Ripple background

Last week I shared my dream of personally witnessing Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park
erupt. I realize the odds of that occurring are pretty long, especially since there is no lodging in the
Norris Geyser Basin.

With all this talk about hot spots and geysers, a few of my loyal readers have asked me just why there
is so much thermal activity in Yellowstone and the surrounding area.

The answer is simple. Yellowstone National Park is sitting on top of a volcano.

A Volcanic Smackdown - Yellowstone or Kilauea

All those great thermal features in Yellowstone are the result of the volcano under the park.

Volcanos are certainly in the news these days, what with Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano suddenly creating
new fissures and spewing enough molten lava to destroy whatever is in its path, including several
homes in Leilani Estates on the big island. I have been watching this with great interest as I have a
couple of friends who live less than 10 miles from the new volcanic activity.

There is a local connection as these friends have traveled with me to Yellowstone, and one enjoyed
the experience so much that he applied for a job and worked as a reservations agent for Yellowstone
National Park Lodges one summer.

Fortunately, my friends have been able to live their normal lives, but their car is packed with the items
they value the most in case they have to make a getaway on short notice. I’ve offered to put them up
for a while if they have to move from the second most beautiful place in the world to the most
beautiful, but so far they have not accepted my offer.

How does Kilauea compare to the Yellowstone volcano? Kilauea has been erupting for decades. Except
for an 18-year period from 1934 to 1952, it has been active for the past century. The main part of the
Yellowstone volcano, on the other hand, has not erupted for some 600,000 years.

Another significant difference is the size. Kilauea has a caldera approximately 2½ miles across while
the Yellowstone caldera measures a whopping 44 miles across.

A Volcanic Smackdown - Yellowstone or Kilauea 1

This map from the National Park Service demonstrates the size of the caldera in Yellowstone.

People take their chances and live near the volcanos – Kilauea is not the only one in the islands –
because the eruptions are not large enough to destroy that much in the surrounding area. If the
Yellowstone volcano were to erupt, chances are that much of the West would be in deep trouble as the
explosion would be thousands of times larger than the 1980 Mount Saint Helens eruption.

I have heard people who know a lot more than I do say that the ash in the air from a Yellowstone
eruption would block out the sun’s rays for thousands of square miles and would truly be catastrophic.
Some people say such an eruption made the dinosaurs extinct. Others have said that boulders found
in Nebraska were blown there by the last Yellowstone eruption.

Do I worry about the Yellowstone volcano erupting? Not in the least. The odds of that happening soon
are even longer than my seeing Steamboat erupt.

In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy taking friends to view the geysers, mud pots, fumaroles and
hot springs that are the result of the magma chamber several miles down. Who knows, maybe
another one will be inspired to come live and work for a summer.

Until next week, I am lovin’ life – and watching the news about Hawaii – in Cody/Yellowstone Country.