With an Icelandic volcano wreaking havoc across half of Europe, geologists on our home soil are wondering what would happen if Yellowstone decided to blow again. It would not be pretty, according to AFP.
Yellowstone isn’t just any force of nature, it’s a “supervolcano.” When it last erupted — some 640,000 years ago — it was 3,000 times stronger than the 79 A.D. eruption of Pompeii’s Mount Vesuvius. Scientists say it sent about 1,000 cubic kilometers of ash and volcanic rock over the western part of the United States and spread as far as Mexico:
That track record — a major event approximately each 730,000 years — suggests the volcano won’t erupt again for another 90,000 years, though [vulcanologist Bill] Burton noted that there is no real certainty when it comes to volcanic activity.
“You cannot be totally complacent and assume nothing is going to happen,” he said.
For vulcanologists, the key is continued study of the history of individual sites. “The more we know about their past behavior makes you a little more confident about what’s going to happen next,” Burton said.
Although it’s unlikely that Yellowstone will erupt any time soon, when it does, they will be much more than closed airspace to worry about:
“[A] violent eruption at Yellowstone could decimate the population, producing “crop failure (and) water contaminations,” Burton said.
The biggest volcanic eruption in the last two centuries, the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, sent 160 cubic kilometers of volcanic debris into the atmosphere and caused an overall drop in global temperatures for the year — a “year without a summer,” Burton said. The disaster also killed at least 71,000 people.
The eruption of the Toba volcano in Sumatra some 73,000 years ago, an event 1,000 times more powerful than the 1980 Mount St Helens eruption, may even have wiped out most of the human race, according to a theory based on fossil evidence.
Happy Monday morning!