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Warning sign of eruption: 222 earthquake across the Yellowstone park

Alexander Alexeenko - 04.03.20

Over the past year, geologists have been discussing the increasing activity of the Toba supervolcano, located in Indonesia. 75 thousand years ago, it almost ruined the whole mankind, now it's ready to wake up again: magma accumulates under it. The Ring of Fire (also known as the Rim of Fire or the Circum-Pacific belt) includes Toba supervolcano and Yellowstone as well. In case if one of The Ring of Fire volcanos will erupt, others can lose stability and process, leading to activate eruption can easily start. In February USGS registered 222 earthquakes across The Yellowstone park.


What is happening now?

There are about 20 supervolcanoes on the Earth — volcanoes that can change the climate on our planet. One of them is located in Yellowstone National Park (USA). Saying that this is not an ordinary phenomenon, but a giant hollow 72 × 55 km in size, formed as a result of several strong eruptions. Huge chambers with incandescent magma are located beneath it at a depth of many kilometers.

The last gigantic eruption of the Yellowstone Super Volcano happened 640 thousand years ago. This can happen at any time. This was one of the signs of the impending cataclysm. Three years ago, geologists studied the fossil remains of volcanic ash, warned: geothermal processes in magmatic bubbles occur much faster than previously thought.

In the fall 2019, a group of scientists from the United States and Germany recorded the rise of magma under the Yellowstone Caldera. The vertical flow of magma, stretching from the core of the Earth for thousands kilometers. Researchers are puzzled by the behavior of a geyser called “Steamboat Geyser” — by the way, the largest one. He did not show any activity at all. He began to erupt in 1991. The number of these cases has increased dramatically. And if in 2018 “Steamboat” flew into the sky 32 times, then in 2019 — 47 times! The power of the fountain is also increasing: now water rises to a height of 100 m. This is due to numerous problems leading to awaken a supervolcano.


What are the consequences of the disaster?

The US Geological Survey modeled several years ago the course of events in case of volcano explosion. The consequences of this event are comparable to a full-scale nuclear war. According to volcanologists, 100 thousand people will die immediately from an explosion or suffocation. Thousands of cubic kilometers of volcanic ash will be thrown out to the atmosphere, which means “volcanic winter” and a global cooling of 10-20 ° C is quite possible. In northern countries, the infrastructure will not be able to cope with extreme frosts. But the greatest damage will be done to the densely populated countries of Southeast Asia. Due to crop failures there will be nothing to eat.

In the worst case scenario, “volcanic winter” will last four years. A meter-thick layer of ash will cover the area around the caldera at a distance of 500 km. Waves of hot ash can reach the east coast of the country, covering up the cities and roads.

When this will happen?

Geologists, volcanologists and other specialists cannot come to their senses about when to expect the next super-eruption of Yellowstone. Optimists estimate the probability of a cataclysm in the modern period as negligible: 0.00014%. Pessimists recall that such events do not have regularity. Chance of upcoming eruption: 10%.


Scientists argue about the frequency with which the Yellowstone supervolcano reaches to a boiling point. It is proved that its gigantic eruptions occur every 600-800 thousand years, and therefore "hour X" is close. The most popular point of view was expressed by American professor Ronald Smith, speaking at the University of Utah Dixie: "This may well happen in 500 thousand years, or maybe a week after Tuesday."

US Geological Survey suggests that this will not be a volcanic eruption, but a hydrothermal one. Not only incandescent magma mixed with ash and poisonous gases will escape out of the earth’s surface, but just hot water, steam and some chemical compounds. The USGS has a king of a “cooling” project for the Yellowstone Super Volcano: it involves the construction of a large geothermal power station on it. It is planned to drill wells to a depth of 10 km, pump water into them and get steam back for turbines rotating electric generators. But, if during the construction the shell of the underground chamber, saturated with magma and gases, will be damage, the volcano can explode much earlier than the scientists assume.

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