Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Odd, This

Although the USGS has rated Yellowstone a "high risk" for volcanic eruption, they're telling everyone "not to worry." Oh, really?

Recurring earthquake swarms, swelling and falling ground, and changes in hydrothermal features are cited in the report as evidence of unrest at Yellowstone.
The USGS report recognizes Yellowstone as an unusual hazard because of the millions of people who visit the park and walk amid features created by North America's largest volcanic system, Smith said, a status he has been advocating for years.

Smith does not paint the devastating picture portrayed in a recent TV docudrama but said smaller threats exist. For example, a lower-scale hydrothermal blast could scald tourists strolling along boardwalks.

Emissions of toxic gases from the park's geothermal features also pose a threat. Five bison dropped dead last year after inhaling poisonous gases trapped near the ground due to cold, calm weather near Norris Geyser Basin.

Someone has their head firmly up their butt. Minor threats are hardly the problem at Yellowstone; the thing is a supervolcano. When it erupts, you can kiss more than five bison and a few tourists goodbye. The National Geographic Society observes:

When the volcano in Yellowstone National Park blew 6,400 centuries ago, it obliterated a mountain range, felled herds of prehistoric camels hundreds of miles away and left a smoking hole in the ground the size of the Los Angeles Basin.

Modern Yellowstone doesn't dwell on its cataclysmic past—or its potential for another monster eruption.

Scientists suspect the Yellowstone hotspot may be slowly sliding under the Rockies and its potential for a truly gigantic eruption may be lessening. But an eruption big enough to erase US superpower status is still very much a possibility, and makes the USGS softpedaling look pretty pathetic.


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