotspot” underneath Yellowstone is approximately 300 miles wide…

The Yellowstone Caldera is one of nature’s most awesome creations and sits atop North America’s largest volcanic field.

Its name means ‘cooking pot’ or ‘cauldron’ and it is formed when land collapses following a volcanic explosion.

In Yellowstone, some 400 miles beneath the Earth’s surface is a magma ‘hotspot’ which rises to 30 miles underground before spreading out over an area of 300 miles across.

Atop this, but still beneath the surface, sits the slumbering volcano.

When most Americans think of volcanic eruptions in the United States, they remember the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens back in 1980.  But that eruption would not even be worth comparing to a full-blown eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano.

And now the area around Yellowstone is becoming increasingly seismically active.  In fact, Professor Bob Smith says that he has never seen anything like this in the 53 years that he has been watching Yellowstone…
Until recently, Bob Smith had never witnessed two simultaneous earthquake swarms in his 53 years of monitoring seismic activity in and around the Yellowstone Caldera.
Now, Smith, a University of Utah geophysics professor, has seen three swarms at once.
In September, 130 earthquakes hit Yellowstone over the course of a single week.  This has got many Yellowstone observers extremely concerned

Yellowstone’s recent earthquake swarms started on Sept. 10 and were shaking until about 11:30 a.m. Sept. 16.
“A total of 130 earthquakes of magnitude 0.6 to 3.6 have occurred in these three areas, however, most have occurred in the Lower Geyser Basin,” a University of Utah statement said. “Notably much of seismicity in Yellowstone occurs as swarms.”

So what is the worst case scenario?

Well, according to the Daily Mail, a full-blown eruption of Yellowstone could leave two-thirds of the United States completely uninhabitable…

It would explode with a force a thousand times more powerful than the Mount St Helens eruption in 1980.
Spewing lava far into the sky, a cloud of plant-killing ash would fan out and dump a layer 10ft deep up to 1,000 miles away.
Two-thirds of the U.S. could become uninhabitable as toxic air sweeps through it, grounding thousands of flights and forcing millions to leave their homes.

Can you think of another potential disaster that could accomplish the same thing?
That is why what is going on at Yellowstone right now is so important, and the American people deserve the truth.  The following are some more facts about Yellowstone that I compiled that I included in a previous article…

#1 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone could be up to 1,000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.
#2 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone would spew volcanic ash 25 miles up into the air.
#3 The next eruption of Yellowstone seems to be getting closer with each passing year.  Since 2004, some areas of Yellowstone National Park have risen by as much as 10 inches.
#4 There are approximately 3,000 earthquakes in the Yellowstone area every single year.
#5 In the event of a full-scale eruption of Yellowstone, virtually the entire northwest United States will be completely destroyed.
#6 A massive eruption of Yellowstone would mean that just about everything within a 100 mile radius of Yellowstone would be immediately killed.
#7 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone could also potentially dump a layer of volcanic ash that is at least 10 feet deep up to 1,000 miles away.
#8 A full-scale eruption of Yellowstone would cover virtually the entire midwest United States with volcanic ash.  Food production in America would be almost totally wiped out.
#9 The “volcanic winter” that a massive Yellowstone eruption would cause would radically cool the planet.  Some scientists believe that global temperatures would decline by up to 20 degrees.
#10 America would never be the same again after a massive Yellowstone eruption.  Some scientists believe that a full eruption by Yellowstone would render two-thirds of the United States completely uninhabitable.
#11 Scientists tell us that it is not a matter of “if” Yellowstone will erupt but rather “when” the next inevitable eruption will take place.

What makes all of this even more alarming is that a number of other very prominent volcanoes around the world are starting to roar back to life right now as well.
For example, an Inquisitr article from back in July described how “the most dangerous volcano in Mexico” is starting to become extremely active…
Popocatepetl Volcano is at it again. The active volcano near Mexico City erupted again this morning, spewing ash up into the sky.
The volcano is currently in the middle of an extremely active phase. According to the International Business Times, the volcano has registered 39 exhalations in the last 24 hours.
An eruption earlier this month caused several flights to be canceled in and out of Mexico City.
The BBC notes that officials raised the alert level yellow following Popocateptl’s eruption on Saturday morning. Yellow is the third-highest caution level on the city’s seven step scale.

And an NBC News article from August noted that one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Japan has erupted 500 times so far this year…
Ash wafted as high as 3 miles above the Sakurajima volcano in the southern city of Kagoshima on Sunday afternoon, forming its highest plume since the Japan Meteorological Agency started keeping records in 2006. Lava flowed just over half a mile from the fissure, and several huge volcanic rocks rolled down the mountainside.

Though the eruption was more massive than usual, residents of the city of about 600,000 are used to hearing from their 3,664-foot neighbor. Kagoshima officials said in a statement that this was Sakurajima’s 500th eruption this year alone.

So what does all of this mean?

Are we now entering a time when volcanic eruptions will become much more common all over the globe?
Could we rapidly be approaching the day when an absolutely devastating volcanic eruption will paralyze much of North America?

volcano2 yellowstone USA ashbed

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B.  Study: Yellowstone magma much bigger than thought
December 2013,  Associated Press
Pasted from: http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/study-yellowstone-magma-much-bigger-than-thought/article_21a29736-669b-11e3-9336-001a4bcf887a.html

volcano2 yellowstone caldera

[Yellowstone’s NW caldera rim at the Madison Junction in the park. The rim is 500 m. tall, and was formed when this area collapsed during the eruption that took place 640,000 years ago.]

HELENA — The hot molten rock beneath Yellowstone National Park is 2 ½ times larger than previously estimated, meaning the park’s supervolcano has the potential to erupt with a force about 2,000 times the size of Mount St. Helens, according to a new study.

By measuring seismic waves from earthquakes, scientists were able to map the magma chamber underneath the Yellowstone caldera as 55 miles long, lead author Jamie Farrell of the University of Utah said Monday. The chamber is 18 miles wide and runs at depths from 3 to 9 miles below the earth, he added.
That means there is enough volcanic material below the surface to match the largest of the supervolcano’s three eruptions over the last 2.1 million years, Farrell said.

The largest blast — the volcano’s first — was 2,000 times the size of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state. A similar one would spew large amounts of volcanic material in the atmosphere, where it would circle the earth, he said.

“It would be a global event,” Farrell said. “There would be a lot of destruction and a lot of impacts around the globe.”
The last Yellowstone eruption happened 640,000 years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. For years, observers tracking earthquake swarms under Yellowstone have warned the caldera is overdue to erupt.

Farrell dismissed that notion, saying there isn’t enough data to estimate the timing of the next eruption.
“We do believe there will be another eruption, we just don’t know when,” he said.
There are enough instruments monitoring the seismic activity of Yellowstone that scientists would likely know well ahead of time if there was unusual activity happening and magma was moving to the surface, Farrell said.
The USGS’ Yellowstone Volcano Observatory listed the park’s volcano alert level as “normal” for December.
Yellowstone attracts millions of visitors with its geothermal features of geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pots. The park just opened its gates on Sunday for its winter season.
Park officials did not immediately return a call for comment.

A large earthquake at Yellowstone is much more likely than a volcano eruption, Farrell said.
The 7.5-magnitude Hebgen Lake earthquake killed 28 people there in 1959.
Farrell presented his findings last week to the American Geophysical Union. He said he is submitting it to a scholarly journal for peer review and publication.

Brigham Young University geology professor Eric Christianson said the study by Farrell and University of Utah Professor Bob Smith is very important to understanding the evolution of large volcanoes such as Yellowstone’s.
“It helps us understand the active system,” Christianson said. “It’s not at the point where we need to worry about an imminent eruption, but every piece of information we have will prepare us for that eventuality.”

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C.  Yellowstone’s Slumbering Giant
3-9-2005, Rense.com, via Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.,  By Steve Connor Science Editor
Excerpts pasted from: http://www.rense.com/general63/yellowstonesslumbering.htm

“…A super-eruption at Yellowstone would be far more devastating for the world than the eruptions at Tambora in 1815, Krakatoa in 1883 and Pinatubo in 1991 which all caused global climate disturbances for several years after the event. Super-eruptions are hundreds of times larger than the

biggest volcanic explosions of recorded history and their effects on the global climate are much more severe, said Professor Stephen Self, a vulcanologist at the Open University.

“An area the size of North America can be devastated and pronounced deterioration of global climate would be expected for a few years following the eruption,” Professor Self explained. “They could result in the devastation of world agriculture, severe disruption of food supplies and mass starvation. These effects could be sufficiently severe to threaten the fabric of civilization…

… if some 2,000 million tons of sulphuric acid were ejected into the atmosphere to block out sunlight over much of the planet causing global temperatures to plummet by between 10C and 20C.

It also describes the chaos and panic caused by the dumping of billions of tons of volcanic ash over huge swaths of North America. Scientists calculate that it would be equivalent to covering an area the size of Britain in four metres of ash.

“Fema had no contingency plans for a disaster on this scale. The largest disaster they ever had to deal with was 9/11 and that stretched their resources to the limit,” Ms Orr said.

“Our scenario would affect an area 10 million times greater than 9/11 did. Fema were extremely interested in working with us to come up with a theoretical plan as to how they might deal with it. They gave us data on how many people would be affected by the eruption in the US.”

Satellite images show that the mouth or caldera of the Yellowstone supervolcano is 85km (53 miles) long and 45km (28 miles) wide – which amounts to an area big enough to swallow Tokyo, the largest city in the world.

Five miles underneath the surface of Yellowstone sits the volcanic chamber itself which is estimated to hold 25,000 cubic kilometres of molten rock or magma. Seismologists and vulcanologists working for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory routinely monitor the regular swellings and subsidences of the land as it responds to shifting underground lake of molten rock below.

Some scientists believe that the Toba eruption, which caused global climatic disturbances, may have even caused a genetic “bottleneck” in human genetic diversity following a dramatic decline in the global population. If the Yellowstone supervolcano were to erupt in a similar fashion the ash that it would spew out would cover three-quarters of North America in a layer deep enough to kill crops and other plants.

Few people would survive in the zone immediately around the eruption as the volcanic gases and choking sulphur dioxide would burn the lungs of anyone caught in the open air. Those sheltering in their homes would not be safe because layers of heavy volcanic ash would eventually cause their roofs to collapse.

The supervolcanic eruption of the Toba volcano in Sumatra ejected about 300 times more volcanic ash than the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 – which caused a “year without a summer” in 1816 and prompted Lord Byron to write his poem “Darkness”.

A report on supervolcanoes compiled by the Geological Society states: “It is easy to imagine that an eruption on the scale of Toba would have devastating global effects. A layer of ash estimated at 15 cm thick fell over the entire Indian subcontinent with similar amounts over much of south-east Asia. Most recently, the Toba ash has been found in the South China Sea, implying that several centimetres also covered southern China.

“Just one centimetre of ash is enough to devastate agricultural activity … Many millions of lives throughout most of Asia would be threatened if Toba erupted today,” it says.

Ms Orr said the University of Utah and the UK Met Office had helped to compile a map of the fallout that might result from the eruption of ash from the Yellowstone supervolcano.

“From this, we created an ash projection map which took into account wind direction and time of year of our eruption. Every time we refined our storyline we would send it back to them for approval so they were closely involved,” she said.

But it is the emission of sulphuric acid into the atmosphere that would create the greatest long-term problems for countries further afield, as the biggest volcanic eruptions of the past 200 years have shown, warns Professor Steve Sparks of Bristol University, a consultant to the programme. “They caused major climatic anomalies in the two or three years after the eruption by creating a cloud of sulphuric acid droplets in the upper atmosphere. These droplets reflect and absorb sunlight, and absorb heat from the Earth – warming the upper atmosphere and cooling the lower atmosphere,” Professor Sparks said.

“The global climate system is disturbed, resulting in pronounced, anomalous warming and cooling of different parts of the Earth at different times.”

If enough sulphuric acid were released – and Yellowstone could emit 2,000 million tons – then what could take place would be the equivalent of a “nuclear winter”, when the dust and debris from the fallout of a nuclear war block out sunlight for several years causing worldwide famines.

The Max Planck Institute in Hamburg helped the makers of Supervolcano to model the spread of sulphuric acid around the world.

“We’re talking about catastrophic amounts of sulphuric acid circling the world within just a few weeks. It forms a veil that blocks out sunlight, causing temperatures to plummet,” Ms Orr said.

“The Met Office models predicted a drop of about 15C across Europe and 20C in the southern hemisphere, the monsoon would stop, crops would fail and somewhere in the region of one billion people would die through climate change and starvation,” she added. ..”

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