Every few days we receive an email or tweet from someone warning us to prepare for the coming apocalypse, as they’re repeating one of the many Yellowstone volcano misconceptions floating around teh intraweb.
One thing about the Internet: Information certainly travels fast, but it tends to travel in fragments, and when you have folks far away from sources of information, they tend to put things together incorrectly. Take, for example, the folks who scour the Internet for seismic readings and Yellowstone magma-chamber scans, piercing together a narrative that has the Yellowstone volcano blowing any day now and wiping out most of the western United States, while unleashing a global apocalypse rivaling the meteor crash that ended the dinosaurs reign on Planet Earth.
But the thing is…that narrative is not supported by the facts. Yes, the crust in the Yellowstone caldera was rising in recent years, but that rising seems to have stopped. Yes, we now think the Yellowstone magma chamber is larger than previous estimates, but that’s because we have better tools for scanning it, not because it’s grown. Yes, it would seem the Yellowstone volcano is due for an eruption based on the timing of previous schedules, but past performance is no guarantee of future performance. And if there is some sort of eruption, it will likely involve some sort of new lava flow or hydrothermal eruption (like the Biscuit Basin blowout shown in the above photo), not a full eruption that would cloud the sky and kill humanity.
In any case, the U.S. Geological Survey has put together a nice list of five things people get wrong about the volcano, debunking Yellowstone volcano misconceptions. Check it out: these are the folks who monitor the data and put it together in a scientifically dispassionate way. Yeah, it’s a lot less dramatic than extinction, but it’s also more realistic than the Yellowstone volcano misconceptions floating around out there.