Yellowstone Supervolcano: American Doomsday explores the inner workings of the Yellowstone caldera and the disaster that could happen.
The Yellowstone National Park might look beautiful on the outside. Underneath the surface, however, lurks a threat to every living creature on this earth. Throughout the 80ish-minute documentary special, a number of experts will tell us what we may be in for by looking at the past. One volcanic expert takes us some 120 feet below the surface and into the inside of an empty Iceland Magma Chamber. More power to him because I wouldn’t go inside that thing! Anyway, could this insight from the past help affect how humanity responds to what may happen in the future? We know from studying the Laki eruption in the late 1700s had an impact as far away as Japan!
The epic scale of the Yellowstone caldera is something we can only appreciate from the sky. From one to another, it stretches 35 x 40 miles. To give you an idea of how big this is, it takes 20 minutes to fly from one end to the other. Because of the underground magma driving heat to the service, a number of hydrothermal pools exist throughout Yellowstone. Thanks to NASA satellites, we know about some of the recent hydrothermal and volcanic activity. It isn’t always easy to know when this is happening if it’s an era where tourists don’t travel.
The last time that the caldera erupted was around 640,000 years ago. We don’t know when the next eruption will take place. What we do know is that the there are two magna rooms underneath the current caldera. One is 3,000 cubic miles while the larger one is 12,000 cubic miles. An eruption would be worse than the Mount Vesuvius disaster that wiped out Pompeii. The force would be more powerful than 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. The ash from Ground Zero offers a preview of what the after-effects could look like for humanity.
Volcanic eruptions are measured by the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI). The Yellowstone supervolcano would be a VEI-8 on the scale–the highest number on the measurement. This is honestly terrifying and I honestly hope this happens long after I’m gone. To give you an idea of how rare a VEI-8 measurement is, there have only been 40-60 that we know about. The last one took place some 27,000 years ago. Both Mount Vesuvius and the more recent Mount St. Helens were recorded as a VEI-5.
An eruption of this magnitude would pose the end of transit as we know it. Forget going outside without a mask on. The eruption would fill the atmosphere with some 2 million tons of sulphuric acid. Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho would also cease to exist. They would just be…gone. There would be some 13 feet of ash in the immediate kill zone. Ash would also stretch from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast. There could be as much as ten feet of ash on each end of the coasts. This is enough to change the global climate. Crops would be killed immediately. How much ash falls would depend on the length of the eruption. It’s certainly terrifying!
As if we don’t need a reminder, this documentary will repeatedly show what the devastation will look like via CGI. Again, this isn’t something I wish to experience in my lifetime. I do not need to stress just how terrifying this will be for humanity as we know it. It’s an extinction-level event. No superhero will save us. Hell, not even a bunker will be able to save us, not with the threat to the power grid.
Yellowstone Supervolcano: American Doomsday is a warning for an apocalyptic supervolcano that could be a species-ending event.
DIRECTOR: Jobim Sampson