Kiss Your Ash Goodbye: The Yellowstone Supervolcano, Part V, A Vulcanology Primer by Stephanie Osborn

Kiss Your Ash Goodbye: The Yellowstone Supervolcano, Part V, A Vulcanology Primer by Stephanie Osborn

Excerpted from Kiss Your Ash Goodbye: The Yellowstone Supervolcano, © 2018

By Stephanie Osborn

Images in this article are public domain unless otherwise noted.


What Would Happen If Yellowstone Erupted Today?

That would depend on the type of eruption. Because, you see, sometimes Yellowstone vomits, sometimes it coughs, and sometimes it only sneezes.


The Sneeze: Hydrothermal/Phreatic Eruptions

A hydrothermal or phreatic eruption is by far the most common occurrence at Yellowstone. Put simply, it’s a cross between a boiler explosion and a geyser, and at least at Yellowstone, often leaves new geysers or hot springs in its wake. The USGS’s definition is as follows: “[A hydrothermal eruption is an] explosion that can occur when hot water within a volcano’s h

ydrothermal (hot water) system flashes to steam, breaking rocks and throwing them into the air.” And often throwing them a good distance…though NOT nearly as far as a standard volcanic eruption can chuck a lava bomb.

It does happen, and has happened in living memory — Porkchop Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin was formed in this fashion in 1989. More historically, Excelsior Geyser generated a large, violent hydrothermal eruption in 1888, which was captured on film; it had been erupting in this fashion off and on through the 1880s-90s. Duck Lake, the ENTIRE LAKE, is the crater formed by such a hydrothermal eruption.


Hydrothermal explosion at Biscuit Basin in Yellowstone National Park.

Credit: USGS


IMPORTANT NOTE: Even when not in an active eruption, Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features are dangerous; some 22 people have died from falling into scalding hot springs since records began in 1870. One of the most recent, which occurred in 2016 in or in the near vicinity of Porkchop, resulted in the partial dissolution of the body before it could be recovered, thanks to the fact that the spring was essentially boiling acid; park rangers said had it taken much longer to recover the body, there would have been no body left to recover. (What was the victim going to do, according to his sister, who saw the whole horrible thing? He was going to take a hot tub bath in it. He fell in while trying to take the temperature of the water, when the thin, fragile mineral deposit on which he stood gave way.)

Yellowstone is far from the only volcano which generates such eruptions; I have been present for numerous such eruptions at Mount Saint Helens. There, they are usually called phreatic eruptions, and may carry some ash along with the steam vents. They are fairly common occurrences, and take place anywhere there is snow, ice, or other groundwater source in close proximity to magma.

Hydrothermal eruptions at Yellowstone are localized to the vicinity of the explosion, and do not affect the park as a whole. They can present a danger to bystanders, however, if observers are in the way of either the large rock ejecta or the scalding and often highly acidic water/steam.

This is THE MOST LIKELY TYPE OF ERUPTION to occur at Yellowstone.


The Cough: Ordinary Eruptions

The last “ordinary” eruption to occur at the Yellowstone hotspot happened only 70,000 years ago — yesterday, geologically-speaking. These tend to form fairly common lava flows, and may be somewhat eruptive (though trap-type flows have also occurred, according to geological evidence). It would devastate the park, and possibly some of the surrounding land, depending on exactly where and how the lava surfaced, but would not necessarily induce a supervolcanic eruption if there is insufficient pressure, or if the “surface shadow” of the underground melt is not large.

This is the second most likely type of eruption to occur at Yellowstone.



Yellowstone caldera’s northwest rim at Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park. Note the presence of two overlapping lava flows from “ordinary” volcanic eruptions. Credit: USGS.


The Vomit: Super-eruptions

Super-eruptions take a fairly long time to develop, but as they progress, they accelerate. It can take anywhere from millennia to mere decades for the magma chamber to inflate and the signs to manifest, but once the chamber roof cracks all the way through from the surface, the rest takes place in a matter of minutes to seconds.

Once the cap has broken up, a giant plume develops some 12-20mi (20-32km) high. The initial plume collapses to form a giant pyroclastic flow that wipes everything out within 60-100mi (100-160km). Anything closer than 125-200 mi (200-325 km) is buried under vast amounts of ash and roofed/covered structures collapse within hours to days; aircraft can no longer fly over western USA/Canada, rapidly progressing to all of North America as the ash cloud spreads. Vehicles stall when air intakes choke on ash. Mud flows form in rainy areas. The first cases of silicosis develop. The ash cloud sweeps worldwide, reaching Europe in ~3 days. Global temperatures drop, and Earth enters a volcanic winter.


Modeled Extent of Ashfall in a Modern Super-eruption

Even Chicago would get up to an inch or more of ash, and the East Coast gets a solid dusting. The west coast of USA, Canada, and northern Mexico get no favors, either. The grain belt would be devastated in a matter of hours.

Some FEMA researchers estimate the US could take as much as $3 trillion in damage/loss. Other experts say that as much as 2/3 of the USA could be rendered uninhabitable.



The modeled extent of ashfall, with depth decreasing with increasing distance, of a modern-day Yellowstone supereruption. Credit: USGS.


Don’t Panic!

A supereruption is the LEAST likely type of eruption to occur. There are far too many panic-mongers out there.


The 2018 “Incident” That Wasn’t

While I was writing the ebook, I was pinged on social media about A DREADFUL SITUATION! OH NOES! HUGE FISSURE OPENS UP INSIDE YELLOWSTONE SUPERVOLCANO, AREA AROUND FISSURE CLOSED! ERUPTION IMMINENT!!! or impressions to that effect.

Well, I took one good look at the article’s source and snorted. And then I got busy researching.

It turns out there was a JOINT FRACTURE in the rock above Hidden Falls in GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, NOT Yellowstone National Park, and some SIXTY MILES (100km) from Yellowstone. The crack was HORIZONTAL (not vertical, therefore NOT able to reach down toward a magma chamber, which does not currently have sufficient melt in it to even inflate, anyway), and was considered a rock fall hazard, hence the real reason why the immediate area was closed by the Park Service. Cause of the fracture was most likely the usual freezing/thawing process that causes such things in mountain ranges.


Hidden Falls in Grand Tetons National Park.

Credit: National Parks Service.


The 2004 Incident

In 2004, there was a small kill-off of animals in Yellowstone, notably about half a dozen bison, in a hollow along the Gibbon River inside the park. This, as well as the slight inflation of the Yellowstone Lake bed, resulted in significant concern among both geologists and the public that the magma chamber was inflating and the caldera becoming active.

a nursery
A nursery group of bison cows and calves makes its way through Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. Credit: National Parks Service/Neal Herbert.


However, that proved not quite the case.

You see, the caldera area “breathes.” Elevations go up and down by small amounts. Sometimes this is because the magma chamber is inflating, and sometimes it isn’t. In this case, the DEEP chamber (NOT the shallow chamber, from whence an eruption comes) had in fact had fresh magma pumped in, but the quantity was small, and it periodically slows, stops, or even reverses. Scientists believe this is because the “fresh” magma, upon reaching the bottom of the upper chamber, then flows away through deep horizontal vents (rather like what Kilauea is doing now), to cool and form plutons — small to very large bodies of underground, intruded, solidified igneous rock.

Often this ground swell is also because there is a tremendous quantity of ground water heated by the (mostly-solid but still hot) upper magma chamber. And when water is heated, it expands. As the heated ground water ebbs and flows, the ground in the area swells and shrinks. This, in turn, tends to change the activity of the hydrothermal features, increasing or decreasing with the pressure of ground water.

That last bit is important, because the animal-kill event occurred shortly after a cold front passage, when the air was frigid and still, and the animals took shelter in a low-lying area near the river, where those same hydrothermal features would help keep the air warm, and make foraging for food easier. Hydrothermal features such as those found nearby are also known to emit toxic volcanic gases such as sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide, often in significant quantities, WITHOUT the need for an eruptive event — pretty much continuously. And these gases, mostly being heavier than air, tend to flow along the ground and collect in low-lying areas. Normally, the winds in the region keep the air sufficiently stirred that concentration is not particularly dangerous, but certain meteorological conditions — such as those brought about by the cold front passage — can result in air that is sufficiently still to allow the vapors to collect and concentrate, and this appears to be what happened in 2004.

And this has happened before, several times in recorded history. This does NOT mean that the caldera is preparing to erupt. Nor does it mean that such an eruption, IF it took place, would automatically be a supereruption, as “ordinary” eruptions are more common, based on geologic studies.


But What if it DID erupt? What do you do?

Kiss your ash goodbye…?

No, seriously. What do you do?

In all seriousness? Unfortunately, there are some natural disasters for which it simply isn’t possible to do a lot of advance preparation. They are simply too big, too widespread, and too variable, to make plans. Supervolcano eruptions are one of these. Physicist Michio Kaku said it best, I think…

“All you can do is run.”

~Michio Kaku


To obtain a copy of Kiss Your Ash Goodbye: The Yellowstone Supervolcano by Stephanie Osborn, go to:

131 responses to “Kiss Your Ash Goodbye: The Yellowstone Supervolcano, Part V, A Vulcanology Primer by Stephanie Osborn

  1. I seem to keep living in the “Yep, gonna get some ash” zones. Be my luck, instead of the 3 to 10 mm it would be inches sure to some freak winds or something.

    • Remember that ash is generally not healthy to inhale or eat. This is because it is essentially small shards of volcanic glass. So even a few mm of ash won’t be pleasant. Also the stuff is extremely heavy, so a buildup on the roof must be avoided.

    • Same boat. At least this time we are a farther away. Last time we were 40 air miles from the “bulge being watched on the mountain side” (St Helen’s). A lot further away from bubbling Yellowstone. Closer to the current “mountain bulge” on South Sister (S. Willamette Valley). But definitely in the “Ash Zone.”

      Prior posts I’ve mention the t-shirt that came out almost immediately after St. Helen’s blew (well before access was even close to being reality). The one where a color graphic emphasizing all the volcanoes from CA to WA/Canadian boarder, with St Helen prominent caption:

      “Okay boys. One, Two, Three …”

      Now i am imagining adding Yellowstone to the graphic in the upper eastern-ish corner (didn’t say graphic was anywhere close to scale, it’s not). With the caption under Yellowstone being:

      “Burp. Hey guys. Wait for me!”


      • ROFL

        With one difference: the Cascade volcanoes are all fueled by the Cascadia subduction, but Yellowstone gots a big ol’ honkin’ hotspot.

        • Well, yes.

          Didn’t say it had to be geologically logical. 😉 😉

          • LOL okay.
            Having a day and being a little too literal, I guess.
            But also making sure nobody misunderstands.

            • Yes. Figured. Just being clear I was aware of the fact.

              I like Geology. Only have a basic education on it. Enough that I understand the terminology & basic rocks & soils when it is discussed at various NP or other “natural” forums. One intro to geology class, plus all the forestry soils & environmental classes. Although my roommate & I enjoyed the areal photo lab for the geology class.

              As (almost graduated) Forestry majors we’d taken the areal photo class as sophomores & been using the tech for 3 years seasonally but the geology grads didn’t get it until after they had their bachelor’s degree. So we taught that lab. Note, this was pre-desktop computer days, late 70’s.

              • You and I are of an age, then. Desktop computers were just starting to be a thing about a year or two after I started my space/defense work. Dang, but graphics/slideshow presentations sure got easier after those things came along.

                Once I got to a certain level with my studies, most of the profs didn’t worry so much about whether the class I wanted to take was considered graduate or undergrad. I took a couple graduate-level classes as part of my undergrad “minor” — which really was more than a minor, because I had more coursework in than a minor required. So I kinda segue’d into graduate school, to a point, I suppose.

                I came close to picking up a specific degree in geology, in addition to the ones in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and mathematics, but kinda felt like I needed to quit doing that and get a job, lest I become a perennial student or something. I still kinda regret that I didn’t.

                What’s interesting about it is that the park ranger I talked to at Johnston Observatory at St. Helens was a forestry major and he snuck up on me while I was standing by myself watching the seismograph feed from the mountain. I was muttering to myself, and identifying the types of activity that the vibrations indicated, not realizing anybody was anywhere close (because too intent on the seismograph, occasionally shooting a look out the window to see if the phreatic eruption I’d identified had produced an obvious steam vent), when he remarked, right behind me, “You really know what you’re doing with that.” After chatting for a good quarter-hour about everything from the mountain itself to our respective backgrounds, he decided that my almost-major in geology (and I kept up with several geology classes in grad school, plus doing research on my own) trumped his forestry major and he started sending visitors with questions to me!

                • That said, I think his particular forestry specialty was more about trees and such, IIRC, than it was about geology or soils or anything like that. And while I know a fair amount about vulcanism, I couldn’t really tell you diddly-squat about soils (Holmes’ expertise notwithstanding, so I suppose I should get with it). Maybe to figure out pH or whatnot.

                  • It’s been awhile for me now. Never kept up with it.

                    Hubby & I both scaled the logs they grabbed while the grabbing was available (reachable & wood still good), from June ’80 to Sept ’81.

                    It was very interesting identifying the wood as it came out. No or little bark. Everything was the same color. Everything was cooked on the rim about 10 to 12″ deep. Only way to id was to find wood at the heart you could chunk out & id that way. One we id’d was Cottonwood. Single log load. It was massive.

                • Full boomer here. Will be 62 this fall. Forestry degree obtained ’79. Associates Programming degree ’85, & full Computer Science degree ’89; two weeks before kid was born.

                  Since I went back to school in ’83, thanks to the spotted owl & the inability to get & stay pregnant … ’89 was kind of ironic.

                  FWIW. Not the only Forester who changed careers in the ’80’s for the same reasons; jobs, or the lack there of. A lot went into Computers also.

                  Ironically my first computer class, on teletype, on mainframe, Winter 1976. I Hated. Despised. Loathed. Was totally clueless.

                  When we decided one of us had to get out of timber, I was the one not working at all, hubby was working of & on. I figured “Accounting” because if I couldn’t do what I wanted, then I would do something that was absolutely dead easy for me (it was/is**). Councilor suggested computers, thought she was nuts. Since I had to take the basic accounting classes plus the “intro to computing class”. Wow, the difference between summer of ’83 & winter ’76!!! Apple IIe & equivalent, were a huge part of it.

                  ** Accounting classes were so easy that I was (for a change) one of those students racing through the tests to see who could get done fastest & still get over 100%. I know. Bad, Bad, Bad. Fast forward to my last job which was working on a Cost Accounting System (which, from the boss was suppose to be, I quote “different than standard accounting” … uhhh legally maybe; but mathematically, No.) Was told it would take me 6 months to a year to “get up to speed”. No. Took me 4 weeks & only because I was dead cold on the programming tool (never used).

                  • Heh. Yes.

                    My dad was a computer programmer/systems analyst because he got into it in the very early years — late 60s. He was using punch cards back then, and used to carry around big ol’ stacks of the things. He taught me what “decimal” meant, then taught me to count and do basic arithmetic in binary, octal, and hexadecimal…years before that was even covered in my elementary school math classes.

                    By the time I got to undergrad school, I realized I needed to be able to program, so I looked at getting an undergrad minor in computer science. But the school had assembler as one of the requirements, even for a minor, and even I knew that that was already on the way out (we’re looking at right around 1980, so I’m a bit younger than you are, but not by a whole lot). So I didn’t pick up a minor; I just picked and chose the programming courses I wanted.

                    In the end, I picked up enough ability to code that if I need to, I can sit down and learn a new programming language. (It’s how I built my website; I learned to code html and then built the site.)

                    • “In the end, I picked up enough ability to code that if I need to, I can sit down and learn a new programming language.”

                      Yep. That is easy. I skipped the assembler requirement; thank you very much. I can do the math, but I have to work at it (octal etc). As far as design & programming goes, I am (okay retired so maybe “was” is more appropriate) very good because I see patterns. I’ve worked with better (programmers), because they were math savants, but they couldn’t work with users (easily), I can.

                      You know the type. The one who provide users with what they think the user should have, NOT (usually) what all the user needs (VS what the user wants, which often is not what they need, but that is a different conversation.)

                      It was so much fun working with someone like that because I swear sometimes I had to umm, get very insistent: “Yes. That is required & needed. Here is why, & why, & why. No, that can’t be put off …” /sigh

                      Don’t get me wrong. I always learned a lot. Enjoyed working with them. But lord sometimes …

                    • Heh, yup. I know the type. Have seen it myself, and heard about it from my dad, too.

                      I was generally pretty good at programming, for much the same reason I can construct a story plot: I can see it in my head. I never flow-chart a program, and I tend to write it modularly, then string the modules together in the appropriate fashion. I remember when they taught us subroutines, it made perfect sense to me. But the profs really didn’t understand how it was I never made flowcharts. If the assignment required a flowchart along with the program, I wrote the program, then did the flowchart when I was done and knew how I constructed it. (Yeah, I always have been bass-ackwards that way.) But I have the math and the visual thing both going — got one from dad, the other from mom — and it just seems to be the way my brain works.

                    • Flow charts? Diagrams? What are those? 😉

                      Haven’t seen those since I graduated in ’89 with the CS degree. Actually what made that degree a little harder was I was already working as a programmer. Also made it easier.

                    • LOL I so hear ya! I wasn’t programming yet, exactly, but Dad had had me doing a few odds and ends here and there for years. Never mind that I’d studied logic and Boolean algebra.

                    • Boolean Logic. Funny thing that.

                      My last job we had report programs that allowed users to select what data they wanted based off of selected data fields. Really when you looked at it, it hid complicated Boolean logic; it did have some limitations. The head system librarian wanted to give users the explicit ability to do this.

                      My response was not only a loud vocal “No.” Technically it was “HELL No.”

                      He didn’t have to teach data entry/book-keepers/accountants how to do this. The boss would end up introducing it during training, I would end up actually having to teach it, so users actually understood how it worked, over the darn phone; because I had more patience than the guys. It would. Not. Be. Possible. These are people that think -25 * -1 = -25, and can’t figure out why the system calculated 25.

                      Technically there were 4 other programmers that would have been in the same boat, but for some reason after the first year, most users would call me. Darn hard to get programming done. Yes, I occasionally dodged the darn phone, why do you ask. Company did not have tiered support. All programmers (except 2, long story) provided direct client support.

                    • Let’s see if this works. It should bring up a preview that is my reaction to your tale…

                    • Yes. About sums the situation in one picture.

                    • Don’t get me wrong. Most the time people were tired, rushed, & they just didn’t “see” what they’d done. When pointed out, it was “duh …” The ones that scared me were “Why is that wrong?” A lot more examples, but after almost 3 years away …

                    • Yeah. I guess I saw a lot of the latter, over the course of things.

      • “Burp. Hey guys. Wait for me!”

        Ha! Good one!

        “I seem to be under a lot of pressure lately…”

    • Not sure if the map doesn’t show it but it looks like my State wouldn’t get any until it spread all around the world. Prevailing winds seem to be taking the ash East – South East so that could be accurate. A volcanic winter would rather suck up here though.

      • Well, given the map shows ashfall on the entire CONUS, unless you’re in Alaska or Hawaii, you’re gonna get ash. It turns out that — surprise! and it did surprise the geologists — the ash column “mushrooms” about as much UPwind as it does DOWNwind.

  2. What would I do?

    I would find out what I could do and where I fit in as the new normal formed. (At my age and with my health issues that might not be much.) While all that went on I would certainly mourn the likely fate of many friends.

    When contemplating such things I find myself glad I live in an area where the most likely natural disaster is brought by North Atlantic hurricanes. Also, that I live inland and uphill of the worst of that. Hurricanes are far more likely to happen, but they are not whole society changing events.

    • Bingo.

      I wasn’t trying to be flippant as regards an ending, of course. But for something as huge and devastating as a supervolcanic eruption, there really is nothing that CAN be done. You avoid what you can, and you cope with what you can’t avoid, and you adapt as best you are able. That’s about the size of it.

      • Immigration New Zealand:

        What the wealthy are apparently doing is lining up dual citizenship elsewhere so they are not in the foreigner-refugees line at the airport when they arrive in their selected undisclosed being-elsewhere location. Peter Thiel has apparently selected Aotearoa and has already acquired a Kiwi passport, which is a fair use of the requisite appropriately sized pallet of money in my opinion.

        The issue is, of course, that gas turbine engines very much do not like volcanic ash, nor to a lesser degree do gasoline or diesel engine air filters, so even if one were “only” in the 1″-of-ash-everywhere area, getting out of the lower 48 will be a significant challenge after it becomes obvious that one should depart.

        Of course one could move to Hawaii now. And buy a place high enough that it’s above the tsunami line.

        • And what if the apparent caldera near Christchurch decides to burp? Oops.

          • Much this too.

            Remember, folks, it isn’t like Yellowstone is the ONLY supervolcano on the planet. Heck, depending how you count it, there’s 3-4 more just in CONUS.

            Never mind Toba, Tambora, Campi Flegrei…

            By my estimate, there was something like 20-ish supervolcanoes or potential supervolcanoes worldwide.

            Granted, the chances of more than one going off at a go is low — and we should be VERY GLAD of that. Two or more erupting at once might well be an extinction-level event on account of the depth of the ensuing volcanic winter. I’d need to do some research and calculations on that, but off the top of my head, that would be next-order-of-magnitude catastrophic, perhaps on order of a major impactor.

            • Are there any of the other supervolcanos that are more likely to go then Yellowstone?

              • There are several that are being worried-over, and one of those is the Long Valley Caldera. Another is the Campi Flegrei region around Naples Italy.

                Toba is undergoing resurgence. Exactly the nature of this resurgence is in question.

                That said, none of them show signs of imminent eruption. The one I’m hearing the most about in terms of potential danger is Campi Flegrei, and that’s because we learned nothing from Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae, Boscoreale, and the others. (Yes, Vesuvius and Campi Flegrei are part of the same volcanic complex, jointly known as the Campanian Volcanic Arc.)

        • I am not sure that anyone would be able to get to New Zealand anytime soon once something like the Yellowstone went full tilt boogie.  After a catastrophic event of that proportion occurred most systems in the country would either be severely curtailed or shut down altogether.

      • Live West of the caldera, trying to avoid Ring of Fire volcanic area and plan to shelter in place for decades.

        Or just be glad you live NOW when the chamber’s nearly empty.
        I think I’ll stick with blizzards and wildfires, and a very tiny chance of Yellowstone.

        I suspect the answer is there isn’t, but is there any supervolcano clearinghouse site where the best current info on the whole kit and kaboodle of them is? Yellowstone’s not likely to errupt in our lifetimes, but I’d be curious if any others are.

        • I think you want to head well SW in order to stand the best chance of getting out of the way of the effects.

          But no, I don’t know of any central clearinghouse for supervolcano info. There’s quite a few general-volcano stuff, but part of the problem is that the cutoff depends on who’s defining it. The strict definition of a supervolcano is VEI=8, but some vulcanologists think the nastiest ones should have a VEI=9 defined, and some think that VEI=7, if the ejecta is dense enough, should be included.

          The Mazama eruption that formed Crater Lake was in fact a VEI-7, as was the Valles Caldera eruption AND the Henry’s Fork eruption at what is now Yellowstone, so how many supervolcanoes we have in the CONUS is dependent on how you define them.

          In the wider world, Tambora was a 7; Santorini was a 7; Campi Flegrei was a 7; Rotorua on the north island of New Zealand (Taupo Volcanic Zone) was a 7; et cetera ad infinitum ad nauseam.

        • There is the NDVP list on Volcano Café
          “…we agreed on a set of criteria for our list of the ten most dangerous volcanic systems at the moment. First of all, the system must be one capable of a truly devastating eruption within the next 10 – 100 years. We’re not discussing a hypothetical VEI 8 eruption that could happen some 50,000 years or more from now, but one that could happen tomorrow geologically speaking.

          Our second criterion and the most important one is that if the volcanic system has a full-scale major eruption, a million lives or more could be at risk from primary, secondary and tertiary effects of such an eruption. We call this MDE – Million Death Expectancy. That’s right, volcanic systems capable of having eruptions in the foreseeable future that could kill a million people or more…”

          • Yes, and I’m familiar with several such sites, Volcano Cafe, VolcanoWorld, certain pages of the USGS site, and several others among them. But none of them track SUPERvolcanoes as such, which was the specific question. And that description patently excludes “possible” supervolcanic eruptions. Which is why I didn’t list any of those.

            Basically, look for an explosive-eruption type volcano near a large population center, and it will probably make that list.

  3. Thank you, Stephanie, for letting us read these. I’ve learned a lot, and have enjoyed reading them.

  4. The good news (for me, personally) is that the Big One is very unlikely any time soon. The bad is that IF it happens, I seem to be within the area of “You’ll survive… long enough to wish you hadn’t.” There seems to be only two good places to be in the event of a super-eruption. Right close to be done right off, and very, VERY far away. Kinda like the best place to be in a nuke strike is ground zero, or as elsewhere as is possible. The latter being preferable, of course. “Elsewhere” indicates survival, or at least the higher probability of it.

  5. Might be fun to see a trap type flow all down the Yellowstone River to where it joins the Missouri. Of course all the towns and cities along the way wouldn’t be too happy; not to mention burying some of I90 and burying a large portion of I94.

  6. The extremely small particles in the Ash clouds would destroy vehicle engines fairly quickly. So even small amounts of Ash could bring vehicles to a stop. So you can’t send transport in to rescue people also the vehicles in the Ash might not last long enough to get people out. Any open water would become a mud slush pit with the Ash plus it would cause the water to be undrinkable because of contaminates. Getting stuck in the loose Ash would be easy, another way transportation is stopped.
    So, you can’t stay in place, water, power, etc. just isn’t going to be there. If you have prepped you have food and water but you are looking at decades before things get better.
    Your only chance is to drive as far as you can then to WALK out.
    They CANNOT come to help you! Their transportation dies and they are stuck there and they die with you.

    Anyone in the Ash zone had better move fast and get out early or they will not get out at all. Can YOU carry enough water for a couple of hundred mile walk?

    • And people can’t wear gas masks indefinitely, especially when doing hard physical labor.

      • May be able to use an N95 instead of NBC style. Still pain to work in but it happens and can cycle thru if enough heads.

        • You don’t really NEED a GAS mask unless you’re very close in and getting the effects of the volcanic gases — in which case, you have a whole buncha other worries that are probably higher priority. You need to be far enough out that the air is cool enough to survive, and you need a filter mask. And for that, people can and have used wet kerchiefs.

    • Well, you can always filter the water. The ash comes out fairly readily, as far as that’s concerned. Not much else that’s gonna contaminate it from the volcano outside the instant-kill zone.

    • Eh, depending on the level of ashfall, it’s not that terribly deadly. We were shoveling and sweeping ash off roofs after Spurr’s eruptions with nought more than a bandana soaked down over mouth and nose. (You could rinse it off if you didn’t have gutters, but gutters full of wet stone (ash) tend to rip away from the house, so not advisable.

      It settled out of water fairly well, being fine stone, even if it leaves a faint taste, well, no worries.

      The annoying part is when it explodes in winter, because then next spring, when the snow melts out, everything’s covered with the ash that was trapped in the snow again. And the mud… if you forget and use your windshield wipers on road spray, even just once, you’ll score your windshield. Which makes driving into the sun bloody annoying.

      • Alla that.

        But the air intakes for engines of whatever sort tend to gunk up badly. There are ways around it, but you have to know what you’re doing and be ready in advance, before you get things too gunked up.

        And turbojets, from what I’ve been told by those in a position to know, actually re-melt the ash and gum up the works, then produce obsidian shards once it cools.

        • Ayup. With the car, I could just change the air filter and oil & oil filter every 50 miles, and it’s still a daily driver for a college kid today. With airplanes – they scattered if they could, and if not, got their intakes plugged up tight, and then Very Carefully Cleaned after it settles.

          Oh, and it not only remelts, it also abrades the turbine blades on the way through.

    • Was the whole thing with BA009 years ago (mt galunggong). Not only fine particles, gases and such but the ash was not yet cooled and actually cooled on compressor and turbines and knocked out all four engines. Got lucky in that the engines restarted once below the ash cloud. Also effectively sandblasted the outside of the aircraft, including windscreen.

      Probably better chances closer to ground away from ground zero but it’s gonna eat its way thru any turbine pretty quickly. Even ICE will either get eroded or have air filter gone quick.

  7. Gotta step out and hit a few appointments, guys, so I won’t be answering comments for a couple hours. Keep talking, and I’ll jump on here once I get home and put in my $0.02 worth.

  8. Once again Our Esteemed Hostess has been so kind as to share the work of The Interstellar Woman of Mystery, and brought us very worthwhile reading.  Thanks to both of them.

    If you haven’t read any of Ms. Osborn’s fiction I highly recommend trying it.  She is a great story teller. 

    (Warning: she does seem to have a soft spot for brilliant but insecure platinum blonde heroines with tragic family histories.)

    • In all fairness, the basic stories that are becoming the Division One series were written a couple decades ago. I’m pulling them out, polishing them up, and adding to them. But when I initially decided to shelve them, I ended up taking some of the characteristics of the female lead and modifying them, then I put them into the Displaced Detective series. That includes one school incident that really happened to me, that appears in both series, as told by the female leads. (I hadn’t realized I’d done that.) Consider ’em alternate-universe versions of each other, if you like.

      But yes, I do have a fondness for blonde female leads. The reason is actually pretty darned simple: I know how to dress ’em from personal experience.

      • Consider ’em alternate-universe versions of each other, if you like.

        Oh, now that might explain a great deal.

      • I’d prefer to say that people tend to frequently have common experiences; no matter which universe you’re in.

        • As one of the series establishes the existence of the multiverse (The Displaced Detective) it would suit that the other might be happening in another part of said multiverse.

          • Which was kinda where I was going with that, yeah.

            I think it’s in the manuscript I just finished, though it may be in an earlier book, but in one of the Division One books, I have Fox quote “an acquaintance” and he uses a direct quote from Holmes in one of the Displaced Detective books. That was kinda for fun; I dunno that they’re necessarily in the same universe, but then, Fox’s adventures with Coalition President Entiyti were rather far-ranging, so who knows how he might have encountered Holmes? Or which version he encountered?

    • While I’m about it, let’s do this.
      Division One series, book 1:

  9. Someone could explain to the green fanatics that eventually their beloved earth itself, without any help from mankind, will execute mass extinctions.

  10. I live in northern Utah and have a history of asthma. Ash would be a definite problem.

  11. > “All you can do is run.”
    > ~Michio Kaku

    No, you can’t.

    Not far enough, not fast enough.

    • Stephanie, once again thanks for the superb info.

    • It’s better than standing in one place and waiting to be overtaken.

      • Why spend your latest moments on earth exhausted to the bone? It seems to merely put the cherry on top of the pain sundae.

        • I’d rather go out fighting to have a chance to live than sit there and watch death coming at me. I realized that’s what David Johnston did — had to do — at St. Helens, and it’s haunted me ever since.

          • ^^^ THIS

            I never understood the people who wanted to be at ground zero if the missiles started flying either.

            • It depends.

              At ground zero you can reasonably expect to have no more time than to begin to think, ‘Oh, sh….’

              Then there are the zones where you will die, but it will take some time.

              After that there is the areas where you will be challenged to find a way to survive until you can rebuild, but it becomes more and more likely that you can.

              I’d like to be far enough away to be among the people who have to figure out, ‘As we are so fortunate as to be well outside the disaster zone what can we do to help the survivors?’

          • So, if he’d managed to get to the other side of the ridge, and jumped into a deep enough pool of water (several feet down) or mud (at least a foot under the surface) and held his breath for at least a minute after the blast/flow passed, and wasn’t killed by the blast pressure transmitted through the water/mud, it’s possible he might have survived.

            I just have an image from the end of Predator where Arnold survives the self destruct nuke by diving into the river and coming up surrounded by blasted and smoldering remains of the jungle.

            I’m with you. If I’m going down, I’m going down fighting to the very last. Which is how most of the survivors of these kinds of things make it through; with an astronomical amount of luck, or at least God’s help, added.

            • Frankly, as close as he was, he had no chance. The backside of the ridge — and he was on top — was devastated as well, and the heat was such that he’d have had to stay underwater a lot longer than that or risk searing his lungs at best, whole body at worst.

              That’s kind of why it haunts me. He was a scientist. He recognized what was coming at him — at Mach, no less, so only seconds to react anyway — and there was nothing he could do but watch his death flying at him at fighter-jet speeds.

              • My impression is that his work saved lives, as there had been great pressure to keep, and then to reopen the area around Mt. St. Helen’s to the public.

                It is strange to think that he had switched observation shifts with Harry Glicken, who later became the second America volcanologist to have died as a result of an eruption.

                • Well, strangely enough, up until St. Helens blew, nobody ever thought about a volcano blowing out the SIDE (“lateral blast”); they seemed to be of the opinion that they always blew UPWARD. Which is why Dr. Johnston was sitting where he was, so close.

                  As for Dr. Glicken, he too died in a pyroclastic flow. I suppose it could be argued that he wasn’t done yet, or something. I dunno. After all, as nearly as I understand it, at the time of the St. Helens eruption, Glicken was Johnston’s grad student.

                  • “Well, strangely enough, up until St. Helens blew, nobody ever thought about a volcano blowing out the SIDE (“lateral blast”); they seemed to be of the opinion that they always blew UPWARD. Which is why Dr. Johnston was sitting where he was, so close.”

                    Yes. Out of the 52 who died. Few were actually in the original closed area.

  12. > “All you can do is run.”
    > ~Michio Kaku

    No, you can’t.

    Not far enough, not fast enough.

    (Cthulhu and Nyarlathotep were responsible for the NYT’s Op-Ed by “the Trump administration insider”.