Hydrothermal explosions are very small; they occur in Yellowstone National Park every few years and form a crater a few meters across. In terms of large explosions, Yellowstone has experienced three at 2.08, 1.3, and 0.631 million years ago.
The science of forecasting a volcanic eruption has significantly advanced over the past 25 years. Most scientists think that the buildup preceding a catastrophic eruption would be detectable for weeks and perhaps months to years.
Precursors to volcanic eruptions include strong earthquake swarms and rapid ground deformation and typically take place... If another catastrophic, caldera-forming Yellowstone eruption were to occur, it would probably alter global weather patterns and have enormous impacts on human activity (especially agricultural production) for many years.
At this time, however, scientists do not have the ability to predict specific consequences or durations of possible global... In some cases, limited scientific drilling for research can help us understand magmatic and hydrothermal (hot water) systems; however, drilling to mitigate a volcanic threat is a much different subject with unknown consequences, high costs, and severe environmental impacts.
Kilauea Volcano is renowned for its relatively benign eruptions of fluid lava flows. By that time, the ash cloud had spread to the central United States.
Following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, cooler than normal temperatures were recorded worldwide and brilliant sunsets and sunrises were attributed to this eruption that sent fine ash and gases high into the stratosphere, forming a large volcanic cloud that... Yellowstone is one of a few dozen volcanoes on earth capable of “super eruptions” that expel more than 1,000 cubic km of ash and debris.
The plumes from such eruptions can rise 30 to 50 km into the atmosphere, three to five times as high as most jets fly. This is just a portion of the eruption cloud, which extended for more than 250 miles to the northwest at the time this image was collected.
This simple experiment using flour, a balloon, tubing, and a bicycle pump, provides a helpful visualization for caldera formation. USGS emeritus geologist Patrick Muffler describes his career working on Yellowstone geysers and hydrothermal systems from the 1960s through 2014.
USGS emeritus geologist Robert Christian sen describes his career working on Yellowstone geology from the 1960s through 2014. Map of the known ash -fall boundaries for major eruptions from Long Valley Caldera, Mount St. Helen's and Yellowstone.
The topic of Yellowstone super eruptions (ones producing greater than one thousand cubic kilometers of volcanic debris) generates much interest, but also occasional confusion. In August 2014, USGS scientists Larry Martin and Jacob Western, and National Science Foundation researcher Alexa Van Eaton published research on where volcanic ash would fall if a Yellowstone super eruption were to occur today (with present-day weather patterns); the research models an eruption similar to the caldera-forming event that occurred 640,000 years ago.
Yellowstone is an obvious target for ash distribution studies, as it provides an opportunity to understand very large eruptions that generate umbrella clouds, which spread radially in the atmosphere (see last image below). The distribution of deposits from ancient Yellowstone eruptions can be compared with the output from the computer models.
Instead of stating “we don't know” or “it depends on the winds,” we decided to take advantage of an ash -dispersion modeling program, co-developed by Larry Martin who works at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory. They show an outline of the area where ash has been found from the previous big eruptions at Yellowstone (640,000, 1,300,000, and 2,100,000 years ago).
Lack of reliable information left the door open to speculation and fanciful depictions of the effects of super eruptions, which are easily found on the Internet. Results of the new study show that ash accumulation, while widespread and substantial, is far less than in most of these “doomsday” scenarios.
These features, plus the development of a method for calculating growth of an umbrella cloud, have made it possible to simulate eruptions of this scale. Yes, we learned that super eruptions distribute shin a fundamentally different pattern than smaller eruptions by creating an umbrella cloud that can push ash more than a thousand kilometers upwind.
A powerfully spreading umbrella cloud means that ash dispersal is much less affected by atmospheric winds. And geological evidence indicates that similar or higher rates of earthquakes, ground uplift and steam explosions were experienced at Yellowstone over much of the past ~10,000 years.
Yellowstone hasn't erupted for 70,000 years, so it's going to take some impressive earthquakes and ground uplift to get things started. Even with explosions, earthquakes, and notable ground uplift, the most likely volcanic eruptions would be the type that would have minimal affect outside the park itself.
Besides the USGS, YVO includes staff from two universities (Utah and Wyoming), three state geological surveys (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho), Yellowstone National Park, and UNESCO, a non-profit that installs and maintains geophysical equipment funded primarily through the National Science Foundation. Regardless of where you live, it's always a good idea to be prepared for emergencies, including earthquakes, tornadoes, chemical spills, and other random events.
Clues hidden in past Yellowstone eruptions from hundreds of thousands of years ago paint an incredibly hopeless future. Experts at the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned in 2015 the resulting damage would amount to staggering sums of money lost.
Further out from Zone One, the survivability prospects begins to increase, but local wildlife and agriculture would suffer irreparable losses for years to come. In fact a 2014 study argued Yellowstone’s ash fallout would damage building integrity, obstruct waterways and even interfere with electronic communications.
Wed, February 14, 2018, Belgian Pool, hot spring in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming The bleak study published by USGS scientists Larry Martin, said: “Cities within 500 km such as Billings and Casper are covered by tens of centimeters to more than a meter of ash, upper Midwestern cities such as Minneapolis and Des Moines receive centimeters, and those in the East and Gulf Coasts receive millimeters or less.
Buildings would likely suffer minor damage in the fallout, cars would lose traction on roads and the ensuing lack of food and communication could collapse livestock production. Jacob Western, a research geologist at the US Geological Survey (USGS), said Yellowstone erupting in our lifetime is an unlikely scenario.
“It's hundreds of times bigger than Mount St. Helen's,” said Robert Smith, a geophysics professor at the University of Utah. If a fissure occurs in the rock beneath the park, everyone within 600 miles should be prepared for a sudden blast.
If the Super volcano blows, it will cause an immediate nuclear winter of dirt and ash in the air over the entire world for 2 years. Larry Parks warns that people within that 600 miles should make preparations to survive the possible blast.
The area under the northern end of the lake near Mary Bay has a bulge that could have been formed by carbon dioxide or steam. The explosion would send ash, dust, and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, reflecting the sun's rays and creating a cold wave lasting several years.
The last eruption shot a column of volcanic ash and gases high into Earth's stratosphere. This volcanic cloud circled the globe many times and affected Earth's climate by reducing the intensity of solar radiation reaching the lower atmosphere and surface.
Fine volcanic ash that fell downwind from the eruption site blanketed much of North America. This ash layer is still preserved in deposits as far away as Iowa, where it is a few inches thick, and the Gulf of Mexico, where it is recognizable in drill cores from the sea floor.
Lava flows have since buried and obscured most of the caldera, but the underlying processes responsible for Yellowstone's tremendous volcanic eruptions are still at work. These super volcanoes occur over “hot spots” in the Earth, and they could erupt causing catastrophic explosions, sending hundreds to thousands of cubic kilometers of ash into the atmosphere, and wreaking climatic havoc on a global scale.
It's a constant source of heat that acts on the upper crust and forms magma chambers that contain tens of thousands of cubic kilometers of molten rock. Some ash would remain in the atmosphere for years, reflect sunlight back into space and cool the planet, significantly affecting life.
Geophysicists developed a computer model of a Yellowstone “super eruption” that would spew 330 cubic kilometers of volcanic ash into the sky. If the findings sound far-flung, so to speak, researchers point out that Yellowstone’s last massive eruption spewed ash over tens of thousands of square kilometers.
With its spouting geysers, majestic mountains, awe-inspiring waterfalls, and panoramic views, Yellowstone National Park has the undeniable power to uplift. Concealed beneath the park rests the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano in North America.
The Yellowstone super volcano has unleashed three cataclysmic eruptions in the past 2.1 million years; all well before humans populated North America. The most recent was 640,000 years ago, which formed Yellowstone as we know it and spewed 240 cubic miles of ash, rock and pyroclastic materials over roughly half of what is now the United States.
The pressure would build until, like champagne in a bottle given a vigorous shake, the magma would burst through the ground in a titanic eruption that would discharge the toxic innards of the Earth to the air. Yellowstone's plume of ash, lava, and volcanic gases would reach a height of fifteen miles or more, and from this lofty position, be blown across North America.
“Hospitals would be choked with victims coughing up blood as the silicate in the ash slashed at their lungs.” Worse still, ash fall would likely wipe out the Midwest's crop of corn and soybeans, should the eruption occur during the growth season.
More good news: the USGS monitors Yellowstone closely for any signs of an impending eruption. There have been some discussions at NASA about boring into Yellowstone's magma chambers and pumping in cold water to cool the system and quell the risk of an eruption, but this plan is wishful thinking at best.