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What If the Yellowstone Supervolcano Erupts – Would the World be Destroyed?


Although fears of a Yellowstone volcanic blast go viral every few years, there are better things to worry about than a catastrophic supereruption exploding from the bowels of Yellowstone National Park.

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Yellowstone Volcano Observatory always pooh-pooh these worrisome memes, but that doesn’t mean researchers are ignoring the possible consequences of a supereruption. Along with forecasting the damage, scientists constantly monitor the region for signs of molten rock tunneling underground. Scientists scrutinize past supereruptions, as well as smaller volcanic blasts, to predict what would happen if the Yellowstone Volcano did blow.

Here’s a deeper look at whether Yellowstone’s volcano would fire up a global catastrophe.

Most of Yellowstone National Park sits inside three overlapping calderas. The shallow, bowl-shaped depressions formed when an underground magma chamber erupted at Yellowstone. Each time, so much material spewed out that the ground collapsed downward, creating a caldera. The massive blasts struck 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 640,000 years ago. These past eruptions serve as clues to understanding what would happen if there was another Yellowstone megaexplosion. [Yellowstone and Yosemite: Two of the World’s Oldest National Parks (Photos)]

If a future supereruption resembles its predecessors, then flowing lava won’t be much of a threat. The older Yellowstone lava flows never traveled much farther than the park boundaries, according to the USGS. For volcanologists, the biggest worry is wind-flung ash. Imagine a circle about 500 miles (800 kilometers) across surrounding Yellowstone; studies suggest the region inside this circle might see more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) of ash on the ground, scientists reported Aug. 27, 2014, in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

The ash would be pretty devastating for the United States, scientists predict. The fallout would include short-term destruction of Midwest agriculture, and rivers and streams would be clogged by gray muck.

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