By Terrence Aym
Some of the world’s smartest geophysicists aren’t sleeping well anymore. Perhaps their dreams are filled with nightmares—if so, it wouldn’t be surprising since what they thought they knew about volcanoes wasn’t quite right. But now they know the truth—the terrifying reality—supervolcanoes are activating and can destroy America at any time. Maybe in 100 years…or maybe as early as next week…
Forget about tumbling asteroids the size of mountains bombarding Earth…Stop worrying about nuclear war…Shrug off any concerns about the coming Ice Age…Doomsday is probably closer than you think and no matter where you live you probably aren’t safe from the effects of the aftermath.
That’s the terrible reality facing scientists around the world as they scramble to revise monitoring systems to better predict the imminent destructive fury of the supervolcanoes when they blow.
1888 lithograph of the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa
The terror of tomorrow
For many years volcanologists thought tomorrow was a long way off. But two scientific papers published recently reassessed the danger of several ominous U.S. volcanoes: one in Death Valley, the Ubehebe Crater, is half a mile wide and more than 700 feet deep. Believed to have last erupted thousands of years ago, it’s now known to have blasted away during the 14th Century.
The other volcano, the famous Crater Lake cauldera in Oregon, can recharge itself in a few short decades and then explode with super-massive destructive force. Until lately, scientists believed that volcanoes also required thousands of years to become dangerously active again.
They were wrong.
Brilliant Dr. Margaret Mangan California’s top U.S.G.S. scientist
The U.S. Geological Survey scientist in charge of keeping a wary eye on volcanoes located in California for the U.S. Geological Survey is Margaret Mangan. Recently she told USA Today that “The understanding of the timing of eruptions and the timing of the building up to eruptions is changing.”
And changing it is—at an alarming rate. The changes in knowledge that have come rapidly the past few years now have some scientists biting their nails over the Doomsday supervolcano in Yellowstone Park. That volcano has shown all the signs of becoming active: parts of the ground have heated to just under 1,000⁰ F while the earth is bulging from a building lava dome and a lake has completely boiled away.
Just two years ago many geophysicists assured everyone, including the federal government, that there really wasn’t anything to worry about. Really.
Now those same scientists have shut up. If they talk at all to curious reporters they respond only in clipped monotones and then hurry away.
What are they worried about? Approaching Doomsday.
The many names of Doomsday
Doomsday comes with many names, 22 to be exact. The seven largest among the megacaldera (the technical name for supervolcanoes) are Yellowstone, Long Valley, and Valles Calderas in the United States; Lake Toba on North Sumatra island in Indonesia; the Taupo Volcano located on the North Island in New Zealand; Aira Caldera within the Kagoshima Prefecture of Kyūshū, Japan; and the Siberian Traps in Russia.
The world’s seven supervolcanoes — cauldrons of violent destruction
A relatively smaller supervolcano, Cumbre Vieja, on La Palma in the Canary Islands just northwest of Africa could wipe out much of southern England and most of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.
According to an article by Steve Connor, the Science Editor of the UK’s The Independent:
“A wave higher than Nelson’s Column and travelling faster than a jet aircraft will devastate the eastern seaboard of America and inundate much of southern Britain, say scientists who have analyzed the effects of a future volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands.
The Canary Island Cumbre Vieja volcano’s ‘Zone of Destruction’
“A massive slab of rock twice the volume of the Isle of Man would break away from the island of La Palma and smash into the Atlantic Ocean to cause a tsunami–a monster wave–bigger than any recorded, the scientists warned…
The Canary Island Cumbre Vieja volcano’s tsunami path
“Most of the wave’s energy, equivalent to the combined output of America’s power stations for six months, would travel westwards to the American coast but enough would be flicked north towards the English Channel to cause catastrophic coastal damage.
“A computer model has been designed to show the way the tsunami will build after the volcano, called Cumbre Vieja, erupts…It describes the almost unimaginable scale of an event that the scientists say could happen at any time within the foreseeable future.“
Fire and ice
When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, up to 100 million Americans will perish.
Millions will be instantly incinerated by the blast. More millions will die quickly from tons of superheated ash—as much as 20 feet deep—that will blanket the Death Zone from the Pacific Northwest to northern Texas and as far east as western Iowa.
American ‘Death Zone’ delineated by superheated ash
More will succumb to extended famines and plagues. For all intents and purposes what was once the United States of America will be gone—buried in gray ash, slag, and superheated mud.
Much of southwestern Canada will also be affected.
Death Zone delineated by supersonic winds and heat
A survey in 2009 conducted by scientists gathered past seismic wave data from earthquakes in the region to create a 3D image of the subterranean hotspot. The actual ancient caldera, now mostly a shallow impression in the ground, spans across three states: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
‘Pit of Death’ — widening volcanic vent at Yellowstone
All experts agree that if another massive eruption occurs the concussion, lava, superheated gas and ash fall would effectively destroy almost half of the US and be the greatest single catastrophe in recorded world history.
Entire projected Yellowstone eruption ‘Death Zone’ covers two-thirds of U.S.
The Apocalyptic destruction of the supervolcanoes would be followed swiftly by an Ice Age. If it’s a major Ice Age, the ice will remain for up to 100,000 years.
The last major eruption at Yellowstone occurred about 70,000 years ago. Some experts are warning a supervolcano catastrophe is long overdue.
When asked when he thinks Yellowstone might erupt, one worried volcanologist sighed and replied, “At any time. Look, I’m just a scientist. Only God can answer that question with certainty…but it’s going to happen.”
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