February 1, 2011 11:32 AM ET
Underneath Yellowstone National Park lies a super volcano with a magma chamber of approximately 25,000km of magma. What is not known, is how much of it is eruptable magma. The ground has been swelling in the northwest corner of Wyoming at Yellowstone National Park, and in January, scientists have reported that the grounds have raised as high as ten inches in some areas of Yellowstone. Namely, The Yellowstone Caldera, or the Yellowstone Super Volcano, which is an underground magma chamber that measures about 34 miles (55 km) by 45 miles (72 km), or 1,530 square miles, and the beast has recently started to waken from it's 600,000 year sleep.
National Geographic created an interactive virtual tour of "When Yellowstone Explodes." To see the interactive 3d model of Yellowstone's supervolcano click the image below or See here
Yellowstone has approximately 10,000 thermal features, with 200 to 250 geysers erupting each year, making it the place with the highest concentration of active geysers in the world, due to its location in ancient caldera. Norris Geyser Basin is the hottest geyser basin in the park and is located near the northwest edge of Yellowstone Caldera on the intersection of three major faults.
There has been activity at Yellowstone in the past, and there is activity right now. Scientists say the supervolcano erupts every 600,000 years, and we are currently overdue at the 640,000 year mark at the time of this writing. The problem is, scientists have no idea when it will happen, as no human being has experience with a super volcano. It could blow tomorrow, in a week, a hundred years, or a hundred thousand years. Currently, we have no way of knowing when, but we do know that it will happen.
Super Volcano (BBC Documentary)
This is an interesting video documentary by the BBC depicting the situation at Yellowstone National Park
In December of 2008, over a period of just 11 days, 1,000 earthquakes hit an area in Yellowstone that typically average 2000 earthquakes per year. Earthquakes have been reported to be increasing in Yellowstone over the past year, but there is absolutely no way of knowing if these earthquakes are an indication that Yellowstone is planning to erupt, simply because there has never been a similar eruption in recorded history of man. For all we know, this may be nothing more than the regular grumblings that this volcano does every 100 hundred years or so.
Michio Kaku seems to be the resident expert on Yellowstone's sleeping giant known as the Yellowstone Caldera, or Super Volcano. Michio Kaku says 'all you can do is run' regarding the way to survive a super-eruption from this supervolcano. This is not the classic naysayers vs. doomsdayers story based on scripture or writings. This is coming straight from the scientists.
How long have we known about the Yellowstone supervolcano? How long has it been there? When will the next super eruption happen? Scientists have only realized that Yellowstone was a supervolcano as of about 10 years ago, and that the last super-eruption occurred 640,000 years ago. It's still a very new subject for scientists.
To put things in perspective, The force of the Yellowstone supervolcano is projected to be 1000 times more powerful than the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980.
The volcano is expected to have the fastest and most deadly impact on the immediate 150 mile radius from the center of the eruption. This is where pyroclastic flows will wipe out everything in their path from either burns or asphyxiation; nothing will survive. Ash layers are expected to be 10 feet deep up to 1,000 miles away from the eruption. Shortly after the eruption, ash clouds will enter the high altitude winds and make their way towards the eastern seaboard at a rate of approximately 93 miles per day. Eighty percent of the United States will be covered in ash, essentially wiping out all farmland & crops, animals and freshwater in the western and middle United States. In other words, there will be no food. The safest areas will be the eastern coast, western coast, Mexico and Canada, but all will feel the effects of the eruption. The rest of the world will feel the eruption days later once the sulfur covers the entire northern hemisphere, essentially blocking the sun and causing as much as a 20 degree drop in temperature in some areas.
The volcanic ash that will be falling from the sky is made of pulverized rock and glass, and is less than 2 millimetres (0.1 in) in diameter. When ash begins to fall during daylight hours, the sky will turn hazy and pale yellow in color. The daylight may turn gray to pitch black and visibility may be extremely restricted. Expect lots of loud thunder, lightning and the strong smell of sulfur during ashfall. The ash may be small, but it's extremely dense and will likely collapse roofs of most structures, especially if it gets wet.
If it rains, the ash will turn to a slippery mud. Also, in the presence of rain, lightning and ash combine simultaneously and can lead to power outages, communication breakdowns and disorientation.
You do not want to breath this stuff. If it enters the lungs, it will harden like concrete and you will likely face respiratory problems and possible death.
Make no mistake about it. No one will rescue you during or after this catastrophe. No engine will start once the ash gets sucked into them, so there will be no fire trucks, no airplanes, helicopters, no police cars, no FEMA rescue, no Red Cross, nothing. No one will be able to come help you. It will just be you, and the community around you. Expect ash to be as high as 8 feet outside of your home. Expect no help whatsoever.
Power grids will go offline, as no one will be at the power companies to man the plants, so there will be no electricity.
There is no survival guide for super volcanos, so we will have to use a little common sense deduced from what we do know. To survive the Yellowstone Super Volcano, you will need to take shelter as far away from the volcano as possible. The volcanic ash that will be falling from the sky is comprised of pulverized rock and glass, and is less than 2 millimetres (0.1 in) in diameter. It's extremely dense so it will be heavy and far too stressful for houses and buildings, causing many roofs to collapse. You will want to be find shelter in a very, very well built building. Underground would be ideal, but this supports two issues. If underground, the oxygen supply may be cut off by the ash falling above, and if you do have enough oxygen, it may be extremely difficult to exit or surface with the weight of the ash outside or above the door.
It's very easy to survive the initial blast of the volcano. Stay away from the area, and prepare in advance. While there is nothing else that any of us can do about the Super Volcano itself, there are steps we can take to prepare for it.
Volcanic ash particles can only reside in the troposphere for a few weeks. Finer tephra particles remain in the stratosphere for only a few months, which has only minor climate influence. Major climate influence is caused by gaseous sulfur compounds (mainly sulfur dioxide), which reacts with OH and water in the stratosphere to create sulfate aerosols with a residence time of 2 to 3 years. We could expect big swings in temperature. Plus or minus 20 degrees in various parts of the world.
We may be knocked back to the days of yore, where man had to grow his own crops, hunt for his own food; as gatherers and hunters.
Under the worst case scenario (all 25,000km of magma surfacing) you can forget Wall Street. Doesn't exist anymore. Forget war. Can't get to the oil that powers the ships, jets, tanks or factories that make the guns and ammmo. Forget your investments and bank accounts. Money is no longer worth anything. Government collapse is likely and the value of the dollar is zilch. Food and gold are your new commodities.
Forget college education. Schools are shut down. Corporate influence is gone. Your "work experience" is worthless unless you're a farmer. Nothing will operate, so there is no more corporate power. Farmers and survivalists will rule the land. We will all have to come together to survive. We will have to think and behave differently. It will be a new world unlike any we have ever experienced. It's not if it will happen, it's when it will happen. Best of luck to you if it happens during our lifetime. Signing off - Joe Taylor