If the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone erupts, the consequences will be devastating, as ash covers the United States and causes destruction thousands of miles away, according to a paper recently published by a team of scientists studying the site.
As Vox reports, the Yellowstone supervolcano is thousands of times more powerful than a normal volcano and has erupted only three times in the past. One eruption took place 2.1 million years ago, while the other two shook Yellowstone 1.3 million and 664,000 years ago. Though there is no indication that the supervolcano is set to erupt any time soon, a recently published paper is shedding light on exactly what would come to pass if Yellowstone’s slumbering supervolcano actually awoke.
— Matteo Wyllyamz (@mouselink) July 14, 2014
The paper, published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, explored the effects of the eruption and found that several Midwestern states would be utterly buried under a thick layer of ash. Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Colorado could all find themselves beneath as much as three feet of volcanic ejecta, enough to cause buildings to collapse. A mixture of splintered rock and glass, ash from the supervolcano would fall in nearly every corner of the United States. The scientific team studied historical deposits and used advanced modeling to determine that an eruption at Yellowstone would create an umbrella cloud, spewing ash evenly in all directions, a surprising finding.
As Business Insider notes, volcanic ash can cause a myriad of complications. Ejecta from the supervolcano could induce respiratory burns, as well as skin irritation and eye abrasions. Travel would be nearly impossible, as roads become exceedingly difficult to navigate, and air traffic is grounded across the entire country.
Yellowstone: supervolcano eruption would last for ‘many months,’ possibly even ‘years’: http://t.co/6QTp7Cqhtd pic.twitter.com/td7z1nLQlc
— Still_Here (@American_Tundra) July 18, 2014
A super-eruption occurring at Yellowstone and lasting for just a month could have consequences that would effect the global climate for a decade. Volcanic eruptions can emit sulfur aerosols, which reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere and help cool the climate. Though the particles would only be in the atmosphere temporarily, the effects could still be long-ranging.
While earthquake activity is on the rise in Yellowstone, the odds of a super-eruption are comfortably slim, according to the report. The most likely scenario to occur in Yellowstone would resemble the current eruption at Bardarbunga in Iceland. As the Inquisitr has noted, that event is largely contained to producing lava flows in an isolated area. Any lava at Yellowstone would be similarly contained.
“Yellowstone is behaving as it has for the past 140 years,” the USGS said, adding “Odds are very high that Yellowstone will be eruption-free for the coming centuries.”
[Image via Vox]