The amazing wildlife, dazzling sunrise and abundance of inspiring geological formations might distract visitors from the fact they're camping atop a gigantic volcano with devastating potential. That's right, there is a hidden caldera (a huge underground volcano) stewing underneath Yellowstone, along with more than 300 geysers.
Old and Relatively Unfaithful
That caldera formed hundreds of thousands of years ago, filling in a collapse of land in the park where a previous volcano erupted. Due for an eruption of its own, calderas are expected to overflow every 600,000-800,000 years. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. shouldn't be hearing a loud kaboom for about 10,000 more years or so. Although park officials say an explosion is not necessarily imminent, they say they're confident in predicting such a catastrophe anywhere from weeks to years in advance.
Yeah, Yeah, But What About the Big Boom?
Exactly what would happen if Yellowstone's supervolcano decided to surprise us with a sudden eruption? Immediate states like Wyoming and Montana would see high death counts, with many houses collapsing under the weight of falling ash.
The rest of the U.S. would also be covered in a thick layer of ash that would pollute water, smother vegetation, and impact food sources and agriculture. The ash would reach as far as Los Angeles, New Orleans, the Mississippi River and the Canadian border. The damages could take more than a decade to repair. As a result of the eruption, it's likely another caldera would evolve, and, in many thousands of years, the cycle may repeat. What's more, the eruption's effects on climate change would probably make global warming today look like just a rainy day.
Hm. We think we just wrote up the outline for a movie starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.