By David Haggith
HONOLULU, HAWAII (Worthy News) -- Scientists were watching the United States' famous Yellowstone National Park, Tuesday, January 6, after hundreds of earthquakes there late December and last week -- prompting fears they are the prelude to the world's most powerful volcanic eruption.
The series of earthquakes, the most violent in decades, have not yet caused damage, but with a 3-4 range on the Richter Scale, scientists are concerned.
Magma and steam permeate the rock beneath Yellowstone, and the motion of these fluids is thought to be responsible for the thousands of smaller earthquakes recorded in and around the park each year, scientists say.
The hundreds of tiny earthquakes could mean a more powerful volcanic eruption, and Yellowstone's volcano is capable of the most powerful eruptions on earth, according to scientific studies. So, when the park starts rattling a lot more than normal, observers pay attention.
Some scientists say the last eruption of Yellowstone's super volcano occurred about 640,000 years ago and blew 240 cubic miles of rock and dust into the sky. That's enough material to drastically change earth's climate, first scorching much of the United States from the heat released, and then cooling the whole planet by blocking out the sun.
Far lesser volcanic eruptions have cause earth's lights to go out. Ken Wohletz, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said recently that the Dark Ages may have literally begun dark as the result of a 6th century eruption of Krakatoa, a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia.
That eruption was believed to have shrouded the world in a thin veil of volcanic ash, casting a pall over the sun's light. Krakatoa is not even a super volcano.
This month's edition of Time magazine asks, "Could the current activity be the warning signs of another such apocalypse?" The United States Geological Survey isn't sure, but has warned of an earthquake similar to the one on August 17, 1959, when the park was rattled by a 7.5 shaker. It caused landslides that killed 28 people, dammed one of Yellowstone's rivers, and left $11 million in damage.