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bbc supervolcano worksheet

Yellowstone erupts! Matching pair Video worksheet with key

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New issue: Supervolcano

One of the deadliest forces on Earth is waking up. Are we prepared?

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Docudrama Movie 'Supervolcano' by BBC and Discovery Channel

Bbc science and discovery channel produced the docudrama called “super-volcano,” followed by the documentary, “supervolcano: the truth about yellowstone.”.

Movie teaser: “A true story of global disaster… it just hasn’t happened yet”

In the Spring of 2006, a BBC Science and Discovery Channel docudrama called “Supervolcano” was followed by the documentary, “Supervolcano: The Truth About Yellowstone.” For all of its doomsday atmosphere, “SuperVolcano” may just be the best thing that’s happened to Yellowstone – free publicity and lots of it. “We’re getting great public interest in the geology and geothermal features of the park,” said Hank Hesler, park geologist. “Public reaction has been very positive, because people want to learn more.”

Watch “Supervolcano” on YouTube , Netflix , or DVD

All of Yellowstone’s geysers, hot springs, mud pots and other geothermal features are directly related to a vast magma chamber, deep under the park. The heat from that magma chamber drives all of Yellowstone’s geothermal features, Hesler said. Periodically, about every 600,000 years or so, said Hesler, all that energy in the magma chamber breaks loose in a “supervolcano.” Past eruptions were 2.1 million years ago, 1.2 million years ago and 640,000 years ago. The three eruptions, respectively, were about 6,000, 700 and 2,500 times larger than the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State.

The program aired in March in 2006 in the British Isles and in April in the United States.

“This is a dynamic environment,” said Hesler, “and it is changing all the time. As often as I look at our geothermal features, I’m always seeing something new.” That was proved once again in late May, when the Steamboat Geyser – Yellowstone’s tallest and most unpredictable geyser – erupted for the first time since 2003. According to park records, the geyser has erupted more times in the past five years than it has since the 1980s. There’s nothing static about Yellowstone’s geothermal features, Hesler said. As a result, the concept of “normal” activity is broad, rather than narrow, he said.

Shortly after the showing of “SuperVolcano,” the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released the first-ever comprehensive and systematic review of the 169 U.S. volcanoes. USGS also established a framework for a National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS) which calls for a 24/7 Volcano Watch Office, plus enhanced instrumentation and monitoring at targeted volcanoes – including Yellowstone.

USGS identified 37 volcanoes in the Very High threat group and mentions an additional 21 under-monitored volcanoes. Yellowstone is one of the 21 under-monitored volcanoes in the High threat group. USGS officials emphasized that this does not mean that the geologic conditions at Yellowstone have changed. The activity at Yellowstone remains consistent with historic levels.

“We’re getting six more GPS, real-time monitoring stations,” said Hesler. That will double the number of year-round monitoring stations in the park. That’s supplemented every two years when USGS brings in a bunch of portable monitors for a few days. In addition, said Hesler, a satellite with radar imaging technology is scheduled once a year to scan the park to see whether it can detect up-or-down surface deformations – an indicator that something is happening.

About the show

“The show tries to envision what would happen if we had another super-eruption like we had 2.1 million years ago,” said Jake Lowenstern, director of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (volcanoes.usgs.gov/ yvo/). The producers, writers and scientists behind the show talked to Lowenstern and many other scientists who study Yellow-stone’s geological features. “I have to say that in all the important respects, they got the details right,” Lowenstern said.

According to the scientific speculation in the docudrama, a super-eruption would: · Block highways with cars as millions flee the unfolding disaster. · Kill hundreds of thousands as the ash swamps towns and cities. · Knock out modern communications. · Form sulphuric acid droplets in the atmosphere, blocking out sunlight, and causing global temperatures to plummet and devastate crops.

That said, Lowenstern emphasized that a super-eruption beneath Yellowstone “is not likely to occur any time soon, or maybe ever.” He readily acknowledged that all prior supervolcano eruptions around the world took place well beyond historical experience, so geologists have had zero experience studying how a supervolcano gears up for a super-eruption. “We are getting pretty good at forecasting eruptions when volcanoes are restless,” he said. “So far, there is no sign of that with Yellowstone.”

There are several extinct supervolcano sites around the world, Lowenstern said – the nearest is in the San Juan mountains of Colorado, where a super-eruption blew 20 million years ago, near the mining town of Creede. That supervolcano site hasn’t made a peep since then, he said. “My recommendation,” said Lowenstern, “is to relax and take this program as an educational opportunity.”

That’s how Yellowstone National Park is treating it. Linda Young, one of the three top directors of the park’s Division of Interpretation, is working on display exhibits about Yellowstone’s volcanic past, which will appear in the Canyon Visitor Education Center next year. The park is also working to replace an antiquated visitor center near Old Faithful, with a new and much bigger visitor center focused on the park’s hydro-thermal features. The new center is scheduled to open in 2008.

“Last September, after most of our visitors were gone, we installed a number of interpretive displays along the Mud Volcano Trail,” said Young. Located five miles north of Fishing Bridge Junction, Mud Volcano Trail is one of the park’s most exotic, dynamic and even odd geothermal features, said Young.

“We have a geyser that erupts out of a cave, and a hot spring pool that is inky black and highly acidic,” said Young.

All in all, said Young and Hesler, public reaction to the supervolcano publicity has not been panicky or ‘doom and gloom.’ “Actually, there’s been little public feedback, compared to bison and grizzly management issues,” said Young.

Normal volcanoes are formed by a column of magma (molten rock) rising from deep within the Earth, erupting on the surface, and hardening in layers down the sides to form cone-shaped mountains.There are thousands of these normal volcanoes throughout the world. Around 50 erupt every year, but supervolcanoes are very different.

The term “supervolcano” implies an eruption of magnitude 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index, indicating an eruption of more than 1,000 cubic kilometers (250 cubic miles) of magma.

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What are supervolcanoes, and how catastrophic can they be? Learn how supervolcanoes form, where supervolcanoes are located, and how their destructive capabilities can make way for new life.

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Lesson 6: Supervolcanoes

Lesson 6: Supervolcanoes

Subject: Geography

Age range: 11-14

Resource type: Worksheet/Activity

Miss Parsons's Shop

Last updated

31 October 2022

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Italy is a hotbed of volcanic activity

Concerns over an impending disaster are erupting

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Illustration of Italian landscape, with Mount Etna and Mount Stromboli smoking in the background

Italy's Mount Etna and Mount Stromboli volcanoes erupted in recent days, spewing smoke and ash into the air. These volcanoes are two of the most active in the world — but they are not the only ones to pose a risk in Italy. The country is a hotbed of volcanic activity, and a larger threat could be brewing beneath the surface. 

What is the state of Italy's volcanoes?

Mount Etna and Mount Stromboli, two volcanoes only 180km apart, both erupted within a day of each other; this stunted travel and put Italy on high alert. "Etna, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has seen intense activity in recent days, lighting up the sky near the city of Catania, while Stromboli off the northern Sicilian coast has spilled lava into the sea," said USA Today . However, these volcanoes only represent a fraction of the threat Italy faces. 

Italy has 12 volcanoes total, with nine still considered active, and the country is prone to earthquakes and other seismic activity. One of the most famous disasters resulting from this combination is the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the city of Pompeii in 79 A.D. Now scientists are worried an even bigger disaster could be on the horizon. "With 24 hidden underground craters, the Campi Flegrei, a so-called supervolcano , dwarfs the better-known Vesuvius," said Politico . Since the summer of 2023, several small earthquakes have appeared in the region, causing concern around a potentially catastrophic future eruption . 

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Could there be a supervolcanic eruption on the horizon?

The tremors are causing concern among both scientists and residents of the Camp Flegrei region. "The scientific community agrees that the tremors and uplift are signs that the volcano is awakening," but they are "struggling to rectify two competing explanations" for the occurrence, said Scientific American . "An answer to the geological mystery could bring scientists much closer to determining how likely the volcano is to blow," and it could also "provide geologists worldwide with warning signs they could look for when other big volcanoes start rumbling, especially supervolcanoes." The last time the Campi Flegrei supervolcano erupted was 500 years ago, and the effects were widespread. "Its last eruption in 1538 led to the formation of a mountain," said Politico. "And a massive blowout 40,000 years ago cloaked much of eastern Europe with ash — with traces found as far away as today's Russia."

Camp Flegrei is incredibly large, making it difficult to determine and predict volcanic activity. "The eruptions migrate over time, so we'll never know where, nor when of course, there'll be the next eruption," Vincenzo Morra, a geologist at the University of Naples Federico II, said to the BBC . "And that of course makes the Campi Flegrei more dangerous than Vesuvius." The entire Camp Flegrei region is now being analyzed and studied. Scientists are using drones "equipped with thermal monitoring devices to study surface temperatures around the fumaroles," which are "vents in the Earth's surface that emit steam and hot volcanic gases like sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide," said BBC Science Focus . 

Governments are also determining what actions could be taken by the people living in the Camp Flegrei region. Some solutions include rehousing programs and the prevention of new development in the region due to high risk levels. However, "what could be equally problematic for the government is that many more [residents] will want to stay, avoiding uprooting their families and protecting their homes amid fears about looting," said Politico. "People have lived here for generations. They are used to earthquakes," Mara Muscarà, a regional councilor, said to the outlet. "They say this is my land, I don't want to leave."  

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 Devika Rao has worked as a staff writer at The Week since 2022, covering science, the environment, climate and business. She previously worked as a policy associate for a nonprofit organization advocating for environmental action from a business perspective.  

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