Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Plume is Bigger, We Still All Gonna Die

Geologists at the Unviersity of Utah have created one of the most elaborate models of the magma plume underlying Yellowstone National Park, concluding after studying data from hundreds of recorded earthquakes and other phenomena that the plume is wider than previously thought and goes a lot deeper than other predicitons -- as deep as 410 miles below the surface of the Earth.

They also surmise, from their findings, the following:
The study also shows warm rock - not as hot as the plume - stretching from Yellowstone southwest under the Snake River Plain, at depths of 20 miles to 60 miles. The rock is still warm from eruptions before the hotspot reached Yellowstone.
In other words, there's "warm rock" beneath my feet right now, as I live on the Snake River Plain in eastern Idaho. That's no real surprise. We've got enough geothermal features scattered about this end of the state that to hear this is no shock. We go swimming every year in a pool at Green Canyon that's fed by a hot spring warmed by this warm rock. I hike every year at Cress Creek, whose water is heated by the same warm rock. And down in Soda Springs is a man-made geyser that also gets warmed by this same plume -- and has to be regulated because if left to its own devices, Old Faithful up at Yellowstone, hundreds of miles away, erupts with decreased frequency. This is the place I live, and it could blow at any minute. Whee.

Amazing stuff, this. Yes, some are using this as fuel to say that the next "Supereruption" of the Yellowstone Caldera will now be even more devastating than previously thought. And that's fine, because if it does blow up, I'll be right underneath it and probably won't feel a thing.

(Best part of this movie comes when they describe traffic on U.S. highway 20 being backed up from Yellowstone all the way to Idaho Falls. They show a very busy, multi-lane highway that in no way resembles the much skinner, much less urban road that really exists. Oh well, it's the BBC after all.)

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