Cost of Losing Yellowstone
Although it's a long shot to happen in the next few days, over a longer
period of time, there's a good chance that Yellowstone will blow its top
and the simmering caldera will let rip with Mt. St. Helen's (or greater)
magnitude. I've been watching this sort of out of the corner of one eye
because if or when the Yellowstone Park area goes in any kind of massive
eruption, the impacts on food supplies worldwide will be horrible. The
plume area from Yellowstone covers a good-sized chunk of the Midwest.
Reader reports and items which we have picked up off
news groups are
sounding pretty scary. Areas are being closed off, there are reports of
dead animals and even fish are reported dying off in large numbers.
Against this background, the USGS says there is an increase in
government monitoring, such as a recent news release that says in part:
"In response to notably
increased heat and steam emissions in parts of
Norris Geyser Basin, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory will deploy a
temporary network of seismographs, Global Positioning System (GPS)
receivers, and temperature loggers. The temporary deployment is intended
to document chemical and physical signals that accompany this increased
activity, to identify the underground locations of hydrothermal steam
sources and the relationship of the Norris geyser basin to the
background general seismicity, and crustal deformation of the
Yellowstone caldera. It may also detect any precursory signals to geyser
eruptions and hydrothermal explosions.
A reader sends in this interesting compilation, which augments
reports we have had: "fish are floating dead in the streams, and the
lake is closed. A very strong smell of H2SO4 (sulfur). People were
leaving due to smell --- He also mentioned that the Seismo sites had
been shut down" and "there is a large dead zone of animals and
vegetation. Immediately outside this dead zone, vegetation has stopped
growing and animals are migrating out of the area.
New geysers and mud pots are springing up daily. You can
the ground bulging up, not only at Yellowstone Lake, but in several
places in the park".
worse than we thought --The husband of my daughter's
social studies teacher is staying at the Crow Reservation in Montana,
100 miles from Yellowstone. He said that over and above everything we
have heard to date (which he says is absolutely true), there is a large
dead zone of animals and vegetation. Immediately outside this dead zone,
vegetation has stopped growing and animals are migrating out of the
area. New geysers and mud pots are springing up daily. You can
physically see the ground bulging up, not only at Yellowstone Lake, but
in several places in the park. They have closed more areas to the public
than is being reported. There are several areas where the ground
temperature tops 200 degrees. And earthquakes are becoming a daily
Well, you might want to bookmark the Yellowstone recent quakes map at
http://www.seis.utah.edu/req2webdir/recenteqs/index.html so you won't
have to search for it if the area pops off shortly.
other thing to consider is how the economy of Wyoming and the
surrounding states will do should the area become explosively active.
Yellowstone tourism and trade contributes directly about 15% of Wyoming
economic activity. A series of major quakes, explosions, and volcanic
activity could put this event in the class of a "supervolcano". As one
post I found put it:
Yellowstone goes off again, and it will, it will be a disaster for
the United States and eventually, for the whole world. We volcanologists
believe it would all begin with the magma chamber becoming unstable.
Observations would begin by seeing bigger earthquakes, greater uplifting
as magma intrudes and gets nearer and nearer the surface. An earthquake
may send a rupture through a brittle layer similar to breaking the lid
off a pressure cooker. This would generate sheets of magma, which will
perhaps rise up to 30, 40 or 50 kilometers sending gigantic amounts of
debris into the atmosphere. Pyroclastic flows would cover the whole
region, killing tens of thousands of people in the surrounding area.
ash carried in the atmosphere and deposited over vast areas of the
United States would have devastating effects. A plume of material that
goes up into the atmosphere, globally, from the eruption would produce
the climatic effects. This would spread worldwide and have a cooling
effect that would most likely destroy the growing season on a global
As Dr. Ted Nield, of the Geological
Society of London, stated once,
"When a supervolcano goes off, it is an order of magnitude greater than
a normal eruption. It produces energy equivalent to an impact with a
comet or an asteroid." "You can try diverting an asteroid, but there is
nothing at all you can do about a supervolcano."
eruption will throw out cubic kilometers of rock, ash, dust, sulfur
dioxide and so on into the upper atmosphere, where it will reflect
incoming solar radiation, forcing down temperatures on the earth's
surface. It would be the equivalent of a nuclear winter. The effects
would last for four or five years with crops failing and the whole
ecosystem breaking down."