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A Beautiful and Deadly Place

Why A Yellowstone Eruption Would Change The World...

By Jason Ray Morton Published 3 years ago 3 min read
A Beautiful and Deadly Place
Photo by Nicolasintravel on Unsplash

Ever since I can remember, I have been an avid movie buff. However, some movies make a person think, whether they want to or not. Some of my favorite movies are, like a lot of guys, from the action genre. Of those, over the past twenty-five years, there's been a string of apocalyptic movies that were, we hope, only loosely based on the real-life possibilities about our extinction. From the movie Armageddon, all the way to 2012, movie fans have gone to pay money for the privilege of enjoying cautionary tales of things to come. Perhaps none of those movies were so startling to watch as the aforementioned 2012.

If you have been living under a rock for the past, well forever, then you might not know that Yellowstone National Park is actually a quite active supervolcano. Sure, you can go visit the park and you probably won't see any volcanoes around. When you do go visit, look down. The entire park is actually a volcano. Old faithful and the bubbling hot springs are all an indication of the never-ending activity churning below your feet. For Yellowstone to be classified as a Supervolcano, that means that on the VEI, or Volcanic Explosivity Index, Yellowstone scores an eight. Which, for those of us that aren't into geology or the sciences, means that it would be an eruption of at least 250 cubic miles of magma coming up out of the ground.

What that would look like is anyone's guess. The last such events occurred between 2.1 million years ago and 640,000 years ago. It's believed by the experts in the field of geology that the last eruption would have been about 2,500 times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State. I remember seeing the images of Mt. St. Helens as it was erupting, my mom calling me into the living room and showing them to me as a kid. We talked about volcanoes at school that day. When you're eight years old you don't understand or fathom the sure power and destructive capacity of such things. How could you?

Ash Radius of a Yellowstone Caldera eruption.

Should the Yellowstone Caldera erupt with the force it is capable of the effects of the eruption would be catastrophic. In just the United States, the Ash would be blanketed from coast to coast. It's the initial blast radius that would prove to be the most deadly. Yellowstone could release the equivalent of an 875,000 megaton explosion. If you're having a hard time fathoming that level of a catastrophic disaster, it's because it's unfathomable. In modern times it simply hasn't happened. To put it into context, 1 megaton is the equivalent of one million tons of TNT. So, the Yellowstone National Park, a place visited by thousands of people a year and one of the most beautiful places in the world, is for all intents and purposes, an 875 Billion-Ton Bomb. Try sleeping with that. Hiroshima, in the 1940s, was in all reality, approximately 1.2 million tons. So we're talking about 800,000 times the strength of the nukes used near the end of WWII.

Within a relatively short period of time between ninety and one-hundred thousand people would be dead just from the blast of the volcano alone. The fallout would be deadly over the long term as ash blankets the US with areas such as Salt Lake City being covered by up to a meter in the toxic debris. This wouldn't be instantaneous, however. In 2016 there was a study done that scientists believe shows the cloud of ash would move outwards at a rate of between ten and forty-four miles an hour. So, if you're closer to the center of the country or to the park area, have a full tank of gas and hope for clear highways.

The respiratory problems would cause even more fatalities and serious illnesses to flood the hospitals. So, hold onto those pandemic face masks, just in case. Two hundred million tons of sulfur dioxide would surround the planet after being launched into the stratosphere. For a decade the temperatures would cool on earth. Airline travel would be grounded because of the thick ash in the air, and as nobody has seen it happen, it's impossible to tell with any accuracy how long that would take to get back to normal.

Yellowstone is truly a nightmare scenario. It's something that may happen one day as some say it's overdue for its next explosion. Let's keep our fingers crossed the old girl stays calm for generations to come.

Mt. Saint Helens


About the Creator

Jason Ray Morton

I have always enjoyed writing and exploring new ideas, new beliefs, and the dreams that rattle around inside my head. I have enjoyed the current state of science, human progress, fantasy and existence and write about them when I can.

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