Underground thermal heating is having a rather liquifying effect on some of the roads in Yellowstone National Park. In fact, the appropriately named Firehole Lake Drive has been closed off to visitors, park officials say, because they are impassable in their current state.
The Daily Caller reported (via Yahoo News) July 14 that roads connecting Old Faithful, the famous geyser that is one of the park's major attractions, and the Madison Junction have been closed to park visitors. Yellowstone Park public affairs chief Al Nash noted that there was a chance for personal injury involved. Besides, there were other great sites to visit in the extensive park while repairs to the roads were made. He also admitted that road closures of the kind occurring at present were business as usual for the park, due to the thermal heating constantly fluctuating in temperature because of activity in the Yellowstone Caldera.
Yellowstone National Park sits atop one of only seven supervolcanoes in the world, the Yellowstone Caldera, which is a massive magma lake. As with all centers of magma concentration, it is only a matter of time before enough pressure builds within the underground chambers of the caldera and erupts skyward. It is one of the many doomsday scenarios that might actually occur, because the Yellowstone Supervolcano has erupted several times in the past. The last time occurred around 640,000 years ago.
Although experts say another eruption could come at any time, seismologists and geological experts have not been able to pinpoint when an eruption might occurr with any reasonable hope for accuracy. Adding to uncertainty is the caldera's actual size. Just last December, a geological study found that the Yellowstone Caldera is two-and-a-half times larger than previously estimated.
Still, some believe the geothermal activity is hotter than ever.
“But it’s hard to tell if a thermal area is hotter than normal, because it’s always fluctuating here,” Nash explained. “Road closures are business as usual for us.”
And at present, those roads are in a state of closure.
The reasons, of course, center around safety for park visitors. There is always the very real chance that what looks like solid ground can be extremely hot water, a bit of natural illusion that could become quite dangerous to the casual hiker or sightseer.
“It basically turned the asphalt into soup,” Yellowstone spokesman Dan Hottle said, according to RT.com. ”It turned the gravel road into oatmeal.”
But could the caldera be about ready to blow its top again? The area did record its biggest earthquake in 30 years last year.
Dr. Robert Smith of the University of Utah, known as the world's foremost authority on the Yellowstone Supervolcano, told KULR-8 in Billings (Mont.): "If we were to have another big eruption, it would affect a large area, on the order of several states. But, as I said, that probability is very, very, very, very small. In my calculations it’s point zero, zero, zero, one percent.”
Optimists will find the numbers comforting. Pessimists will not. Doomsday preppers, those who maintain a readied state of preparedness for economic and world collapse (for all sorts of reasons) and their like will likely double up on their "bug-out" preparations, because, well, there's a chance it could happen.