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It Is Time To Cast a Worried Eye Towards Yellowstone
Foreword by Marshall Masters
Yesterday afternoon, a 4.4 magnitude earthquake occurred just 9 miles southeast of the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park. According to the USGS, "It is unlikely that there is a connection or triggering mechanism of the earthquake with the increased hydrothermal activity at Norris Geyser Basin, which is about 35 miles from the epicenter or with hydrothermal features in Yellowstone Lake that have received recent publicity." However, given the shallow depth of this quake, the volcanism model developed by Larry Park has suddenly lurched us a huge step towards a worst-case eruption event.
Simply put, anyone living within 600 miles of Yellowstone could be sitting in a modern day Pompeii. In addition, for those living outside this area and West of the Mississippi river, there could be grievous consequences as well because systemic processes are now building beneath Yellowstone, that paint a very clear picture of a major eruption event in its early stages
In this article, Larry Park will present the science behind his warning. However, as the publisher of YOWUSA.COM, I wish to put some context to all this in layman's terms as now as I personally feel the time has come for everyone living west of the Mississippi to become aware and to begin making a calm and deliberate assessment of the facts. This especially applies to those presently living within 600 miles of Yellowstone. However, what does the USGS say?
Is it true that the next eruption of Yellowstone is overdue?
No. The fact that two eruptive intervals (2.1 million to 1.3 million and 1 .3 million to 640,000 years ago) are of similar length does not mean that the next eruption will necessarily occur after another similar interval. On the other hand, we cannot discount the possibility of such an event occurring some time in the future, given Yellowstone's volcanic history and the continued presence of magma beneath the Yellowstone caldera.
When will the next large earthquake occur in Yellowstone?
Earthquakes cannot be predicted yet, but modern surveillance conducted with seismographs (instruments that measure earthquake locations and magnitudes) and Global Positioning System (GPS) instruments that measure slow ground movements help scientists understand the state of stress in the Earth's crust that could trigger earthquakes as well as magma movement.
So, are we right for publishing this warning? Have we jumped the gun? Are we creating an unnecessary panic? These are tough questions as I would have to be the first to admit that Larry Park's volcanism theories are still on the outside of conventional science, which is, of its own admission, still stumbling about in the dark with regards to volcanism.
In the final analysis, I tend to trust my own instincts. In this regards, I've never been as impressed by diplomas and credentials as I am by the facts. Moreover, the sad fact is that all of the precursor events forecasted by Larry Park months ago before we started publishing his volcanism articles have been steadily happening.
There has been no joy in this for me, and for the record, the decision to publish this article falls squarely on my shoulders. So what pushed me to this point?
The Most Alarming Precursor Event to Date
What precipitated this article was a shallow, 4.4 magnitude Earthquake that happened yesterday just 9 miles southeast of the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
USGS, 21-August-03, 3:45 a.m. MDT
The University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that a magnitude 4.4 earthquake occurred at 01:46 a.m. (MDT) on Thursday, August 21. The epicenter of the shock was located near Huckleberry Mountain in northwest Wyoming, 9 miles southeast of the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park and 9 miles northeast of Jackson Lake. The earthquake was reported felt in Yellowstone National Park at the South Entrance , at Grant Village and in northern Jackson Hole.
The earthquake may be related to a tectonic fault zone that extends south from the Red Mountains in Yellowstone south into the Teton Wilderness. It is unlikely that there is a connection or triggering mechanism of the earthquake with the increased hydrothermal activity at Norris Geyser Basin, which is about 35 miles from the epicenter or with hydrothermal features in Yellowstone Lake that have received recent publicity.
Therefore, it is just another 4.x Earthquake. On a 1970's Dino de Laurentiis disaster film extravaganza scale, it isn't even a pip. However, Italians have a special appreciation for volcanic disasters and with this in mind, I ask you to read carefully this historical account of the days preceding the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius.
Dipartimento di Fisica, UniversitÓ "Roma Tre", 21-June-2000
This description is mostly based on the paper by Scandone, Giacomelli and Gasparini (1993) published on the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.
Vesuvius entered the history of volcanology with the eruption of 79 AD, described by Pliny the Younger. The eruption destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplonti and Stabiae and caused the death of Pliny the Elder among many other people.
Before the eruption of 79, earthquakes occurred for some time, but were disregarded by local inhabitants because of their familiarity with the phenomenon. Seneca reports that an earthquake occurred on 5 February of 62 (according to Tacitus) or 63 AD.
The earthquake laid down Pompeii, made great ruins in Herculaneum and caused minor damage in Nuceria and Naples, where the emperor Nero was performing in the theatre.
According to Seneca, the earthquakes lasted for several days ("non desiit enim assidue fremere Campania") until they became milder "but still caused great damage".
We presume that this earthquake swarm occurred at a shallow depth in the Vesuvian area, given the distribution and the area extent of damages.
In the last sentences of this writing, Seneca asked himself if this disaster in Campania had not "made every man strengthened and resulted (resolved) against all catastrophes."
The reply to his question probably came 17 years later, when Pliny the Elder went to the rescue of the people staying in the area that had been shaken for several days.
As the younger Pliny testified, "for several days before (the eruption) the earth had been shaken, but this fact did not cause fear because this was a feature commonly observed in Campania" (praecesserat per multos dies tremor terrae, minus formidolosus quia Campaniae solitus).
Repair work was underway in some houses at Pompeii and Oplonti Villa when the eruption occurred. This can be considered evidence of intensive seismic shaking of the buildings.
The key things to remember from this account are that the eruption was preceded by shallow quakes and that the residents of Pompeii chose to ignore the signs and went on about their daily lives Ś right up until their collective demise.
So before people begin to say this article makes much ado about nothing, keep in mind that that USGS just recently bolstered its number of monitoring devices at Yellowstone with all the sudden increase in unusual activity.
If nothing unusual were happening, why would the USGS be suddenly and dramatically increasing its ability to monitor and evaluate present day events at Yellowstone? More to the point, what will it take for the USGS to sound the alarm if present volcanism trends continue to build?
Here comes the rub. From our point of view, the USGS is doing a good job, but it has to check, double check and be certain to the point of absolute certainty before it issues a real warning. This is because the mentality of American public at large is simple. If you promise a disaster and fail to deliver, they'll not thank you for sharing your concerns. Rather, they'll hang you from the nearest tree and slash your agency's funding just for good measure.
Yup, Lincoln was right. We get the government we deserve and what is tying the hands of the USGS is not some fanatical and diabolical government jerks, but us. Just plain old us, and our na´ve insistence that all government warnings about natural disasters must happen as promised Ś or else!