Yellowstone volcano not likely to erupt soon

Christiaan Patterson

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Natural disasters such as the volcano erupting in Hawaii and the earthquake in Japan seem to be increasing in occurance, causing some to believe catastrophe is just around the corner.

One such disaster some people are concerned about is the eruption of a supervolcano called the Yellowstone Caldera located beneath Yellowstone National Park. This calamity is as probable as an asteroid over two miles wide crashing into us. Therefore, panic is not necessary.

First of all, there is a difference between a volcano and a supervolcano. The main distinction is the amount of magma that would flow out of the earth. According to the United States Geological Survey, if a volcano erupts more than 240 cubic miles of lava engulfing the surrounding area, it’s a super volcano.

Add to this a volcanic feature called a caldera, which then makes the volcano one of the most dangerous on earth. Calderas resemble an inverted volcano and have magma chambers under so much pressure from built-up gases that cracked rings form toward the exterior of the volcano. When an eruption occurs, large pyroclastic clouds relieve pressure beneath the magma chamber and once all initial pressure is exerted, the chamber collapses and the magma rises upward.

Volcanic experts say the Yellowstone Caldera is one of the largest on the planet. Other large calderas also considered to be supervolcanoes exist in Long Valley, California, Taupo, New Zealand and Toba, Indonesia.

Attention had not been fully given to this situation until the BBC and the Discovery Channel aired a docudrama in 2005 about what could happen if the Yellowstone Caldera blew. It explained how the last major eruption there happened about 630,000 years ago and emphasized that we are long overdue.

The United States Geological Survey responded to the program saying the facts and future projections were accurate. However, an eruption of magnitude 8 or greater is highly improbable in our lifetime or even the next five to 10 generations.

Many people feed off chaos and negative events and the makers of this docudrama tapped into this in an effort to increase ratings and make money. It definitely preys on this fear to get us to wake up and pay attention, even when immediate action is not necessary.

Yellowstone National Park is surrounded by seismometers and observed from space by GPS satellite. Using these instruments, scientists are able to monitor earthquake activity and any other movement of the ground enabling authorities to issue warnings when an eruption is imminent.

A sudden explosion without any forewarning is almost impossible. When a volcano erupts, certain changes occur around it, whether its gas emissions, frequent quakes or changes in mountain size.