I wish I was as confident as Hank Green in thinking that Yellowstone National Park poses no threat to our current existence.
When the Tsunami struck on December 26th 2004, I remember taking Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ off my bookshelf to see what he had to say about Tsunamis. What that led me to was his description of Yellowstone National Park and what this place actually is. Here’s an extract, thanks to a posting on www.delanceyplace.com.
“In the 1960s, while studying the volcanic history of Yellowstone National Park, Bob Christiansen of the United States Geological Survey became puzzled about something: … he couldn’t find the park’s volcano. …
By coincidence, just at this time NASA decided to test some new high-altitude cameras by taking photographs of Yellowstone, copies of which some thoughtful official passed on to the park authorities on the assumption that they might make a nice blow-up for one of the visitors’ centers. As soon as Christiansen saw the photos, he realized why he had failed to spot the [volcano]: virtually the whole park — 2.2 million acres — was [a volcano]. The explosion had left a crater more than forty miles across-much too huge to be perceived from anywhere at ground level. At some time in the past Yellowstone must have blown up with a violence far beyond the scale of anything known to humans.
Yellowstone, it turns out, is a supervolcano. It sits on top of an enormous hot spot, a reservoir of molten rock that rises from at least 125 miles down in the Earth. The heat from the hot spot is what powers all of Yellowstone’s vents, geysers, hot springs, and popping mud pots. … Imagine a pile of TNT about the size of Rhode Island and reaching eight miles into the sky to about the height of the highest cirrus clouds, and you have some idea of what visitors to Yellowstone are shuffling around on top of. …
Since its first known eruption 16.5 million years ago, [the Yellowstone volcano] has blown up about a hundred times, but the most recent three eruptions are the ones that get written about. The last eruption was a thousand times greater than that of Mount St. Helens; the one before that was 280 times bigger and the one before was … at least twenty-five hundred times greater than St. Helens.”
Bill Bryson (2003) A Short History of Nearly Everything Broadway Books, P.224 – 228.
What this has done is make me attuned to any news that is reported as coming from Yellowstone National Park. When I saw a video posted on YouTube in 2014 purportedly showing Bison fleeing the park, I thought end of days was coming. Turns out, the Bison were running into the park! Verification matters, especially when you’re thinking a cataclysmic event is on the horizon!
But Hank’s message is a good one. After completing a term in a new school, I’m very aware that change is a constant. And when you’re working in the kind of job I have, you’re in a constant state of helping people try and get comfortable with change. Not always easy, but necessary!
Coincidentally, in terms of the Yellowstone connection anyway, I was driving to work today listening to a podcast called Snap Judgement. First story was about Yellowstone National Park, and a legendary female wolf who researchers dubbed ’06’ – her birth year. It’s quite the extraordinary tale, so follow this link for your listening pleasure. Do partake, and have a great weekend. 🙂