Watching a volcanic eruption is likely one of the more terrifying yet intriguing events we can experience, ideally from afar so as to not perish in the process. There have been many volcanic eruptions throughout history which cause large death tolls in terms of loss of human and animal life as well as vast property damage and damage to the natural world. Living near a volcano has its risks, but the effects of an eruption can be very widespread, trickling down like dominoes on people both near and far.
A volcano is essentially a hollow mountain. Inside of it is molten rock, or magma, which is expelled from time to time due to pressure building within. Magma rising within a volcano is extremely dense and when it becomes mobile, it bubbles. These bubbles, which are gaseous, go on to burst under pressure, sending magma shooting upwards and hence an eruption occurs. In this process, internal rock is also pulverized, creating ash which is then expelled and can travel hundreds of miles, causing respiratory issues when inhaled. When all is said and done, however, the volcano itself is cooled down and pressure is released, but the area surrounding the volcano is devastated by not just lava flow but often related events such as earthquakes and tsunamis.
Although there are about 500 active volcanoes in the Ring of Fire that spans the globe, most widely recognized in the United States is Yellowstone. Past eruptions of Yellowstone have coated more than a third of the country in ash as violent eruptions ejected 600 cubic miles of debris into the air. Although Yellowstone has not erupted in quite some time, it has long been one to watch due to its past performances and ability to literally change the world with a single eruption. Geologists study Yellowstone intensely in order to detect any changes or gather new information about the site, and an important discovery was recently made in that process.
Through the use of seismic technology, geologists set out to map the presence of lava chambers and reservoirs beneath Yellowstone. In the process, they found something unexpected and surprising, that being a previously unknown magma chamber. This chamber is extremely vast and provides us with a reason why Yellowstone's past eruptions have been so extreme. To put it in perspective, Yellowstone's entire magma chamber is large enough to fill the Grand Canyon 14 times, generating an expanse of magma reaching up to 1,800 miles below the Earth's surface, a depth at which it is possible that it actually comes from the planet's molten core itself.
Photo: Washington Post
What does all of this equate to for the survival of those of us here on Earth? For now, there is no clear indication of a pending eruption according to scientists. This could change, of course, and when it does, the face of the planet and life as we know it will be dramatically different, provided we live to tell the tale. You can take a load off, however, as scientists deem the chance of an eruption in the near future on par with the likelihood of being struck by lightning.
Although Yellowstone may for now be a sleeping giant, it is far from being the only potentially deadly volcano that could someday pose a danger to human life. The top 10 most dangerous volcanoes in the United States can be found here and while these are quiet for now, there is always the possibility that could change. If/when it does, it will be necessary for those in close proximity to take bugging out very seriously, being prepared to get out in a hurry by whatever means necessary.
Do you live near an active volcano? What plans do you have in place to escape its wrath if/when the time comes? Moreover, do you trust science to keep you abreast of volcanic threats? Tell us in the comments.