The possibility of the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone National Park erupting for the first time in 640,000 years is a very remote one – it probably won’t happen for another several hundred thousand years. But following this week’s discovery of a gigantic magma reserve beneath Yellowstone’s surface, one much larger than what anyone had fathomed, talk of the supervolcano had fired up once again, no pun intended.
According to scientists from the University of Utah, the odds of the supervocano erupting are at a yearly chance of 1 in 700,000. That’s about the same chance one would get of being struck by lightning, and chances the United States Geological Survey agrees with. But if the Yellowstone supervolcano does erupt, it is sure to be cataclysmic. As CNN pointed out, notable volcano eruptions, such as Mount St. Helens in the Pacific Northwest in 1980 and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, are small fry compared to the potential effect of a theoretical supervolcano eruption.
A comparable eruption, however, would be the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, which instantly killed about 10,000 residents of Indonesia . A separate report from Smithsonian Magazine suggests that Tambora’s eruption may have blocked out the sun all over the world, thus resulting in 1816 being the “year without a summer.”
As for Yellowstone’s Caldera, which takes up majority of the park, USGS officials believe that the impact may also be felt around the world, and in greater magnitude. “If another large caldera-forming eruption were to occur at Yellowstone, its effects would be worldwide,” said the agency in a statement. It’s worth noting that the last catastrophic eruption of the supervolcano left behind 240 cubic miles of debris, as to the 36 cubic miles left behind by Tambora in 1815.