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With Yellowstone shaking, we ask how the eruption of a supervolcano would really affect the US

Unknowncountry has been monitoring the increased earthquake activity at Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, and considering the potential effects of a Super-volcano eruption. The National Park is perched on top of a simmering Super-volcano which has been responsible for some of the largest and most cataclysmic volcanic eruptions in known history.

Last week's 'Weekender' feature documented an increase in earthquake swarms around the Yellowstone area - over 130 in September alone - and a 3 inch swell in the volcano's caldera every year for the past three years suggesting that the magma underneath is rising. The cause of the tremors has not yet been determined, but could be influenced by planetary alignments according to some experts and peer-reviewed studies.

So should we be concerned? If we believe the message from certain scientists, then 'Yes' is the answer to that question. Some reports suggest that a Super-volcano eruption could leave two thirds of the United States hidden by a blanket of ash under which nothing could survive. As the world observed when the comparatively small Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, clouds of volcanic dust would also pollute the atmosphere; with a volcano the size of Yellowstone, this could plunge the entire continent into darkness for weeks. This would affect crop production and food distribution, air travel, public services, power supply and utilities, and render even FEMA-type aid operations immediately after the event almost impossible.

It is known that after the three largest eruptions at Yellowstone, which occurred between 2.1 million and 640,000 years ago, volcanic ash up to one third of a meter deep covered much of western America, extending several hundred kilometers from the explosion site. It is thought that worldwide temperatures dropped significantly as a result.

The whole country would descend into an unprecedented state of emergency which it would be almost pointless to prepare for given the predicted scale of devastation; though, interestingly, a covert emergency aid operation, the 'Readiness Exercise 1984' (REX84) program, was once initiated by the Reagan government and Colonel Oliver North in the early 1980s to prepare for impact by an incoming solar body which had been identified by the IRAS satellite. Once it was established that the Earth was not in danger, all references to the scheme were buried and kept out of the public domain.

Are the government now secretly taking steps to prepare for a major eruption at Yellowstone? An anonymous tip sent recently to 'Intellihub' by a US Government contractor suggests that the government may once again be expecting a major incident, and that the recent government 'shut-down' and withdrawal of funding could be somehow linked to these preparations. The source also said that schools in his area had been issued with very expensive FEMA high frequency radios for alternate emergency communications, and were holding FEMA lock down drills; odd given the current lack of funding for other public services.

It has been determined that the Yellowstone volcano has had a major eruption, on average, every 600,000 years, and it has been 640,000 years since its last significant explosion. In real terms, the government would be powerless to prevent such an event occurring, and possible measures that could to prevent loss of life would be fairly limited. We must accept that we inhabit a planet which has suffered various major 'extinction level' events in its history, and there is every possibility that such events may occur again in its future.

What do you think the government could do to prepare for this eventuality, if anything? Subscribe today to leave your comments.

Sorry, but I don't buy for one second that the govt shut down has anything to do with this.

If the government is making preparations, I strongly suspect they are of the 'get us out of here!' kind, and will therefore remain secret.

What other preparations can they make anyway, if such a huge catastrophe occurred without re-structuring the country's infrastructure, or at the least. There would have to be an complete localization of major services, including emergency, medical and energy to allow at least some areas and communities to be tended to, and massive food storage, preferably also localized. And great numbers of trained, informed people who be required to manage these localized facilities all over the country. As for information systems, well, forget it for a long time at least.

If they were preparing to assist those in the most likely affected areas of a volcanic explosion, which would have to reach across states, then surely that would require massive action on all fronts because current medical services would simply not cope, and I expect would not be prepared or willing to bear the costs of an outrageously expensive system.

No, I expect that this would all be too much for your little pollies (Aussie for politicians), who aren't even capable of handling their little differences with any modicum of reason. Their plans, if they have any, are most likely fatalistic concerning the population and focused on getting themselves out of trouble should such a massive disaster occur. I expect you will find they have plans to evacuate - out of the country, if necessary or off the planet - and to keep hold of their wealth and power.

I believe that in the event of a major catastrophe of the kind you describe, we will have to fall on our own resources, individually and as communities. To me, that is the best we can do for a strong sense of community. But how? I wish I knew.

What I would expect government to do, at the very least, is to let the public know of potential disaster, and strongly encourage and help the building of strong, close communities. They need to change this silly thinking that it is best to keep people ignorant and trusting that life is safe, and tell them the truth. We don't get much of that down here...Our media are useless when it comes to keeping us informed of anything that might threaten our illusion of safety in the world. Instead, they channel our anxieties into xenophobia and the terror of losing a football game. Hopefully, at least a handful in your government will have more integrity and respect for the people.

We can help each other deal with anxiety and fear, and to be prepared for the worst. I like that dictum: Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.

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