12 October 2011

Yellowstone Won't Wipe Us Out In The Near Future

The geologists, at least, unlike the economists, have some good news for once. The Yellowstone Caldera, despite repeatedly exploding into a supervolcano more castastrophic than anything on earth short of a comet, is not poised to destroy life as we know it in the Rocky Mountain West, something my son was recently curious about and we discussed.

[T]he Huckleberry Ridge eruption of present-day Yellowstone Park about two million years ago. . . was more than 2,000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. . . . The Yellowstone eruption is one of the largest super-volcano events in history and it has happened several times. Other super-volcano sites include Lake Toba in Sumatra, the central Andes Mountains, New Zealand and Japan.

[D]espite its explosive history, it doesn't appear that Yellowstone is primed for another super-eruption anytime soon, though the slow process of volcanic uplift is taking place every day.

"The uplift of the surface at Yellowstone right now is on the order of millimeters. . . When the Huckleberry Ridge eruption took place, the uplift of the whole Yellowstone region would have been hundreds of meters high, and perhaps as much as a kilometer."

From here.

Indeed, the timing is right for climate impacts of the Huckleberry Ridge eruption to have triggered the first Out of Africa migration by hominins, specifically, Homo Erectus.

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