My instinct is that even if Yosemite blew in the worst way possible, the world would not end. Life wouldn't end (well, actually, a lot of
would end, but not life as we know it).
For one thing, as a genus, we've been through this a lot. Depending on your scientific viewpoint of
which genus constitutes humanity
, Australopithecus or Homo), humans have been around for 2.5 to 5+ million years. At an average rate of one supervolcanic eruption every 200,000
years, we've been through it anywhere from 12-25 times. It's practically old hat!
So, as a genus, we'll probably survive. I think it's an interesting coincidence, though, that our hominid ancestors appear to have gone through a
change roughly every 200,000 years once you get to the last 2 million years. Perhaps, as a species forced to adapt to new conditions after the
supervolcano, a new species will develop, and Homo Sapiens will become another museum piece. Or maybe it's just coincidence.
Anyway, here's what little reputable material is found in regards to what we can expect from a Yellowstone blast:
- First, the pyroclastic flow (superheated gas and ash) would play havoc with the western half of the U.S.:
- It would kill all life within roughly a 300 mile radius, in a matter of minutes.
- It would most likely melt or incinerate anything with a boiling point equal to or less than that of iron.
- After about 300 miles the heat would gradually start dying out, leaving people alive, but suffering first, second, and third degree burns.
- About that time, the shockwave should hit. There's really no way to predict what kind of damage will happen, but it will likely leave almost
anyone in the western half of the U.S. deafened, or with severely damaged hearing. Ironically, this will be the least of the troubles, because...
- Though the gas has cooled enough to only scald people, for the remainder of the roughly 600 mile radius, people will have to also deal with their
air being poisoned and acidic. Those not killed outright will soon have a very bad day, however, because...
- The next effect will primarily cover twice the radius in ash, most likely in an eliptical pattern to follow windflows, up to about 4 meters. A good
portion of this ash will also come from the previously incinerated landscape. Those not killed by heat, poison, and acid, will now find breathing and
moving extremely difficult as they wade through a 12-foot sea of fine powder.
- Global Effects would be felt the same day and continue to worsen for the next 3-14 days, depending on the weather patterns. The would include
- Little, if any, government assistance. The largest disaster FEMA has ever had to face is 9/11, which stretched their resources to the limit. The
affected area of the supervolcano is an estimated 10 million times greater than that of 9/11. To date, FEMA does not have a contingency plan for a
disaster on the scale of a supervolcano. Though they have shown an interest in developing one, it is doubtful they will ever have the resources
capable of dealing with such an event. So you might want to be prepared, either with supplies, with guns, and/or with your god.
- Another problem that will have to be dealt with is the gas sulphur dioxide which forms sulphuric acid when it gets into the stratosphere. This has
two main effects, one is blotting out the sun, the other is, of course, sulfuric acid rain.
- Within a day or so, temperatures would plummet 15-20 degrees, on average, across the globe. While this wouldn't exactly cause the end of the
world, it is likely to turn many temperate climates into arctic ones. Strangely, the greatest differences would be in the southern hemisphere, though
thanks to the normally high temperature, it would probably make them a cool average of 72-degrees year-round, thus remove San Diego's monopoly on
- Since most foodcrops depend upon a particular temperature and sunlight range, and most foodcrops are grown in temperate climates, and the
breadbasket of the U.S. will be under a 12-foot layer of ash, and the damage to global infrastructure, one can expect that a lot of people will
starve--roughly 1 billion, at best estimates.
- Travel using engines would be severely limited for a while, though the time and location would depend largely on the ashfall. The enormous amount
of particulates in the air would not only impair visibility on an unprecedented scale, but also clog air filters within a very short amount of
- Anyone with breathing problems or allergies can count on a miserable life. Those with perfectly healthy lungs can count on developing breathing
problems and allergies.
- Most of North America would become uninhabitable until the ash had been beaten down by the acid rain, and hardened enough to walk on. Even then,
the poisons within the ash, the topsoil covered with volcanic rock, combined with the blotted out sunlight and lower temperatures, would prevent any
sort of serious agriculture and turn most of America and Canada into 3rd world countries.
- Global weather patterns would undoubtably change dramatically, though the full extent can only be guessed at. Between the temperature drops, the
addition of acid and particulates to the atmosphere, the sheer loss of plant life, animal life, refreezing of polar caps (resulting in increased
saline density in the ocean, thus changine the trade currents), there are too many variables to take into consideration. Suffice it to say that one
man's trash will be come another man's treasure, and vice versa.
- Economic Devastation. The majority of the world's wealth and commerce is concentrated in America, Europe, and China. America will be mostly
destroyed and uninhabitable Much of Europe will be emmigrated from due to the artic change in climate, and the same can be said of China. Smaller
economies will find their cash crops die off, tourism will practically cease to exist, the loss of infrastructure and communication, complete burial
of solid assets under tons of ash, and the sheer loss of human life (including their knowledge, skills, labor, etc) will cause an almost total
collapse of the global economy.
Conclusion: The human race will continue, but the habitable areas of the planet will be greatly reduced, countless lives and resources will be lost,
and entire countries will fall.
As for the food problem, I would say hydroponics will play a large part in the process, as fish will likely be poisonous, or die out from some key
part of the food chain gone missing. A bigger problem is going to be fresh water, which again, is going to be hard to predict, given the change in