Yellowstone

2003-09-17

Supervolcanoes are no fun. As previously noted, the last supervolcanic event was the explosion of Mount Toba on the island of Sumatra around 71,000 years ago, which resulted in a years-long "volcanic winter", a massive die-off of plants and animals, and a reduction in the human population to about two thousand individuals hunkered down in some near-equatorial refugium in Africa. These massive volcanic events (thousands of times more powerful than Mount St. Helens and hundreds of times more powerful than Tambora or Krakatoa) are visited periodically upon the earth by geologic forces that make the supposed phenomenon of global warming seem positively puny. One such supervolcano lies in wait underneath Yellowstone National Park in northwestern Wyoming. The Yellowstone volcano tends to erupt every 600,000 years or so. The last time it erupted was 640,000 years ago. And there are signs it is waking up. No one knows when it will erupt next: it could be next week, next year, or a thousand years from now. But we do know that eventually a supervolcano will explode, wreaking devastation upon the earth and most likely ending human life as we know it. Yet one more reason to establish a human presence off-planet. Mars, anyone?


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal