If Yellowstone erupts, “climate shift” would be the least of our worries

The loss of the ENTIRE “bread basket” of North America (think zero corn or wheat… for starters)


Yellowstone “climate shift” would be the least of our worries

By E. M. Smith

Wiping out most everyone north of Texas and East of California would probably rank higher…

Ash would be FEET thick as far as Nebraska and deep enough in Chicago to kill of most folks. Even NYC and DC would likely be ashed up enough to cause massive respiratory disease.

Then the loss of the ENTIRE “bread basket” of North America (think zero corn or wheat… for starters) would be a big issue for anyone who survived the first blasts.

Yeah, anyone who made it to year 2 might care about how hot or cold it was, but frankly, without a functioning USA government, food supply, military, transport system, or energy system; not many folks will get through the first winter anyway.

How many people today in North Texas could survive without heating / AC / medical care / grocery stores / gasoline / and municipal water? In a minus-whatever winter?

Pretty much the “safe zone” is most of California maybe up to Washington coastal areas, then down across the very south of the south west and along the gulf coast to Florida. Even there, if the wind shifts you get some ash. Folks in Florida can likely survive by fishing and eating ‘gators; as long as the S. Americans and Mexicans are nice to them.


18 thoughts on “If Yellowstone erupts, “climate shift” would be the least of our worries”

  1. https://io9.gizmodo.com/what-will-really-happen-when-yellowstone-volcano-has-a-508274690
    USGS geologist Jake Lowenstern, scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.

    Photo by Nina B via Shutterstock

    Most volcanic activity in Yellowstone would not qualify as “super eruptions,” in which 1,000 km3 or more material is ejected from a volcano. Lowenstern told io9 that supervolcanoes are “very large, single eruptions” that usually last for about a week. But, unlike what you’ll see in certain television specials and Hollywood films, even a super eruption at Yellowstone wouldn’t endanger the whole United States. It also wouldn’t cause the kind catastrophe you might expect

    A super eruption might come fast and the Yellowstone magma source is enormous. But don’t expect walls of lava pouring across the continent. Lava flows would be likely be “within the vicinity of the park,” Lowenstern said, limited to a 30-40 mile radius. When a volcano erupts, he added, at least a third of the liquid rock that’s ejected falls right back into the volcano’s maw. The rest lands nearby, or goes up into the atmosphere.

    Most of the real damage comes from ejecta that’s airborne. But it’s not fiery death from above. Instead, most damage would come from “cold ash” and pumice borne on the wind. Lowenstern and his colleagues consider it “disastrous” when enough ash rains down that it creates a layer of 10 or more centimeters on the ground — and that would happen in a radius of about 500 miles or so. This ash might reach so far that you’d see a fine dusting of it on your car in New York.

    Air traffic would be grounded, of course, as we saw after the 2010 eruption in Iceland. But mostly this ash would pollute farms in the midwest, as well as the Mississippi River. In a sense, it would be like an industrial accident, clogging waterways and agricultural areas with toxic sludge. The worst outcome of this event would be the destruction of our food supplies and waterways.
    After the vents released their gasses and the ground collapsed, it’s likely that we’d see a global effect on temperatures. “Any big eruption causes a cooling of the atmoshpere, especially especially with that much ash,” said Lowenstern. In 1812, the Mount Tambora super volcano eruption in Indonesia lowered global temperatures. A caldera-forming eruption in Yellowstone would be bigger than the one in Tambora, so climate change would almost certainly follow. The cooling, however, would only last for a few years.

    Lowenstern said there’s no reason to expect that we’ll have an eruption of this size any time soon, especially because the caldera has gone through many regular eruptions that release pressure. “It may be done, or it may move on to another area,” he said. “In a couple million years, [the volcano] might start in the northeast.” As continental plates shift, so too do volcanoes — so the Yellowstone supervolcano might not go off until it’s far beyond the area we call Yellowstone today. “A more likely eruption is going to be a lava flow, a small event,” Lowenstern said.

  2. Why would CA and the west coast be OK, when they are much closer to Yellowstone???

    I would think it depended more on which way the wind was blowing at the time. Yes, at times prevailing winds go from the Pacific eastward… but my recollection is that winds change from offshore east to coming off the desert and mountains the other time of the day (can’t remember which time they come offshore vs. from the east… but it seemed to me that was a daily occurrence).

    And that at least some of the time when those fire-hazard dangerous Santa Ana winds are blowing … they blow east to west. Or shift around back and forth west to east and then east to west … and even north to south or vice versa… and howl through the canyons unpredictably.

    I remember finding my porch in Alpine, CA… 35 miles east of San Diego… full of dead brine shrimp one time during those winds (about 2 inches thick – had to sweep the porch). The shrimp came from the Salton Sea which was maybe a hundred miles northeast of where I was.

    • There are ash deposit models and maps leaning both ways.

      This started as a snide comment on the Yellowstone Climate Change article and was not intended as a formal article. So, to elaborate:

      In some maps, California is indeed covered in ash, even more so than the East Coast. Those are largely based on the notion the eruption disrupts the Jet Stream. Others are based on a longer term less violent eruption and the jet stream continuing to move most ash eastward.

      The map here:


      is from the California-gets-it-too group and has most of California in the 10 to 30 mm depth ring, with NYC in the 1 to 3 ring.


      while the map here has California in the no-worries zone:


      and Chicago ‘iffy’.

      The historical location of “tuff” (rock made from old ash falls) has California mostly OK, at least the top 2/3, but also ends about Iowa / New Orleans:


      Now I personally, living in California, choose to cherry pick the maps were I’m not under ash; and then hope the jet stream is not disrupted, but that puts ash all over the midwest into the east coast.

      Your projection / prediction / model / ash tuff deposits may vary and nothing is guaranteed as it depends a LOT on how much and how fast and both of those have been highly variable in past eruptions.

      • thanks… what you’re saying makes a lot more sense. I know from past trips up 395 into the Bishop area (from San Diego County)… that there are massive areas with old ash deposits, I assumed might have been from Yellowstone previous eruptions back many years ago. Lots of places (like just south of the Lone Pine area) that look like mountains but are more likely solidified ash or lava from what i could tell.

  3. if you would think it would be bad in USA, consider what would happen in Europe/Asia- no crops for two years minimum.
    Even in Southern Hemisphere it would not be good, as it would cause massive cooling and affect growing season.

  4. im not home and cant email the link but theres reports re a supervolcano under japans coastline online today
    Kitai? between yellowstone the italian etna area and this one as well as possibles under antarctica, warming is the LEAST we need worry about, and acid oceans and rising seas would be damned near instant if the undersea brutes let rip;-/

  5. Overall sea surface temperatures are LEADING the cooling which is key. Now at +.115c above means down from around +.35c this summer.

    The end of AGW is happening this year as the prolong solar minimum has established itself and is now reaching the values which are necessary to have a climatic impact after several years of sub solar activity in general.

    This has been my prediction for the last 10 years and I never changed my mind. The reason it did not pan out earlier was because solar activity was much higher from years 2010- to mid 2017 than I thought it would be.

    But now we have it and the test is on and I say AGW, is finally meeting it’s demise.

  6. Yellowstone blowing up bothers me less than real estate prices. One is a natural event the other is a genocidal crime against humanity.

    • When Yellow Stone Blows, real estate will be a “Buy”

      As Lord Rothschild said: “Buy when there’s Ash in the Streets”.

      • Why buy when most of the sellers will be under the ash? Real estate isn’t an investment any way. It is a place to live that should be bought for equal to or less than 3 years pay at minimum wage. Those that disagree and want more need a chest full of volcanic ash and a head stone. It is time to bring the cult of real estate to an end for the good of the species.

        • Steven:

          Have you read the one economist who actually makes sense–i.e. Michael Hudson? He talks about the “F.I.R.E” sector (made up of finance; insurance and real estate), and explains how these parasitic, cancerous activities have destroyed the real economy of growing things; building things; making things; and creating things.

        • I think it depends a lot of what type of real estate you are talking about.l I would agree with you if you are talking about ridiculously large MacMansions.

          But land? I think it would be a very good investment if I could afford it… especially land suitable for silly developers schemes (like malls, etc). if if were already zoned commercial and had suitable transportation networks nearby.

  7. Salvatore, AGW finished when it was revealed that Human CO2 emissions were 26 Gigatons and Natural CO2 emissions were 750 Gigatons (from IPCC AR4) meaning that ANY warming OR cooling was 97% natural.

  8. In the USA the people are ultimately in charge. Whatever happens, Americans may be decimated or much worse but the Americans who are left will keep on fracking! But watch out CA, you have Long Valley caldera.

  9. None of you can be serious. Yellowstone is a Caldera; or to Pittsburg Steeler fans or people in Rio Linda Ca.,(or even Apache Junction, Az) that spells Supervolcano. Totally capable of wiping out all life on Earth. Look back and see what happened to life on Earth 70,000 years ago. The last Super volcano to blow, I think was in the Pacific Islands somewhere. Our DNA lines went from 23 down to 2or3 three or something like that they think. Geological records show this.

    • That would be Toba in North Sumatera Indonesia.
      Erupted 74,000 years ago.
      Ash was many metres deep in Malaysia. 5 Feet deep in India.
      Ash has been found in Europe – when someone went looking for it.

      It’s how much ash and associated ejecta end up in the Stratosphere or even into the Mesosphere. It can circulate around the planet for many years. Events close to the equator affect both hemispheres, Those far north or south of the equator naturally initially affect that hemisphere although over the fullness of time both hemispheres get an relatively equal spread.

      One earth scientist opines that Toba eruption caused the planets population to maybe have been reduced to a mere 5000 individuals. Other scientists dispute that low figure however certainly a near extinction event.

  10. In 1815 at the end of the Maunder Minimum, mount tambora in Indonesia blew. 1816 was know as the year without a summer in the northern hemisphere. It is estimated that a third of the population of Europe died from starvation.
    Imagine how many millions will die in the coming mini ice age and how many billions will die if accompanied with a Yellowstone eruption!

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