Could the world's largest volcano devastate America?

By Gabrielle Pickard
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, February 9, 2011
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Following the 2004 Tsunami, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the world is wondering when and where the next natural disaster will strike. Some experts say the Yellowstone Caldera, a super-volcano in the USA, will be the next to spread chaos and carnage. What are the chances of the world's largest super-volcano erupting for the first time in 600,000 years? And if we are about to endure another earth-shattering natural disaster, will the world's richest nation be prepared?

Scientists and researchers monitoring the Caldera believe the volcano, which has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, is becoming active again. During the last three years, molten magma has been rising at the fastest rate since records began in 1923.

Experts say an eruption would spread a 10-floor deep layer of toxic ash over a radius of 1000 miles, leaving two-thirds of the United States inhabitable. But they cannot predict the date of an eruption with any accuracy.

"Our best evidence is that the crustal magna chamber is filling with molten rock. But we have no idea how long this process goes on before there either is an eruption or the inflow of molten rock stops and the caldera deflates again," Professor Robert B Smith of the University of Utah, who led a recent investigation, said.

Experts admitting to 'having no idea', does not bode well when talking about a disaster that could wipe out two thirds of America. Especially as the scientists say a formation of molten rock the size of Los Angeles has formed under the Caldera. Dan Dzurism, a Yellowstone expert from Cascades Volcano Observatory in Washington says:

"There has to be magma in the crust, or we wouldn't have the hydrothermal activity that we have. There is so much heat coming out of Yellowstone right now that if it wasn't being reheated by magma, the whole system would have gone stone cold since the time of the last eruption 70,000 years ago."

The United States experiences natural disasters every year. Earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault, hurricanes on the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico, floods and tornadoes cost the country billions each year.

When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 it caused damage amounting to $81.2 billion. The Bush administration faced widespread criticism over its inability to deal with the disaster. A 2006 White House document post mortem stated: "It remains difficult to understand how government could respond so ineffectively to a disaster that was anticipated for years, and for which specific dire warnings had been issued for days. The crisis was not only predictable, it was predicted."

Is the situation being repeated with Yellowstone Caldera? Experts say the swelling magma reservoir six miles underground could erupt in the near future. But despite the mounting evidence, there is complacency about when the mighty volcano will stir from its slumber. If experts really believe the Yellowstone Caldera has the potential to wipe out two thirds of the country, the government should be doing everything in its power to prevent the disaster.

Hasn't the world suffered enough?

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