USGS reveals Yellowstones gravest threat to visitors

Yellowstone: Expert dismisses ‘overdue’ eruption claim

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Yellowstone National Park is home to one of the most feared volcanoes in the world. The Yellowstone Supervolcano could have the power to unleash an eruption which could devastate large swathes of the US. Thankfully, however, it is largely dormant, meaning an eruption is low down on the risk of dangers which the national park has to offer.

But there is one threat experts have singled out as being majorly problematic to incomers at Yellowstone National Park – the hot springs.

A blog post on the USGS’s website stated at least 20 people have died after falling into one of the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park since 1800.

Temperatures in the hot pools can exceed 92 degrees Celsius at the surface alone, with deeper water – near to volcanic vents – getting much hotter.

One person died after falling into the hot springs as recently as 2016, and people get injured much more frequently.

The USGS said: “A grave potential danger is all around you—Yellowstone’s hot, near-boiling hydrothermal waters.

“While you can see the surface expression of some of these thermal features, fragile ground hides much of this geothermal reservoir of hot water below the surface.

“Remarkably, even though falling into a thermal feature will surely result in third-degree burns or even death, it is sometimes not obvious that visitors to Yellowstone’s hydrothermal areas fully understand the great danger of being seriously burned.

“All too often, visitors blatantly disregard the clearly posted cautionary signs, leaving the boardwalk trails, which park rangers and park geologists place at a safe distance from dangerous features.

“Even worse, with park visitation and social media usage steadily rising, some people lose awareness of their surroundings and come too close to geysers and hot springs solely for the sake of getting a photo.”

Even if Yellowstone were to erupt in a cataclysmic style – of which there is no indication – experts have stated there would be plenty of time to prepare.

Volcanologist Dr Erik Klemetti of Denison University previously wrote in a piece for the Big Think: “Yellowstone is pretty calm as giant caldera systems go.

“We have such a small record of the behaviour of a ‘restless caldera’ that this inflation at Yellowstone could very easily fall into the realm of normal, non-eruption-causing behaviour.

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“And if you ever worry, Yellowstone is also well-wired to see all the real-time data, including earthquakes in the region and in the park, temperatures of hot springs, webcams, deformation within the caldera and hydrologic changes in the area.

“You would expect that if Yellowstone were headed towards an eruption, we would see lots of rapid inflation, lots of constant seismicity that gets shallower through time, a change in the temperature/composition of the hydrothermal systems and possibly even cracks forming in the land around the caldera.

“In other words, there will be lots of signs.”

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