When it comes to worrying over impending catastrophic events, the threat of a third World War definitely high on a lot of people’s radar.
However, according to scientists NASA, there is actually something that is a much bigger threat to our planet than another World War, or a potential nuclear war, or even an asteroid impact. That something is literally lurking right beneath our feet – supervolcanoes.
With approximately 20 so-called supervolcanoes scattered around the world as we speak, NASA says that an eruption of just one of those volcanoes could be a bigger threat to the human race than any asteroid.
Fortunately, though, the space agency has a hatched a plan to prevent that from happening.
Hidden beneath Yellowstone National Park in the U.S., the Yellowstone Caldera is an enormous crater-like depression measuring 30 miles by 45 miles and is filled with red-hot magma.
If it were to explode in a super-eruption, experts say that it would spew out hundreds of cubic miles of molten material, obliterating everything within 60 miles. The ash from the explosion would leave the state of Wyoming and surrounding states covered with three feet of volcanic debris.
But, the devastation wouldn’t end there. The dust and gases released by that kind of an eruption would blot out enough sun to wipe out crops and plunge the world into an ice age that could last for decades and kill millions.
While scientists maintain it is unlikely to happen in anybody’s lifetime, they do believe it is going to happen sooner or later. The last supervolcano eruption happened about 74,000 years ago, and the most recent, 640,000 years ago, so it does appear we are due for another eruption.
Having said that, NASA has created a plan to defuse the explosive potential that the Yellowstone Caldera possesses.
Dr. Brian Wilcox, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California recently spoke on what could be done with NBC News.
“The primary objective … is to gradually defang Yellowstone as a threat to humanity,” he stated, before adding, “Even though it’s unlikely to happen in anybody’s given lifetime, it will eventually happen. One of these things is going to blow, and it’s going to be devastating.”
Wilcox, along with his colleagues, believes they can significantly lower the risk in Yellowstone by drilling into the hot rock near the huge crater’s magma chamber. The operation would have to begin several miles outside the park.
The team believes that by siphoning heat from the caldera and converting the geothermal energy into electricity, they may be able to prevent an eruption altogether.
Water would be pumped through the borehole into the hot rock. When it returns to the surface, the temperature of that water would be more than 600 degrees Fahrenheit. This water would then be used to drive turbines and generate electric power.
When cooled, the water could be pumped back underground to subtract more heat.
While they aren’t about to descend on Yellowstone any time in the near future, the team hope that the idea will spark discussion regarding the threat of supervolcanoes.
“Keeping these volcanoes from devastating the human food supply and causing the deaths of 99 percent of all of humanity, that seems like a worthwhile thing to debate,” Wilcox added.
[Featured Image by Salvatore Allegra/AP Images]