December 16, 2013
For all its beauty and wonder, Yellowstone National Park is hiding a colossal secret that could spell the end of humanity, at least on the North American continent. A massive “supervolcano” that scientists say could erupt at any moment sits beneath all those beautiful acres of forests, rocks, geysers and hot springs, ready to spew a volume of magma so immense that the entire American landscape could end up buried under several feet of it.
At a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union, scientists from the University of Utah made the case that Yellowstone’s magma chamber is at least 250 percent larger than previously believed. According to the New York Post (NYP), the underground magma cavern beneath Yellowstone measures some 55 miles by 20 miles and contains untold billions of cubic meters of molten rock.
“We’ve been working there for a long time, and we’ve always thought it would be bigger … but this finding is astounding,” stated University of Utah Professor Bob Smith to BBC News.
Researchers for some time have been trying to pinpoint exactly what is going on underneath Yellowstone. And it is only due to a series of recent earthquakes that they were able to make considerable headway on the issue, verifying that there are literally hundreds of square miles of molten magma just waiting to burst from large cauldrons beneath the surface of the park.
“The waves travel slower through hot and partially molten material,” added Dr. Jamie Farrell about how earthquake tremors have enabled the improved mapping of underground activity. “With this, we can measure what’s beneath.”
Yellowstone due for an eruption very soon based on historical data, say scientists
While it has long been known that large pockets of volcanic magma are, indeed, present underneath Yellowstone, it is only in recent years that scientists have been able to determine whether or not this magma is an immediate threat. Based on the available evidence, they say, the infamous Yellowstone supervolcano is definitely due for an eruption.
“From analysis of rock and sediment layers, scientists say another eruption is almost due — at least by geological standards,” writes James Seidel for the NYP. “Soil samples reveal that the last time it happened the whole of North America was smothered by ash. The lava flow was almost as great. The streams of molten rock were hundreds of miles long, and miles thick.”
Besides the historical data, things have literally been shaking up a whole lot more these days in and around the park. Just during the month of November, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), there were more than 300 earthquakes that shook the region around Yellowstone National Park, which could be indicative of an eruption in the not-too-distant future.
“We know there’s been these really large volcanic eruptions in the past and what we’re seeing now matches that,” stated Dr. Farrell to BBC News, noting that, when Yellowstone’s supervolcano eventually erupts, the output will be about 2,000 times larger than that of Mount St. Helens when it erupted back in 1980.
“These are really big volcanic eruptions and it would definitely be a global event,” he added. “It would not only affect the U.S. but it would affect the world. All this material that is shot up in the atmosphere would eventually circle the earth and would affect the climate throughout the world.”
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This article was posted: Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:34 am