Yellowstone volcano in the northwest US is among the biggest potential cataclysms waiting to be unleashed. Located among the picturesque mountains and valleys of Yellowstone National Park, the supervolcano is active and under constant surveillance. Yellowstone volcano is believed to have last erupted 640,000, 1.3 million and 2.1 million years ago. And should another caldera-forming eruption go off in the near future, a geologist from the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, fears the lethal consequences will be felt across the globe.
Dr Jerzy Żaba from the university’s Department of Fundamental Geology told WP.pl Yellowstone has the power to trigger a devastating climate change.
He said: “I predict an eruption similar to the one from 640,000 years ago would destroy most of the United States’ territories.
“The erupted materials would cover everything within a 500km (310 miles) radius with a metre-thick layer.
“And due to the emission of dust, gases or sulphur monoxides into the atmosphere, we would witness a cooling of the climate.
“The sulphur monoxide would create a thin veil of sulphuric acid around the planet, reflecting sunlight. It would stay up for many years.
“I estimate, due to the effects of climate change, around five billion people would die from hunger.”
If Yellowstone erupts, the expert said the only reasonable thing to do is to flee the North American continent.
And unfortunately, Dr Żaba warned nothing can be done to prevent a future eruption of the supervolcano.
He said: “The only thing that can be done is the evacuation of people.
“However, if we’re talking about the whole nation, a pretty big one by the way, then it would have to happen onto another continent.
“These are forces on which people have no influence and have to observe with incredible humility.”
With that in mind, the geologist said there is no reasonable way to predict when the supervolcano, or any other supervolcano, will erupt.
Dr Żaba said there have been a total of 42 supervolcano eruptions over the last 36 million years, with one going off on average less than once every one million years.
He said: “This is not a frequent process for us but from the Earth’s perspective – yes. And it can very much happen.”
Yellowstone volcano is monitored every day by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) branch of the US Geological Survey (USGS).
YVO scientists keep track of ground uplift and seismic activity within the Yellowstone caldera though numerous monitoring stations.