Everyone's talking about how the volcano lurking under Yellowstone Park could wipe out humanity, but one expert says that's nonsense.
An absolutely massive supervolcano is lurking underneath Yellowstone National Park in the United States, and its eruption could theoretically send humanity back to the Stone Age while wiping out much of life on the planet. But despite reports that suggest the supervolcano could blow at any time, one expert told a news outlet that not only are the odds of that happening incredibly small, but the notion that this volcano threatens humanity’s existence are demonstrably false.
Michael Poland, who is the scientists in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, told RT that the odds of a supereruption in our lifetime or even our grandchildren’s lifetimes are so astronomically tiny that it’s not worth fussing over.
Poland also pointed out that there have been a number of supereruptions in human history that failed to wipe out humanity, including one 74,000 years ago in Indonesia and one 27,000 years ago in New Zealand, which were both larger than the last Yellowstone eruption.
Of course, the loss of life and the total transformation of our planet would be greater considering how many humans are on the Earth today and just how far we’ve advanced, but Poland’s point is that the threat to us posed by Yellowstone is vastly overstated.
“I think the odds of a supereruption in our lifetime, in our children’s lifetimes, in our grandchildren’s lifetimes are astronomically small. I couldn’t even quantify it, it’s not something I’m worried about,” Poland said in the RT report. “I find it strange that Yellowstone is the volcano that’s ‘going to doom humanity.’ One of the things that bothers me about that is that there have been super eruptions when humans have been on the planet. There’ve been two and, in fact, both of those were larger than the last Yellowstone eruption. There was one about 74,000 years ago from Indonesia and there was one 27,000 years ago from New Zealand. Both of those were larger than the last eruption at Yellowstone and humanity survived.”
Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia that describes the supervolcano and its threat to mankind.
The Yellowstone Caldera is a volcanic caldera and supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park in the Western United States, sometimes referred to as the Yellowstone Supervolcano. The caldera and most of the park are located in the northwest corner of Wyoming. The major features of the caldera measure about 34 by 45 miles (55 by 72 km).
The caldera formed during the last of three supereruptions over the past 2.1 million years: the Huckleberry Ridge eruption 2.1 million years ago (which created the Island Park Caldera and the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff); the Mesa Falls eruption 1.3 million years ago (which created the Henry’s Fork Caldera and the Mesa Falls Tuff); and the Lava Creek eruption approximately 630,000 years ago (which created the Yellowstone Caldera and the Lava Creek Tuff).
The last full-scale eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, the Lava Creek eruption which happened approximately 640,000 years ago, ejected approximately 240 cubic miles (1,000 km3) of rock, dust and volcanic ash into the sky.
Geologists are closely monitoring the rise and fall of the Yellowstone Plateau, which has been rising as fast as 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) per year, as an indication of changes in magma chamber pressure.
The upward movement of the Yellowstone caldera floor between 2004 and 2008 — almost 3 inches (7.6 cm) each year — was more than three times greater than ever observed since such measurements began in 1923. From 2004 to 2008, the land surface within the caldera moved upward as much as 8 inches (20 cm) at the White Lake GPS station. By the end of 2009, the uplift had slowed significantly and appeared to have stopped. In January 2010, the USGS stated that “uplift of the Yellowstone Caldera has slowed significantly” and that uplift continues but at a slower pace. The U.S. Geological Survey, University of Utah and National Park Service scientists with the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory maintain that they “see no evidence that another such cataclysmic eruption will occur at Yellowstone in the foreseeable future. Recurrence intervals of these events are neither regular nor predictable.” This conclusion was reiterated in December 2013 in the aftermath of the publication of a study by University of Utah scientists finding that the “size of the magma body beneath Yellowstone is significantly larger than had been thought.” The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory issued a statement on its website stating,
Although fascinating, the new findings do not imply increased geologic hazards at Yellowstone, and certainly do not increase the chances of a ‘supereruption’ in the near future. Contrary to some media reports, Yellowstone is not ‘overdue’ for a supereruption.
Other media reports were more hyperbolic in their coverage.
A study published in GSA Today identified three fault zones that future eruptions are most likely to be centered on. Two of those areas are associated with lava flows aged 174,000–70,000 years, and the third area is a focus of present-day seismicity.