You don’t have to be in Yellowstone National Park for very long to realise that there is something very large and extremely menacing stirring below your feet. This is a place where the earth seems very much alive as the geysers erupt and steam rises up across the landscape everywhere. Bubbling mud pots and boiling fumaroles hint at the powers beneath and these are potentially cataclysmic because Yellowstone sits atop a supervolcano and one that has recently been found to be 2.5 times larger than previously thought.
There is little doubt that if Yellowstone was to erupt it would end life as we know it. A volcanic winter lasting years would ensue as the planet would be enveloped by a thick and pervasive cloud of ash and debris that would block out the sun, leave us in darkness and kill our crops. Such an event is almost beyond imagination but recent footage on YouTube has led many to suggest that an eruption is imminent. Could we be about to experience the end of the world?
The Footage shows buffalo and other animals apparently fleeing the park in large numbers. There is much anecdotal evidence that some animals have the ability to predict seismic events. Many examples of wildlife behaving strangely have been cited but as yet no scientific proof of their predictive powers has been established. It is believed that the animals concerned may possess the ability to detect changes in the Earth’s magnetic field or chemical changes in the groundwater which are precursors to a seismic event.
So do the buffalo of Yellowstone know something that we don’t? At face value their behaviour is certainly disconcerting and coupled with the multiple earth tremors that have struck the park recently the situation looks quite worrying. The supervolcano erupts roughly every 700,000 years and it is 640,000 years since the last one so the timing fits but according to the park officials there is no cause for alarm just yet.
The Winter Months
When winter strikes humans don their coats and winter boots but buffalo move to lower elevations to find more readily available food. The Buffalo are leaving because they are hungry and are exhibiting perfectly normal behaviour. The animals will return to the park in the summer as usual say the Yellowstone rangers. Such a migration is a regular event and not a sign that the magma chamber beneath the park is about to blow.
Whilst hungry buffalo may not be detecting an eruption that doesn’t mean that the threat isn’t there. The supervolcano could blow tomorrow or not for tens of thousands of years. Nobody knows because whilst some animals appear to have a sixth sense when it comes to eruptions, humans have as yet not found an accurate way to predict either earthquakes or volcanos and it could be a long time before they do. In the meantime it might be worth keeping an eye on those animals and if they all start leaving in the middle of summer it is time to get very worried indeed.
Sally Stacey is a keen writer and frequent traveller who has visited Yellowstone and hopes to return before it blows