Home Sciences Will the Yellowstone volcano be the doomsday mega-eruption?

Will the Yellowstone volcano be the doomsday mega-eruption?


For years, the possibility of humanity disappearing under the effects of a mega-eruption of the Yellowstone volcano in the US has been a recurring theme in digital media. A simple tour of the web allows you to see how this great eruption (which will undoubtedly occur) is already known as the ‘end of the world’ and it is certain that it will end all of humanity. But will it really be so?

Scientists confirm that the Yellowstone volcano could trigger catastrophic consequences for the entire planet when it erupts, without even ruling out that it could generate a new Ice Age. And it is that every 600,000 years, approximately, the violent awakening of this giant takes place, capable of causing craters of tens of kilometers in diameter in each eruption. Given that the last eruption took place 640,000 years ago, theoretically the next one shouldn’t be long in coming.

It is considered a supervolcano, since its eruptive power can exceed up to 100 times that of a conventional volcano. In fact, it is one of the eruptions that geologists around the world fear the most. The UN has warned that the winter that would cause this exceptional eruption would trigger a world famine, as it would only leave food reserves to survive for a few months. And the repercussions, if anything, would last for decades.

Scientists have verified that Yellowstone has only had three eruptions in the last two million years. “It will erupt again, but it is not known when it will happen or on what scale,” said Michael Branney, a volcanologist at the University of Leicester.

However, when that happens, the ash will impact virtually all of the United States and Canada, rendering most of North America uninhabitable. According to simulations carried out by various groups of scientists, people residing within a radius of 1,000 kilometers would die from the explosion and the ash emitted would block sunlight, causing temperatures on the planet to drop by as much as ten degrees. This sudden drop could last for a decade, considerably altering many ecosystems.

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A risky solution

NASA has come to study ways to cool the volcano and ward off the threat that its awakening would represent. Brian Wilcox, a former member of NASA’s Planetary Defense Advisory Council and other scientists working to prevent asteroid and comet impact, noted: “I have come to the conclusion that the threat from a supervolcano is substantially greater than the threat from an asteroid or comet.”

Wilcox detailed one of NASA’s plans to cool the magma chamber and negate the risk of an imminent eruption. The plan involves drilling directly into the chamber and pumping tons of water to cool it down., thus creating a mega power plant. But any attempt to pierce the magma pocket could weaken its integrity and cause an eruption. It is an extremely risky operation, so the project is far from being executed at the moment.

The University of Utah, for its part, has issued a message of calm and has assured that, at the moment, there are no signs of a catastrophic eruption in sight. In addition, they point out that Yellowstone is the geologically best monitored area on the planet.constantly monitored with more than 40 seismic stations that continuously record, 24 hours a day, the movements of the earth in that region.

No, humanity will not become extinct

However, and given the alarmism with which many media approach this matter, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory itself, which is in charge of monitoring everything that happens in it, recently issued a note clarifying what the effects would really be. of a possible mega-eruption. Y the answer is that humanity would not disappear even in that scenario.

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“The aftermath of such an explosion would not be pleasant, of course, but we would not become extinct. How do we know that? Because this situation of super-eruption has already taken place, and also on two occasions”, the Observatory points out on its website.

The scientists at this center explain that the most recent explosion of the volcano occurred 631,000 years ago and was ten times larger than the giant eruption of Tambora (Indonesia) in 1815, and perhaps 100 times larger than that of Pinatubo (Philippines) in 1991. Therefore, its destructive capacity is undeniable.

Nevertheless, there have been eruptions even bigger than that on Earth when humanity already existed and, despite this, it did not become extinct. Those events were those of Toba (Indonesia), about 74,000 years ago, and that of Taupo (New Zealand), about 26,500 years ago.

The evidence provided by archeology suggests that humanity was not in danger from the effects of the Toba eruption. For example, studies of hominin sites (although not necessarily Homo sapiens) in India show that there was little change in activities before and after the eruption, which is preserved thanks to a widespread ash layer in South Asia.

However, there were significant changes in living conditions and ecosystems as a result of this great explosion of Toba, the largest recorded in a volcano to date.


Environment section contact: crisisclimatica@prensaiberica.es

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