When Will Yellowstone Explode?

BACKPACKER Contributor explains why you should and shouldn't worry about the ticking volcanic timebomb under America's first national park

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It’s only been a few days since scientists announced the flurry of quakes plaguing Yellowstone, and while park officials assure us it’s not much more than a routine flare-up, I can’t help but feel nervous. After all, Yellowstone’s only a few hundred miles from BACKPACKER HQ, and if it blows, I think it’s safe to say the office won’t look the same.

Lucky for us, Greg Breining, author of Super Volcano: The Ticking Time Bomb Beneath Yellowstone National Park and sometime BACKPACKER contributor, offered us some perspective.

“So far as I’ve read, scientists don’t believe the volcano is about to blow—good thing, because the Yellowstone super volcano is 1,000 times as big as Mount St. Helen’s and 100 times as powerful as infamous Krakatoa,” Breining says. “It would cover the western U.S. in ash, affect the climate for decades, and cause the starvation of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of people around the world.”

Oh. That doesn’t sound good. How will we know if it’s coming?

“Presumably, an eruption would be preceded by earthquakes and minor volcanic eruptions,” he says. “Beyond that, we really don’t know. Why? Because modern humans have never witnessed the eruption of a super volcano.”

“When it comes to predicting volcanic activity at Yellowstone, we’re in the unenviable position of predicting something we’ve never remotely experienced before.”

Oh, goody. Thanks a lot, Greg. I feel so much better now.

—Ted Alvarez

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