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Caldera: Volcanic time bombe under the Yellowstone Park

A gigantic sub terrestrial bubble of liquid rock could provoke a catastrophe that devastates the country of America demanding millions of victims.

Draft: How the gigantic Caldera underneath the Yellowstone Park looks like
Picture by Robert Smith

Since 640.000 years the bomb ticks, and finally the countdown has arrived at the zero point. At any time it could explode or even turn out being a dud: Only about eight kilometers beneath the unique miracle of nature of the Yellowstone Park in the USA, which is annually visited by 3.2 Million people, drowses a gigantic sub terrestrial volcano. The 40-times 80 kilometers large Magma-bubble mainly consisting of liquid rock heats the layers atop like a huge hot plate and creates the well-known spectacles like the Geyser-Fountains and bubbling alluvium lakes.

What is it that makes park visitors become nervous, apart from a few geologists now: It's been 640.000 years, since the last Magma-cell beneath the Yellowstone-site exploded on a grand scale. It thereby disgorged an unimaginable 1000 cubic kilometers Magma. 650.000 years before something similar happened, as another 800.000 years before as well (see graphic). "A rhythm, which is able to repeat itself and blow up half of the USA!", some say. "Unreliable scare stories!", the others counter.

Whatsoever, reason enough for a great reportage of Nature Magazine's "National Geographic" TV-Channel and a multipart BBC-Documentation, which prospectively will be broadcasted in February. It seems an eruption like this has to happen someday, even if it possibly takes place only in about 10.000 years.

Fact is, that an explosion of the volcano of that impact possesses a multiple explosive force of a hydrogen-bomb and with the dense colonization nowadays it would cause a human catastrophe of unforeseen dimension. We speak about millions of deaths. Not to talk about the consequences concerning nature.

Draft: The temperature dispersion of the Yellowstone-Caldera looks ominous
Picture by Robert Smith

Dr. Friedrich Koller from the Geological Institute, University of Vienna: "The whole Yellowstone Park would be history then. At this point only an enormous crater like the one already 640.000 years ago, would be left. Broad parts of the USA would be affected by the means of the explosion. And the oodles of dashed up ashes in the atmosphere, which the Jet-Stream would pull around the world, would anneal the clime causing severe harvest loss. One is familiar with that effect regarding a big volcanic eruption in Island at the beginning of modern times, which has produced a serious dearth. Even the compared to the Yellowstone-scenario "tiny" volcanic eruption of the Mount St. Helens in 1980 hurled up ashes into 25.000 meters height and influenced the life of men in three federal states."

Draft: Like hot rocks underneath the Yellowstone Park climb in a heat pipe to the earth’s surface
Picture by Robert Smith

The gigantic "Caldera", like one calls the giant crater of the last explosion, on which the Yellowstone Park was generated, is meanwhile buggy and wired like a prison cell of a felon, so that one doesn't miss the smallest sign for the next big "coup": Two years long 80 Seismographs sensed the tiniest terrestrial agitation for a study. GPS-sensors precisely record data and their position in the park around the clock. And already for a long time beside Laser-measurement the newest Geologist-rage is satellite-supported Interferometry, which is being used for large area survey.

Dr. Henry Heasler, one of Yellowstone Park's leading scientists: "Annually we have around 3000 smaller and severer earthquakes. If the saying, ,standing with both feet firmly on the ground' signalizes continuity for you, for us it is merely a good joke. – Daily the ground is shifting here. A tourist path can become so hot from one day to another that it has to be closed, because one's soles begin to smelt. The temperature and discharge amount of hot alluvium holes and Geysers can change anytime. Yet, this is totally normal for that area, which is permanently fluctuating since millions of years. The only reason why activities have to be monitored is if a big eruption happens again, the volcano vapor compound or the rhythm of the Geysers can already indicate first hand signs thereupon. And the premonition time maybe only takes a few days in case of emergency."

The big Yellowstone eruptions in comparison with the " exiguous " breakout of Mount St. Helens
Picture by Robert Smith

Even if one can not prevent such a vast natural disaster, researchers at least want to understand, how it came about. Similarly like the computer-tomography is nowadays used in the medical science area, in order to produce exact images of inner organs of men, Geologists lately utilize Seismic Tomographs, to create a "X-Ray" of the layers of earth beneath us. The only difference is using long-period waves instead of x-rays like in medicine.

US-volcanic scientist Dr. Robert Smith in the Interview: "With this new method and the unbelievable processor capacity, which modern computers provide we already can "see" until the depth of 1400 kilometers, from where supposedly also the Magma-hose of Yellowstone ascends. If we are able to understand this secret mechanism of the earth, then we will probably be able to forecast even volcanic eruptions someday."

Hopefully early enough, to predict the catastrophe of Yellowstone.

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© A report by Tobias Micke (03-10-04) – Contact