It’s a well-known fact that there’s a huge volcano beneath the Yellowstone National Park. This is not your average volcano. It goes hundreds of meters deep into the ground. Just to show you how big it is, the volcano is estimated to be larger than the state of Rhode Island. Researchers say that the Yellowstone Volcano is capable of a thousand times more violent eruptions than anything we have seen so far. It’s what most people in the science community refer to as a super volcano. It’s such a rare thing though on the planet and there’s a handful all across the world. But the US has three super volcanoes all of which have been already designated as a big threat to the country. In essence, if the Yellowstone Volcano erupts, it would be catastrophic.
First, the volcano would shoot a massive tower of volcano ash high into the air. The ash will be so high that it will dwarf Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. And this is not all. The eruption would cover all nearby cities with at least a meter of volcanic ash. The ash would then create a giant cloud in the Earth’s atmosphere. This means the sun can no longer shine upon the Earth as it used to. The temperature levels will start to drop rapidly and plant life as we know it will cease to exist. Agriculture will then fail, the world will run out of food, and the end will be here. The UN, in fact, estimates that if such an eruption was to happen, the world would run out of food in just two months.
The Yellowstone volcano already has a history of eruption. Scientists note that over the last 2.1 million years, the volcano has erupted three times. That’s roughly once in a period of about 600,000 years. It’s fair to say though that while the headline here might seem a little bit worrisome, Yellowstone won’t erupt tomorrow or even in the next 10,000 years. Scientists estimate that it will take a few million years before we see an eruption of a grand scale.
But there’s actually a way to make sure that the volcano never erupts. It makes sense to be fair looking at the kind of devastation it can cause. An idea by NASA in partnership with scientists from JPL was already on the table in 2015 to make sure that this potentially devastating eruption never happens. The trick is actually simple, just cool off the volcano. After all, volcanic eruptions are caused by the buildup of heat.
The plan by NASA would involve dumping cold water into the magma vent in the volcano to keep it within manageable temperatures. But the logistics are not as easy as they seem. First, you will need about 20 Gigawatts of energy to cool off the volcano. And it won’t happen overnight. It would take nearly 16,000 years to reach the desired temperature. The plan would cost $3.46 billion, 20% of NASA’s total budget.