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United States Geological Survey (USGS) Yellowstone volcano eruption maps paint a bleak future for the safety of the US.
USGS scientists Larry Mastin and Jacob Lowenstern, and National Science Foundation researcher Alexa Van Eaton, published a study estimating where Yellowstone ash would fall if it erupted today.
Using prediction models from Yellowstone’s last major eruption 630,000 years ago, the researchers revealed Yellowstone could produce more than a metre of volcanic ash in its immediate vicinity.
Further out from the Yellowstone area, hazardous ash would finely coat roads, short out power transformers and destroy crop fields.
The worrying study said: “Cities within 500 km such as Billings and Casper are covered by tens of centimetres to more than a metre of ash, upper Midwestern cities such as Minneapolis and Des Moines receive centimetres, and those in the East and Gulf Coasts receive millimetres or less.
“California cities receive millimetres to centimetres. And Pacific Northwest cities of Portland and Seattle receive up to a few centimetres.”
In terms of the US, ash deposits of varying thickness could potentially cover the entire country, leading to catastrophic results.
Thick deposits of ash could disrupt building integrity, obstruct sewers and water lines as well as interfere with electronic communications.
On a global scale, the eruption could likely lead to severe weather disruptions.
The study said: “There would also be major climate effects.
“Emission of sulfur aerosols during the 1991 Pinatubo eruption produced global cooling by an average of 1ºC for a few years, while the 50km cubed Tambora eruption of 1815 cooled the planet enough to produce the famed ‘year without a summer’ in1816, during which snow fell in June in eastern North America and crop failures led to the worst famine of the 19th century.”
Thankfully all current seismicity and ground deformation at Yellowstone appears to be within the normal range, the USGS assured.
Volcanologists are not expecting a major eruption anytime soon and the agency said Yellowstone is “behaving as it has for the past 140 years.”
In fact, the agency said odds are Yellowstone will remain eruption free for the coming centuries.
The agency added: “Regardless of where you live, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for emergencies, including earthquakes, tornadoes, chemical spills, and other random events.
“Emergency experts recommend keeping extra supplies on hand and creating a family emergency communication plan.
“Beyond that, there is no reason to specifically prepare for an eruptive event at Yellowstone, which remains very unlikely.”