- Posted January 26, 2011 by
Watertown, New York
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Yellowstone Has Bulged as Magma Pocket Swells
"Underground Yellowstone ‘supervolcano’ causing earth to rise in some spots
"It's like something one of those disaster movie trailers with a basso profundo voiceover:
Man, or perhaps woman, on a family vacation takes in the breathtaking scope of nature found in Yellowstone National Park--only to see the earth beneath their feet violently explode. Will our hero and his or her family be swallowed in the molten horror of -- "Supervolcano"?
But this scenario isn't the stuff of Hollywood fantasy--scientists caution that there's a chance that Yellowstone could blow. One day, anyway.
Yes, there apparently exists an underground volcano whose past eruptions -- the last one estimated at some 640,000 years ago -- have been, according to National Geographic, "a thousand times more powerful than Mount St. Helens's 1980 eruption."
The supervolcano lurks a few miles underground and spreads out across an area roughly the size of Los Angeles.
But here's the best part: It's taking deep "breaths," as the magazine puts it, causing miles of ground around it to rise dramatically.
Full story By Brett Michael Dykes :
"There are volcanoes, and then there are supervolcanoes. The latter have no agreed-on definition—the term was popularized in a BBC documentary in 2000—but some scientists use it to describe explosions of exceptional violence and volume.
The U.S. Geological Survey applies the term to any eruption ejecting more than 1,000 cubic kilometers (240 cubic miles) of pumice and ash in a single event—more than 50 times the size of the infamous Krakatau eruption of 1883, which killed more than 36,000 people.
Volcanoes form mountains; supervolcanoes erase them. Volcanoes kill plants and animals for miles around; supervolcanoes threaten whole species with extinction by changing the climate across the entire planet.
"We call this a caldera at unrest," Smith says. "The net effect over many cycles is to finally get enough magma to erupt. And we don't know what those cycles are."
So, the colossal question: Is it going to blow again? Some kind of eruption—perhaps a modest one like Mount Pinatubo's in the Philippines, which killed 800 people in 1991—is highly likely at some point.
The odds of a full, caldera-forming eruption—a cataclysm that could kill untold thousands of people and plunge the Earth into a volcanic winter—are anyone's guess; it could happen in our lifetimes, or 100,000 years or more from now, or perhaps never.
Bob Christiansen, now retired, suspects the supervolcano may be safely bottled up. For most of its history, the Yellowstone hot spot has formed calderas in the thin crust of the Basin and Range area of the American West.
Now the hot spot is lodged beneath a much thicker crust at the crest of the Rockies.
"I think that the system has more or less equilibrated itself," says Christiansen. Then he quickly adds, "But that's an interpretation that would not stand up in court."
Read the entire article: