Introduction: “I don’t think visitors appreciate that they’re standing directly on top of the largest, most dynamic magmatic system on the planet,” says geologist Daniel Dzurisin. Yellowstone is easily one of the biggest volcanoes in the world, and one of the few super volcanoes on continental crust. The extreme ways of this volcano, is what makes it unique. Because of its tectonic setting, there are many hazards involved, as well as potential for damage. The history of this volcano explains that, and other super volcanoes help explain what could potentially happen when Yellowstone finally does erupt.
Tectonic Setting: To begin, the tectonic setting of north western Wyoming explains a lot about Yellowstone. The crust underneath Yellowstone is restless. There are some major faults along the Teton, Madison and Gallatin Ranges that pass through Yellowstone; these all existed before the volcano was there. The North American plate is the biggest plate that Yellowstone is interacting with. There is a divergent boundary along where Yellowstone and the North American plate meet.
The most apparent faults in Yellowstone are as follows; the Minor Plateau Faults younger section, Post – Lava Creek faults in North Western Yellowstone, Mallard Lake resurgent dome faults, Elephant Back fault zone, and Sour Creek dome faults. Main Hazard: Equally important, Yellowstone has many main hazards. Yellowstone is a super volcano. The difference between a normal volcano and a super volcano is not very obvious until you look at the inside structure. A normal volcano typically has a single column of magma that comes from within the earth.
It breaks through the top of the mountain and spews out the entire column. A super volcano is quite a bit different though. A super volcano begins with a column of magma, but instead of breaking through the surface it stays underground. The magma then starts heating the crust and slowly begins to mix with it. This makes the magma really thick. Since the magma is trapped under the earth’s surface, the volcanic gases are also on lock. The pressure of the gasses and magma under the surface of the earth is colossal and continues to build over thousands of years.
When the earth’s crust cannot take the pressure anymore, it breaks. The volcano erupts and the blast is hundreds of times more powerful than that of a normal volcano. Yellowstone happens to be really big too. It is 2,805m tall and rises at a rate of about 7cm/year. Risks Associated with Main Hazard: Fires: There are many risks associated with Yellowstone. To begin, fires are a pretty common thing in Yellowstone. The weather in Yellowstone is pretty interesting. There is lots of rain, and where there is rain there is lighting. The poor soil in Yellowstone results in the plants being pretty dry.
When the rainstorms happen, the lighting usually hits something and causes fires. Earthquakes: Another example of a risk is earthquakes. Earthquakes are a pretty regular thing in Yellowstone. Not all of the earthquakes are devastating but many happen all the time. In February 2012, the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, recorded 34 earthquakes. The largest of those earthquakes was a 1. 6 magnitude. The biggest recorded earthquake recorded in Yellowstone was a 7. 5 magnitude in 1959. Deadly Gasses: Equally important, deadly gasses are extremely hazardous in Yellowstone.
Most of the gasses in Yellowstone are released in geysers. Two thirds of the world’s geysers are in Yellowstone national park (Secret). Because of the extreme climates in Yellowstone, animals typically seek warmth by the volcano. The volcanic gasses that come from Yellowstone are heavy and stay low to the ground. This usually results in animals seeking warmth followed by basically inhaling poison, which causes them to die. Ash Fall: To continue, ash fall is extremely dangerous in the case of Yellowstone. Yellowstone’s ash fall covers a huge radius.
If Yellowstone were to erupt right now, the ash would shoot up into the atmosphere and travel around the earth in a cloud several times before settling. The eruption that occurred 650,000 years ago shot ash into the stratosphere (Secret). The Great Plains of the United States would also be covered almost immediately. Potential for Property Damage: In addition, potential for property damage is something incredibly difficult for some people to realize. Let us say, for example, that Yellowstone was to erupt today; who would be affected, and how badly would it affect them?
Well, to begin, Wyoming and its surrounding states would be incinerated instantly (Yellowstone is a Super Volcano? ). After one gets past the fact that Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska will be gone, it is to wonder what will come next. Potential for Loss of Life: Following this, potential for loss of life is a very scary thing for some people. The Great Plains have been called “The Bread Basket of the World”. So without it, many people would go hungry. If Yellowstone was to erupt today, ash would cover the entire United States, including the Great Plains.
The hard part is one cannot save the crops when they are covered in inches and feet of ash. A plentiful amount of people will go hungry. If this is not enough to realize the effects of Yellowstone, all the gasses that will be released with the eruption will help clear it up a little better. Yellowstone will release many harmful gasses into the stratosphere. The one of the more plentiful gasses is sulfur dioxide. When sulfur dioxide gets into the stratosphere it will turn into sulfuric acid aerosols. Basically, this means that earth’s climate will change drastically and will be affected for years.
This could affect the farming season, which would make growing food nearly impossible. Not only that, but based on other volcanos and historical occurrences, Yellowstone could easily wipe out the entire population of the world. Historical Occurrences: To continue, Yellowstone has had some cataclysmic eruptions in the past. These eruptions have occurred only three times; 2, 1. 3, and . 6 million years ago. Each of these eruptions have altered the earth forever. When a super volcano erupts, a huge crater, or caldera, is formed. These can be many miles wide and hundreds of meters deep.
To give you a better idea of how big this really is, the first eruption that occured about 2 million years ago, left a depression in the ground bigger than Rhode Island. The three eruptions that Yellowstone had, were more powerful than any other eruptions in recorded history (Yellowstone is a Super Volcano? ). The eruption that occured roughly 650,000 years ago was one of the biggest eruptions ever recorded in history. Ash, pumice, and gasses from the volcano basically swept across more than 3,000 square miles. The amount of ash that fell was enough to cover the entire United States with 5 inches, or all of Wyoming with 13 feet.
Ash deposits from Yellowstone’s 650,000 year ago eruption are still being found in the Gulf of Mexico (Yellowstone is a Super Volcano? ). Similar Events in Other Locations Around The World: On the other hand, a similar, but different super volcano Yellowstone can be compared to, is Toba. Toba is located on the island of Sumeria in Indonesia. Toba is also on the same type of boundary that Yellowstone is on. The only difference is Toba is a way smaller super volcano, and it erupted about 70,000 years ago. When Toba erupted, only about 5 or 10 thousand people survived. (Yellowstone is a Super Volcano? . Another volcano Yellowstone can be compared to, is Mount. St. Helens. In 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted. The explosion from Yellowstone 650,000 years ago was 1,000 times greater than that eruption in 1980. Potential for Occurrence in The Next 50 Years: However, there is a pretty good possibility Yellowstone will erupt in the next 50 years. Scientists have predicted that Yellowstone is subject to erupt every 600,000 years. The last eruption occurred about 650,000 years ago. This means Yellowstone is 50,000 years overdue. Not only that, but as of 2008, the magma was less 10km below the caldera.
If Yellowstone is rising at a rate of 7 or more centimeters a year, Yellowstone will be erupting in no time at all (Thanks). Conclusion: Clearly, Yellowstone is extremely dangerous to the populace. The entire world will be affected if Yellowstone were to erupt today. Because of the tectonic, as well as the geological setting, each and every inch of the world will experience changes to the climate, food, and life as it is today. Yellowstone, being one of the few super volcanoes above sea level, is incredibly dangerous, and will be outrageously tragic. Work Cited
Marshal, Jessica. “Pulse reveals breathing heart of a super volcano. ” New Scientist 189. 2541 (2006): 11. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 3 Mar. 2012. . Moravianhawk. “What kind of fault does Yellowstone Caldera have?. ” Yahoo Answers. Yahoo, 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2012. . Secret Yellowstone. Dir. Brian Armstrong. National Geographic. 2007. “Thanks for the lift. ” American Scientist 96. 1 (2008): 27. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 3 Mar. 2012. . Topinka, Lyn. “CVO Website – Yellowstone Caldera, Wyoming. ” USGS cascades Volcano Observitory (CVO). N. p. 25 June 2009. Web. 3 Mar. 2012. . “Wyoming Quaternary Faults. ” USGS. U. S. Department of the Interior, 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2012. . “Yellowstone National Park Earthquakes. ” Yellowstone Net – Yellowstone National Park Lodging, Hotel, Wildlife Information and More. Bruce Gourley, Russ Finley, & Tim Gourley, n. d. Web. 3 Mar. 2012. . “Yellowstone is a Supervolcano?. ” Suburban Emergency Management Project. SEMP INC. 2007. Web. 3 Mar 2012. . “Yellowstone Volcano Observitory. ” Volcano Hazards Program. U. S. Department of the Interior. 24 Jan. 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2012. .