Yellowstone shaking, how the eruption of a supervolcano would really affect the US

Unknowncountry has been monitoring the increased earthquake activity at Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, and considering the potential effects of a Super-volcano eruption. The National Park is perched on top of a simmering Super-volcano which has been responsible for some of the largest and most cataclysmic volcanic eruptions in known history.

Last week's 'Weekender' feature documented an increase in earthquake swarms around the Yellowstone area - over 130 in September alone - and a 3 inch swell in the volcano's caldera every year for the past three years suggesting that the magma underneath is rising. The cause of the tremors has not yet been determined, but could be influenced by planetary alignments according to some experts and peer-reviewed studies.

So should we be concerned? If we believe the message from certain scientists, then 'Yes' is the answer to that question. Some reports suggest that a Super-volcano eruption could leave two thirds of the United States hidden by a blanket of ash under which nothing could survive. As the world observed when the comparatively small Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, clouds of volcanic dust would also pollute the atmosphere; with a volcano the size of Yellowstone, this could plunge the entire continent into darkness for weeks. This would affect crop production and food distribution, air travel, public services, power supply and utilities, and render even FEMA-type aid operations immediately after the event almost impossible.

It is known that after the three largest eruptions at Yellowstone, which occurred between 2.1 million and 640,000 years ago, volcanic ash up to one third of a meter deep covered much of western America, extending several hundred kilometers from the explosion site. It is thought that worldwide temperatures dropped significantly as a result.

The whole country would descend into an unprecedented state of emergency which it would be almost pointless to prepare for given the predicted scale of devastation; though, interestingly, a covert emergency aid operation, the 'Readiness Exercise 1984' (REX84) program, was once initiated by the Reagan government and Colonel Oliver North in the early 1980s to prepare for impact by an incoming solar body which had been identified by the IRAS satellite. Once it was established that the Earth was not in danger, all references to the scheme were buried and kept out of the public domain. Continue reading

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