Saturday, September 30, 2023

There's another active supervolcano that is being watched

| July 18, 2022 1:07 AM

Here in the Inland Northwest, when we think of a supervolcano, the most famous one that comes to mind is Yellowstone. However, there are 20 known supervolcanoes throughout the world and the average super-eruption our planet experiences are about one every 100,000 years.

I’ve read a number of articles in recent years suggesting a Yellowstone eruption may be on the horizon. But geologists and other scientists insist that an event of that magnitude is not likely to occur for at least thousands of years.

If there were to be a massive eruption, it’s estimated that everything within about 100 miles of Yellowstone would literally be overwhelmed from the effects of the blast. There would be so much dust and ash poured into the upper atmosphere, the Earth would likely go into a “nuclear winter” and the ash fallout would be devastating to U.S. crops.

The last time there was a major blast of the Yellowstone volcanic crater, or caldera, was approximately 640,000 years ago and is estimated to be about 2,500 times bigger than the eruption of Mount St. Helens back in 1980. Scientists believe that if a major eruption was imminent, there would be large indicators of this event, such as strong earthquake swarms and rapid ground deformation that would go on for decades. Currently, there are no indications of an immediate catastrophic event.

In addition to Yellowstone, another supervolcano that’s being watched very closely is the one located under Lake Taupo, a large freshwater lake located in New Zealand’s north island. This particular lake was formed from a massive eruption approximately 25,400 years ago.

According to a research article in the New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, the Taupo volcano has been active over two dozen times within the last 12,000 years. Researchers say that the most recent eruption in 232 A.D. was likely “one of Earth’s most explosive eruptions in historic times.”

Since the mid-1980s, there have been routine measurements of this region. Scientists have discovered that the volcano has raised the ground just over 6 inches within the lake, but there has been a subsidence of over 5 inches in other areas. Researchers point out that the regions of uplift may be due to underground magma expanding and moving closer to the surface. Despite the activity, the volcano is not expected to have a major eruption for thousands of years.

Yellowstone goes through cycles of rising and falling. For example, in an article in Newsweek, the Yellowstone supervolcano started to rise at a high rate of nearly 6 inches per year from 2013 to 2015. The unusual activity, according to scientists, was a period of ground deformation resulting from a deep intrusion of magma, which essentially shoves the rocks up above the magma. Some say that the volcano is “breathing,” so there is no concern of an impending eruption.

In terms of our local weather, we had our first 90-degree day on July 12, exactly 300 days since Coeur d’Alene reported its last 90-degree temperature, which was on Sept. 7, 2021. The summer of 2022 in North Idaho is certainly much different than the one last year. Temperatures are much cooler and our annual precipitation total to date is about 10 inches higher than in 2021.

Despite some showers or a few thunderstorms, July’s precipitation total for 2022 may end up to be near or a little below normal of 0.92 inches. As of late Sunday, Cliff has measured 0.51 inches of rain at his station in northwestern Coeur d’Alene. However, this year’s total is better than 2021, as only 0.08 inches was measured last July. Cliff and I see a slightly drier than normal weather pattern into the middle of August. By late August or September, we may start to see an increase in rainfall as the upcoming fall season is expected to be wetter than average. Of course, some of this will depend on the cooling of ocean waters in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

While the northwestern U.S. is experiencing a pretty good summer weather-wise, very hot weather has been reported in California and across the central portions of the country. High temperatures near or above 100 degrees have been reported as far north as North Dakota. Heat records have been falling in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arkansas, with some areas reporting long stretches of 100-degree days.

In Europe, it’s been the case of very hot weather this summer season. For the first time in history, the United Kingdom issued a “red alert” for high heat over the weekend. By contrast, in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s their winter season, many regions in Australia are seeing much colder-than-normal weather. In the southern portions of the continent, it’s been the coldest start to their winter season since the 1940s.

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