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Community Comment

Yellowstone about to blow?

Good morning, Netizens…


Scientists are closely monitoring a series of micro-quakes deep beneath Lake Yellowstone in Yellowstone Park. Hundreds of small earthquakes at Yellowstone National Park in recent weeks serves as a not-too-subtle reminder that beneath the famous geysers and photogenic landscape one of the world’s biggest volcanoes has been slumbering for eons. It erupted several times before man walked the earth, hurling ash as far as the Eastern Seaboard.


The U.S. Geological Survey (http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2103&from=rss_home) and the National Park Service both have issued press releases stating that no evacuations have been ordered, and there is no great cause for concern.





According to one of their sources, the odds of a cataclysmic eruption at Yellowstone any time soon are quite remote, about the same as a large meteorite hitting the earth. The last time Lake Yellowstone’s caldera blew its stack was about 640,000 years ago. The last eruption of any kind at Yellowstone was a much-smaller lava flow, which took place about 70,000 years ago.


However, before you dismiss the potential calamity entirely, I hasten to point out the USGS public statements that were made about Mount Saint Helens when the earthquakes deep beneath its summit were first felt. They were reassuring then, too. The USGS was unsuccessful at predicting an eruption then and probably still are today.


Some theoretical things to consider:


We would see such a major eruption at Yellowstone from here. The ash plume, much like Mount St. Helens, could easily reach five or ten miles into the atmosphere. Due to predominantly-easterly winds, we probably wouldn’t get another ashfall in Spokane, but we would have a ringside seat to watch the show.


We might even feel the earthquakes here. Although the likelihood of damage is slim to none, it is unquestionable that our local seismographic equipment would register the presence of a large earthquake beneath Yellowstone. Of course, on the other hand, a major quake beneath Yellowstone could trigger earthquakes in our local tectonic zone.


A major cataclysmic event at Yellowstone could severely impact our nation’s grain belt in the Midwest. If you look at the post-eruption pictures from Saint Helens, you can see the horrific damage it did as far as 50 miles away. The caldera beneath Lake Yellowstone is considerably larger than Saint Helens by a factor of perhaps 10. Historically, ash from Yellowstone once traveled as far as what is now Louisiana; thus it seems likely it could conceivably destroy crops in the Midwest.


Run for the hills! Yellowstone is going to blow! Well, maybe not.


Dave



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