The popular U.S. tourist destination Yellowstone National Park is most commonly known for its geysers and hot springs. Less commonly associated with the park is the Yellowstone volcano, situated underneath the surface, which has been predicted to erupt with disastrous results. However, scientists who are studying the volcano are confident the volcano will not erupt in the near future, and most likely, not for at least another 1,000 years.
The Yellowstone volcano is a result of the North American continental plate drifting over several hot spots close to the surface of the Earth. The first eruption of what scientists call the “Yellowstone Super Volcano” was around 16 million years ago, leaving a crater on what is now the Nevada and Oregon border. The plates have since drifted in a curve, shifting the hot spots and leaving craters across Idaho and finally into Wyoming, with the last eruption having taken place about 640,000 years ago.
Recent earthquakes in the Midwest have generated increased scrutiny of the Yellowstone site. The dramatically increased seismic activity in the Oklahoma area has been linked to oil fracking being introduced to the region. While the area around and outside of Yellowstone is protected by law from oil development, the aggravation of the surrounding states, as well as increased seismic activity in the Southwest area of the U.S., are potential triggers for the volcano’s eruption. However, scientists remain confident the volcano will not erupt in the near future.
Simulations of the super volcano’s eruption show a massive “umbrella of ash” that would envelop the U.S. and reach from one coast to the other. The density of the ash itself would create massive problems for land and air travel, and would also destroy crops, poison water supplies, as well as poison the air to a great degree. Even wavelength communication, such as radio and cell phones, would be affected.
The amount of ash the super volcano would generate is not the only factor of destruction. The chamber of lava that currently intersects with the Yellowstone Volcano has been discovered to be much larger than originally estimated, and the impact the eruption would have on the rest of the world, in terms of dramatic climate and weather change, would be incredible.
As disastrous as this eruption will be, scientists have repeatedly confirmed that the Yellowstone eruption happening in the next few years would be less than .1%, as the frequency of any super volcano erupting anywhere on earth is around once every 100,000 years. It is important to note that previous super volcano eruptions occurred via natural causes, and the Yellowstone volcano has the potential to erupt with the right trigger.
Ultimately, whether or not the Yellowstone volcano will erupt has no impact on everyday life. No trips should be altered or evacuations of the area are called for. In fact, the presence of the geysers, hot springs, and volcano in the Yellowstone region should be enjoyed before it moves further north over the next thousand years or so, underneath the mountains of Montana. The increased rate of natural disasters in the U.S. has the potential to trigger an eruption at Yellowstone National Park, but there appears to be no chance that the volcano will erupt naturally for another millennium.
By Jonah Stephens