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Yellowstone volcano stood on the brink of eruption in the past week after a spate of earthquakes targeted the super volcano.
Fears of eruption were then heightened on Tuesday after a team of scientists uncovered evidence of a magma plume beneath Yellowstone stretching as far out as Mexico.
Yellowstone study published in the journal Nature Geoscience warned: “Our results strongly support a deep origin for the Yellowstone hotspot, and also provide evidence for the existence of thin thermal mantle plumes that are currently beyond the resolution of global tomography models.”
Scientists monitoring the volatile situation in the Yellowstone National Park have now shared the horrifying scenarios Yellowstone could unleash.
According to Dr Howard Diamond, manager of the Climate Science Program at NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory, volcanoes threaten to unleash deadly chemicals into the atmosphere which could considerably cool the planet.
The volcano expert said: “Large volcanic eruption columns can inject ash particles and sulphur-rich gases into the troposphere and stratosphere and these clouds can circle the globe within weeks of the volcanic activity.”
Volcano eruptions have been known to cool down global temperatures by cajoling out the skies with thick plumes of ash which block out the sun.
Particles unleashed in eruptions also carry the risk of scattering sunlight which could last for months on end, depending on the side of the eruption.
Yellowstone volcano eruption: Experts have warned of a volcanic winter engulfing the planet
In Yellowstone’s case, David Rothery a professor of Planetary Geosciences at the Open University, warned Yellowstone erupting could plunge the world in a “nuclear winter”.
The volcano expert explained: “A Toba-sized eruption in a similar location would, besides killing tens of millions of people throughout Southeast Asia, destroy at least one or two seasons of crops needed to feed some two billion people in one of the world’s most densely populated regions.
“This alone would be a catastrophe unprecedented in history, and it could be compounded by much-reduced harvests around the world.”
“That’s the worst case scenario – and it’s not clear what fraction of super volcanoes are capable of doing that.
“It won’t cause a mass extinction of species but certainly plants could die and ecologies could collapse.”
It won’t cause a mass extinction of species but certainly plants could die and ecologies could collapse
Scientists studying the effects of volcanic ash on the climate are concerned blotted out skies would kill out swathes of plant life, crops and animals.
The devastating effects of a Yellowstone eruption would leads to a massive economic toil on the United States.
But the climate effects in the wake of eruption would be far more reaching.
Yellowstone eruption: The super volcano would spew ash clouds over large swathes of land
Yellowstone eruption: The US super volcano last erupted 630,000 years ago
A 2014 scientific paper published in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems looked at previous super volcano eruptions to determine Yellowstone’s fallout would lead to “major climate effects”.
The study warned: “Emission of sulphur aerosols during the 1991 Pinatubo eruption produced global cooling by an average of 1ºC for a few years, while the 50 km 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.”
According to Dr Diamond, aerosol emissions from volcanoes can spread around the globe relatively quickly – in about three weeks from eruption.
He said: “The large aerosol cloud caused dramatic decreases in the amount of net radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, producing a climate-forcing effect of cooling that was two times stronger than the aerosols of El Chichón.”
The volcano expert added that climate models have concluded these cooling effects “with a reasonable degree of accuracy”.
And though many fear Yellowstone is overdue a major volcanic eruption, most volcanologists tend to agree we are still far off from this apocalyptic scenario.
Professor Ilya Bindeman, associate professor of geological sciences at the University of Oregon, said he does not expect another Yellowstone eruption in the next one or two million years.
The last major eruptions of the Yellowstone caldera occurred 630,000, 1.3 million and two million years ago.
The Yellowstone expert said: “Yellowstone is like a conveyer belt of caldera clusters.
“By investigating the patterns of behaviour in two previously completed caldera cycles, we can suggest that the current activity of Yellowstone is on the dying cycle.”