yellowstone-park
The northeastern part of Yellowstone Caldera, with the Yellowstone River flowing through Hayden Valley and the caldera rim in the distance. Image: ecanadanow

There have been many good studies of Yellowstone National Park in recent years. Most of them have focused on the supervolcano located there, a structure so large that for years it was impossible to say with any certainty just how large it was. It wasn’t until scientists took to the air that they increased their estimates of the size of the caldera.

As technology has moved on, scientists have been able to make more detailed studies of the magma chamber deep underground.

A team at the University of Utah has confirmed a previous study that the magma chamber is a full 2.5 times larger than previously thought.

By measuring seismic waves, Jamie Farrell and his team have ascertained that the chamber runs between three and nine miles below the surface, and it’s 50 miles long and 18 miles wide.

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Just think about that, a pressurized lake of molten lava 50 miles long and 18 miles wide.

The quantity of lava would, according to Farrell, give rise to an eruption that would rank in the top three of the last 2.1 million years.

Yellowstone_Caldera

At Yellowstone and some other volcanoes, some scientists theorize that the earth’s crust fractures and cracks in a concentric or ring-fracture pattern. At some point these cracks reach the magma “reservoir,” release the pressure, and the volcano explodes. The huge amount of material released causes the volcano to collapse into a huge crater—a caldera.” From nps.gov

Mount St Helens erupted on May 18th 1980. You can read more about that here. Here is a summary of the Mount St Helens eruption: (Source)

Summary of May 18, 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens
Volcano
Elevation of summit 9,677 feet before;  8,363 feet after;  1,314 feet removed
Volume removed* 0.67 cubic miles (3.7 billion cubic yards)
Crater dimensions 1.2 miles (east-west);  1.8 miles (north-south);  2,084 feet deep
Crater floor elevation 6,279 feet
Landslide
Area and volume* 23 square miles;  0.67 cubic miles (3.7 billion cubic yards)
Depth of deposit Buried 14 miles of North Fork Toutle River Valley to an average depth of 150 feet (max. depth 600 feet)
Velocity 70 to 150 miles per hour
Lateral Blast
Area covered 230 square miles;  reached 17 miles northwest of the crater
Volume of deposit* 0.046 cubic miles (250 million cubic yards)
Depth of deposit From about 3 feet at volcano to less than 1 inch at blast edge
Velocity At least 300 miles per hour
Temperature As high as 660¡ F (350¡ C)
Energy released 24 megatons thermal energy (7 by blast, rest through release of heat)
Trees blown down 4 billion board feet of timber (enough to build about 300,000 two-bedroom homes)
Lahars
Velocity About 10 to 25 miles per hour (over 50 miles per hour on steep flanks of volcano)
Damaged 27 bridges, nearly 200 homes
Effects on Cowlitz River Reduced carrying capacity at flood stage at Castle Rock from 76,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) to less than 15,000 cfs
Effects on Columbia River Reduced channel depth from 40 to 14 feet;  stranded 31 ships in upstream ports
Eruption Column and Cloud
Height Reached about 80,000 feet in less than 15 minutes
Downwind extent Spread across US in 3 days; circled Earth in 15 days
Volume of ash* 0.26 cubic miles (1.4 billion cubic yards)
Ash fall area Detectable amounts of ash covered 22,000 square miles
Ash fall depth 10 inches at 10 miles downwind (ash and pumice); 1 inch at 60 miles downwind; ¸ inch at 300 miles downwind
Pyroclastic Flows
Area covered 6 square miles; reached as far as 5 miles north of crater
Volume & depth* 0.029 cubic miles (155 million cubic yards); multiple flows 3 to 30 feet thick; cumulative depth of deposits reached 120 feet in places
Velocity Estimated at 50 to 80 miles per hour
Temperature At least 1,300¡ F (700¡ C)
Fatalities
Human 57
Wildlife Countless non-burrowing wildlife in blast area, including about 7,000 big game animals; about 12 million salmon fingerlings in hatcheries
* Volumes are based on uncompacted deposits

[youtube]http://youtu.be/qs9nj9phpeQ[/youtube]

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Bear in mind what you have read and seen in the video, and then try to imagine what that would be like multiplied by 2000. That is the impact that Yellowstone blowing would have.

The volcanic ash would circumnavigate the planet, a global event of an unprecedented scale.

Several hundred square miles around Yellowstone would be annihilated. Ash fall would wipe out animal and plant life for several hundred more square miles, with lesser ash falls coating the entire country. Gases such as sulfur would chemically change in the upper atmosphere turning into sulfur dioxide. This would circle the planet causing acid rain and reflecting the heat radiated from the Sun back out into space. World wide temperatures would drop several degrees resulting in widespread famine.

Water sources would become contaminated and undrinkable.

The very air that we breathe would take years to clear. During that time, millions would die from respiratory illnesses. Volcanic ash has a high amount of silica in it, and once it hits the airways the minute glass shards irritate and lacerate the delicate tissue of the lungs. The ash sets like concrete after it has been inhaled, bringing a slow and painful death to anyone who doesn’t cover their nose and mouth when venturing outside.

Air travel would be affected for months as the ash is so abrasive it can damage the engines of an aircraft.

What is left of the economy would be severely impacted.

It goes without saying that anyone who survives an event such as this is going to have a very different life than they had before the event. Given you are far enough away, having enough food and water to last for at least a year may ensure your survival. In addition with the food supply taking such a hit, heirloom seeds are an absolute necessity, but if you can’t afford them don’t let that stop you buying seeds.

Even hybrid seeds are better than nothing if that’s all you can afford, at least it buys you and your family another growing season.

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Farrel and his team presented their findings at the American Geophysical Fall Meeting.

Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!

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