In Wyoming, there is a code everyone lives by, and that is the code of the west. The Equality state is home to 563,626 people. In the northern corner of this state, you will find one of the world’s most famous national park: Yellowstone.
In Yellowstone National Park you will find some of the world’s most endangered species. It’s home to the gray wolf, the American bison, the elk and many more iconic animals. The famous geyser Old Faithful can also be found in the park.
At first glance Wyoming looks like a wonderful place that’s filled with open-minded people, rodeos, and majestic wildlife. But all is not what it seems; hidden in plain sight, right under the noses of the grazing bison, lies the nightmares of nightmares: a super volcano.
A vast majority of Yellowstone National Park is a super volcano, but scientists prefer to call it a caldera. A caldera is a volcanic feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption; they are usually confused with volcanic craters.
As you can see in the satellite photo taken by NASA, the caldera covers more than 1,300 square miles. Now before I get into the frightening stuff, I would like to take a little time to discuss the history of another volcano that has made its mark in history and would do this column a great deal of justice.
I first learned of Krakatau when I read Simon Winchester’s book, “The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883”. Winchester is a British author, journalist, and geologist. In 1883, the island exploded; scientists at the time put the death toll over 40,000 people, although some estimates put the death toll much higher.
The eruption was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT– about 13,000 times the power of the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II and about four times the power of the Tsar Bomb a (50 Mt), the largest nuclear device ever detonated.
The eruption also holds the title for the loudest sound made in modern, recorded history. In his book, Winchester says the explosion could be faintly heard over 3,000 miles away, and it was the most violent eruption in recorded history.
To top it off, it generated massive earthquakes and tsunamis that destroyed hundreds of surrounding villages.
Scientists predict a similar nightmare would happen if Yellowstone decided to erupt for the first time in 600,000 years. But what does any of this have to do with 2012? Well, that’s simple.
And the Hotspot
When some people imagine the end of the world, they imagine two scenarios: the world ending in fire is probably the most popular, but there is always the world ending in water or ice, in the form of a great flood or snowstorm.
Fortunately for fence sitters, the eruption offers both, plus a bonus! The Magma chamber located under Yellowstone rises 30 miles before spanning out over 300 miles. So, what would that look like exploding out of the ground?
It would explode with a force a thousand times more powerful than the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. It would spew lava far into the sky and create a cloud of plant-killing ash that would fan out and dump a layer 10ft deep up to 1,000 miles away.
Two-thirds of the U.S. could become uninhabitable as toxic air sweeps through it, grounding thousands of flights and forcing millions to leave their homes.
To be honest, the ash scares me more than anything. It may look like snow, but breathing it in is a death sentence. Under a microscope, ash looks like small shards of mineral. When you breathe it in it would latch into your lungs making it impossible to cough out. It would mix with your saliva and turn into mud, meaning you would choke to death on it.
There is the possibility the ash cloud would spread outside of the U.S. due to wind. If that were to happen, according to scientists, there is a possibility that it would block out the sun, ushering in a new ice age.
The picture above was taken from the USGS (United States Geological Survey). The red dot is the Yellowstone caldera, and that light brown blob you see is the area an eruption would cover. The eruption of this super volcano, I believe would be the most catastrophic event in human history. Overdue for an eruption, it’s no wonder why people believe this will be the year.
Oh, and let’s not forget the earthquakes, volcanic bombs, magma flow, and tsunamis that would follow. The surrounding states would be completely destroyed. To avoid going down a list that would go on forever, let’s just say it would be a really, really bad day.