For over a century, tens of millions of visitors have marveled at the natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park, home to the largest concentration of geysers in the world, including the iconic Old Faithful. However, beneath all this beauty lurks a beast.
Visitors may not realize it, but Yellowstone is situated directly above one of the largest volcanic systems on Earth – a supervolcano. For the past two million years, this volcano has erupted roughly every 600,000 years. The last major eruption, which produced a caldera that stretches 80 kilometers by 50 kilometers across the park – two-thirds the size of Prince Edward Island – occurred 640,000 years ago. So, is it overdue for another eruption? There have been disturbing signals…possible warnings of another eruption that have scientists concerned. Recent earthquake swarms, coupled with the increasing size of the magma chamber and the enormous plume of molten rock that liquefies and feeds the chamber underneath Yellowstone, have put scientists on high alert for another possible volcanic eruption.
A super volcanic eruption from Yellowstone would be immense – producing energy equivalent to the detonation of 1,000 nuclear bombs, it would emit one thousand cubic kilometers of ash, which is enough volume to fill the Grand Canyon twice. Supervolcano: Yellowstone’s Fury examines the effect a cataclysmic eruption would have on the world and what could possibly be done to prepare for such a disaster. An eruption on this scale would be the largest natural disaster in recorded history. It could trigger a volcanic winter, kill millions of people and make most of North America uninhabitable. New York University Earth Scientist Michael Rampino warns that, “An eruption like Yellowstone could trigger the end of civilization as we know it.”
For experts, the question is not if there will be another eruption, but when. University of Toronto geologist John Westgate agrees: “There will be a very large-scale supervolcanic eruption from Yellowstone. That’s a fact.” You can watch the CBC NEWS documentary Supervolcano: Yellowstone’s Fury in the YouTube videos below, and if they get pulled you can always watch it at CBC.ca.