Yellowstone National Park is famous worldwide for features like geysers and hot springs. These spectacular phenomena are caused by geothermal activity deed under the park. It’s a big park, some 3,472 square miles, mostly in Wyoming.
There is a huge lake of magma—molten rock—under the Park, called the Yellowstone Caldera. It is big, very big. It is a chamber 50 miles long and 12 miles deep, containing enough magma to fill the Grand Canyon ten times over. Magma is essentially molten rock—think of videos you may have seen of Hawaii’s volcanoes erupting, a thick and hot and very dangerous tomato sauce. This huge heat source accounts for Yellowstone’s hot springs, geysers and many other features.
It’s the same principle as any volcano, only vastly bigger. Yellowstone has blown in the past, the last time 640,000 years ago. If the caldera blows again, it will cause catastrophic damage, enough to severely damage the US economy and wipe out several million people—or possibly tens of millions.
The United States Geological Survey estimates that the chances the Yellowstone Caldera will blow to be 1 in 730,000. That’s about the same chance that an American will be hit by lightning.
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