America’s Ticking Time Bomb
The Yellowstone Super-volcano or by its scientific name the Yellowstone Caldera is located in the Yellowstone National Park. The exact caldera location is acutely located in the northwest corner of the park in Wyoming, and this is where the vast majority of the park is contained. The size of the Super Volcano measures an astounding 34 by 45 miles and is static even though the tectonic plates move over or under it.
- Yellowstone park
- What is a Super Volcano or Caldera and how are they formed?
- How dangerous is the Yellowstone super volcano?
- Are there any signs that this super volcano will erupt in the near future?
Most of the park sits over a hotspot where light, hot, molten mantle rock rises towards the surface, causing water geysers to erupt spectacularly. The most famous of these is the water geyser “Old Faithful” which erupts so regularly, park rangers say they can acutely set there watches by it. While this hotspot is now completely under the Yellowstone Plateau it has in the past, helped to create the eastern Snake River Plain through a series of huge volcanic eruptions, caused by the movement of the tectonic plates. If you could have stood on top of the “Rocky Mountains” and stayed there for the past 18 million years and looked at the area below, it would have appeared to you that the hotspot seemed to move across the terrain, in an east-northeast direction. This is not the case it is just an illusion, in-fact the “Yellowstone hotspot” is much deeper than the actual terrain and remains stationary, while the North American Plate moves west-southwest over it.
What is a Super Volcano or Caldera and how are they formed?
The forming of a Caldera or Super Volcano is one of the most violent natural eruptions on earth. These eruptions empty their stores of magma so quickly, that they cause the overlying land to collapse into the emptied magma chamber. This then forms a geographic depression called a caldera. These calderas formed from explosive super-eruptions can be as wide and deep as mid- to large-sized lakes and can be responsible for destroying mountain ranges completely. It was one of these violent explosions that formed the Yellowstone park a deep depression in the middle of the rocky mountain range.
How dangerous is the Yellowstone super volcano?
The Yellowstone Super volcano is responsible for spawning three super eruptions in what is, in geological terms a very short period of time. The first super eruption occurred 2.1 million years ago forming the Island Park Caldera. The second happened 1.3 million years ago forming the Henry's Fork Caldera and the most recent happened 640,000 years ago forming the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff. The largest of these massive eruptions was the the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff, this single eruption produced more than 2,500 times as much ash as the 1980 Mount St. Helen's eruption. So to answer the above question “How dangerous is the Yellowstone super volcano?”
The answer is simple, "very" as it sits on top of all three of these super volcanoes. In other words if one erupts they all erupt killing everything in the norther part of the Americas and the massive dust cloud resulting from this eruption would affect the whole world. It is calculated that an eruption of this magnitude would plunge the earth back into the dark-ages. This can be measured by the last full-scale eruption of the Yellowstone Super volcano which happened nearly 640,000 years ago. This eruption ejected approximately 240 cubic miles of rock, dust and volcanic ash into the sky plunging the earth into almost dankness for years.
Are there any signs that this super volcano will erupt in the near future?
The Yellowstone caldera is moving at what some say is an alarming rate. Between 2004 and 2008 the surface of the park was rising by almost 3 inches every year, this was more than three times greater than ever observed since such measurements began in 1923. Overall from mid-summer 2004 through mid-summer 2008, the land surface within Yellowstone park moved upwards by as much as 8 inches. This rise we have been told has slowed slightly since then, but super volcanoes are so unpredictable scientists are not ruling out the fact, that the “American ticking time bomb” could possibly explode within our current lifetime.
Credits: My thanks to Wikipedia and Britannica in help with my research and pictures.