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Taking the Measure of Yellowstone’s Supervolcano

14 Jan 2014, 14:52 UTC
Taking the Measure of Yellowstone’s Supervolcano
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Still a threat, but don't cancel your vacation just yet.

Despite all the attention given in recent years to the threat of asteroid impact, it appears that many extinction events in Earth’s history were related to the eruption of so-called “supervolcanoes”—eruptions thousands of times stronger than a typical volcanic outburst, with a volume of ejected lava and ash of 1,000 cubic kilometers or more. Relics of these powerful blasts can be seen in the Deccan Traps in India, the Siberian Traps and the Columbia Plateau in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
Scientists have long known that a potential supervolcano eruption is looming in Yellowstone, where some 200 to 600 cubic kilometers of molten rock lies in a magma chamber underneath the National Park. Yellowstone has erupted violently three times in recent geological history: 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 640,000 years ago. A new eruption cannot be ruled out. The last time the Yellowstone volcano blew up, more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of ash and lava were ejected, affecting a large part of North America. Obviously, an eruption on this scale would have global climatic consequences. Just think about the Lake Toba supervolcano eruption, which by some accounts ...

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