Here's What Would Happen if Yellowstone's Supervolcano Erupted Today

Here's What Would Happen if Yellowstone's Supervolcano Erupted Today
Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr

So this is how it ends: With volcanoes erupting in Iceland and Papua New Guinea this summer, Murphy's Law suggests it's only a matter of time before the U.S. gets its due.

And according to the American Geophysical Union, we may have a candidate: The Yellowstone "supervolcano," a slumbering giant that most recently erupted from beneath Yellowstone National Park 640,000 years ago.

U.S. Geological Survey photo of the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park.
Source: Flickr

More: Discovery reports the odds are slim of Yellowstone wreaking havoc for at least another few centuries.

But perhaps inspired by the musings of amateur geologists – who see recent helium emissions and odd bison migrations as ominous signs – the Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems journal has published a study projecting the fallout from such an event.

Obviously, it's bad news. Using a new "volcanic ash transport and dispersion model," the researchers determined a Yellowstone eruption would blanket much of the country in over three feet of ash, causing infrastructural disruptions and environmental devastation that would echo for years after.

And: Raw Story reports the ash would explode 240 cubic miles into the atmosphere, shutting down electrical communication and air travel nationwide and reaching as far east as New York and west as Los Angeles.

Don't think the wind would save you by blowing it all away, either:

"[The] eruption makes its own winds that can overcome the prevailing westerlies, which normally dominate weather patterns in the United States," says Larry Mastin, the scientist behind the study.

Graphic depiction of the electrical conductivity that feeds the Yellowstone volcano, provided by University of Utah geologists.
Source: AP

Of course, Middle America would be hit the hardest: Projected damage to the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states includes decreased road traction leading to more car accidents, in addition to severe electrical shortages, blocked sewer and water lines, ruined crops and potentially fatal respiratory restrictions to people with breathing ailments, such as asthma, according to Raw Story.

Basically, we'd all be screwed.

But there is hope, at least for now: That is, we have a long ways to go before this is supposed to happen. And Discovery reports that a number of telltale signs would give us ample warning to evacuate.

That's not much to hang your hat on if you're a future American, but it's the little things that count, right?