Yellowstone, Beauty & Beast

If you have been Yellowstone National Park, then you know it is a vast, beautiful place with some fairly odd geologic features that smell bad, like rotten eggs. If you’ve never been there, then you might just have a fairly apocalyptic view of it because of the supervolcano under it that has been featured in disaster movies.

Since there are such widely differing views about the place, let’s begin with the basics. Here’s a short clip from National Geographic.

Very informative, and the last line is key.

It must be seen and experienced to be believed and enjoyed.

National Geographic also made a “Virtual Yellowstone” with 360° video.

Here’s a bit more specific coverage about the most famous geyser, Old Faithful, along with the 200 others in the park.

Last week the largest, more erratic Steamboat Geyser erupted for the third time this year. This is somewhat unusual, so some stories about the eruption last week implied that the supervolcano is about to erupt. It isn’t.

Here are some news stories from responsible, well informed sources.
A Huge Geyser at Yellowstone National Park Has Erupted For The Third Time in 6 Weeks (Fiona MacDonald, Science Alert)
Unusual eruptions at world’s largest active geyser in Yellowstone (Jon Herskovitz, Reuters)
Recent water eruptions at Steamboat Geyser (Yellowstone Volcano Observatory)

So, while Steamboat’s activity is probably not a sign that the supervolcano will erupt soon, the Yellowstone supervolcano does deserves some serious attention. Here’s a clip from the Smithsonian Channel about the current scientific understanding of the volcano.

Last month a study was published in Geophysical Research Letters that sheds even more light on what’s going on under Yellowstone.

With computer modeling, a team led by University of Oregon doctoral student Dylan P. Colón has shed light on what’s going on below. At depths of 5-10 kilometers (3-6 miles) opposing forces counter each other, forming a transition zone where cold and rigid rocks of the upper crust give way to hot, ductile and even partially molten rock below.

Thermomechanical modeling of the formation of a multilevel, crustal‐scale magmatic system by the Yellowstone plume (D. P. Colón, et al., Geophysical Research Letters)
Oregon scientists decipher the magma bodies under Yellowstone (University of Oregon)

Here’s an unpolished, but accurate clip about the study.

So, if you read and listen to enough scientifically informed stories, it starts to sink in that Yellowstone’s supervolcano isn’t likely to erupt anytime soon, and it certainly wouldn’t be out of the blue — there would be warning signs beforehand. Furthermore, the same goes for the other supervolcanos around the globe.

That doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to study Yellowstone’s features, and it can even be interesting in unexpected ways. For example, just last week someone published a story about how studying life in Yellowstone’s toxic soup could help us find out if there’s life on Mars!
A Yellowstone guide to life on Mars (Michael Miller,

Now that’s neat stuff!

You can find out a ton more on these websites.
Yellowstone National Park (National Park Service)
Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

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