If you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park, then you’re treating yourself to one America’s most famous landscapes; filled with striking geography such as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Yellowstone lake and prairie wildlife such as bison and grey wolves. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Yellowstone without seeing the geothermal activity that it is truly known for, most notably the Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring. But did you know that under all that bubbling natural beauty, a natural disaster of epic proportions is looming?
Yellowstone is actually one giant active volcano, and the center of the park where Old Faithful and all of the geothermal sites lie is known to geologists as the Yellowstone Caldera. It’s erupted at least 3 times within the last 2 million years, and according to an article in the Daily Mail, scientists believe the park is due for another blast.
But wait, you may say: Yellowstone doesn’t look at all like a volcano. Of course, looks can be quite deceiving. While the Yellowstone Caldera may not look like Kilauea, Mount Saint Helens, or the unpronounceable Eyjafjallajökull (the one that seriously screwed up air traffic in Europe last year,) it’s actually considered to be the largest volcano in the United States. This “hotspot” has been inching under the North American Plate for millions of years, erupting ever so often with a force 1,000 times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens. What concerns scientists now is that chamber of magma under Yellowstone has grown in size in recent years, causing the ground to literally rise up.
So what does this mean for you, nervous traveler? Absolutely nothing. Sure, it’s only a matter of time before Yellowstone will explode again, covering most of the Midwest in 2 feet of ash, killing everything in sight, and plunging our Earth into years-upon-years of winter. But it’s not likely to happen in our lifetime. In the meantime, live in the now and put some of those hard-earned dollars to work in our cash-strapped National Park system! And who knows? With technology developments accelerating at an astonishing rate, scientists may figure out a way to “vent” those extreme pressures and save Yellowstone for generations 1,000 years from now.