Many of us carry on with our day to day lives completely oblivious to the world outside of our own. Can you really blame us? Human society is built in such a way that we feel increasing pressure to get certain things done. This sense of urgency has has increased over the years as our world has become smaller thanks to technology. We worry about issues at work and at home and in doing so we seldom pay attention to anything else. Thankfully there are a few people who, in their field of study, feel increasing pressure to pay attention to the things we don’t.
We live among giants, supermassive volcanoes threaten our world. In The United States, one such super volcano sits uncomfortably close. Yellowstone National Park is a bizarre and yet beautiful place with all of it’s world class geological features. Yellowstone is in many ways a natural amusement park filled with geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles. We drive in by the hundreds of millions to witness the power of nature every year and many of us don’t even realize were walking around on top of a giant monster.
How is it that we could almost completely miss seeing such a massive volcano? Well, part of the issue is their size, they are so large that they blend in with the land surrounding them. Yellowstone’s caldera is thought to be about 35 by 45 miles wide and only from high up in the sky can we really start to bring the massive volcano into perspective and begin to appreciate it’s size.
When can we expect an eruption? Well, as of right now we have no idea. Our best scientists can only guess when it comes to the likelihood of an eruption of one of these supermassive volcanos. The other major concern is how big will the eruption be. A caldera-forming eruption would be the most devastating and would likely have an impact on the entire world. The entire human population would experience long lasting negative effects including major impacts to our food supply. Crops would likely suffer if a significant amount of ash were to enter the atmosphere and surronding lands. The temperature of Earth would change dramatically altering the climate and causing damage on a scale that we are only beginning to understand.
Although currently unpredictable, we can try to make an assumption of when a super volcano may erupt based on it’s past activity. In the case of Yellowstone, we see eruptions occurring at 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago. If we used this data to predict the next potential super volcano caldera-forming eruption, we would see a favorable timeframe in approximately 90,000 years from today. However, Yellowstone isn’t the only super volcano in the world.
Yellowstone is one of many super volcanoes around the world. Here is a list of a few more known super volcanoes.
- Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia.
- Aira, Japan
- Long Valley California, U.S.A
- Valles caldera, New Mexico, U.S.A
- Lake Taupo, New Zealand
So, should we worry about these sleeping giants among us? The short answer here is, no. However, knowing that they exist is important and scientists are hard at work trying to understand the geological processes that lead up to such a massive eruption, in hopes of providing us with an early warning. Currently, there is no way to prevent a volcano from erupting, especially a super volcano. We can only hope that time is on our side and that when the next eruption happens, it’s relatively small and we have a chance to evacuate and prepare.
For more information about Yellowstone volcanic activity please visit the official USGS website.