Framing the Dialogue

Great Balls of Fire

One of the facts that stuck with me most when I first read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything was the shear number of occurrences that could annihilate our life on Earth. None were more surprising than the fact that there was a volcano under Yellowstone National Park…in fact Yellowstone is a volcano. A recent article suggests that the Yellowstone Supervolcano may be even larger than original estimates. The bigger the volcano the bigger the effect WHEN it blows again. The article also provided some historical perspective:

“Almost 17 million years ago, the deep plume of partly molten rock known as the Yellowstone hot spot first breached the surface in an eruption near what is now the Oregon-Idaho-Nevada border. As North America drifted slowly southwest over the hot spot, there were more than 140 gargantuan caldera eruptions — the largest kind of eruption on Earth — along a northeast-trending path that is now Idaho’s Snake River Plain. The hot spot finally reached Yellowstone about 2 million years ago, yielding three huge caldera eruptions about 2 million, 1.3 million and 642,000 years ago.

Two of the eruptions blanketed half of North America with volcanic ash, producing 2,500 times and 1,000 times more ash than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State. Smaller eruptions occurred at Yellowstone in between the big blasts and as recently as 70,000 years ago.”

Imagine the power and our inability to do anything about it. I don’t mean to scare anyone, but if you do some math using the intervals between the “huge caldera eruptions” these happen approximately every 679,000 years. I don’t know how accurate the date estimates of past eruptions, but it does seem like the next one will come sooner rather than later. The good news is that it may still be several thousand years away. Whew!

Perhaps the best advice is to enjoy life.

Leave a comment

Use basic HTML (<a href="">, <strong>, <blockquote>)