General Question

Yetanotheruser's avatar

If the Yellowstone Caldera erupted, would elevation be a factor in survivability?

Asked by Yetanotheruser (14814 points ) April 26th, 2014

On another thread, there was a reference to the potential kill zone (the other jelly’s words, not mine) of the Yellowstone Supervolcano.
Got me to thinking…Would elevation be a factor in lava flow, or is the “kill zone” have more to do with aerial debris?

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6 Answers

Winter_Pariah's avatar

It’s more the aftermath of the aerial debris and the resulting earthquake(s). It’d be difficult to breathe, sunlight would be filtered if not outright blocked out, Water supply would be polluted throughout North America, and vegetation would die out leading to a massive food crisis.

However, the effects of a super volcanic eruption tend to be overrated. No super volcanic event in history has been identified as an extinction level event and the effects of Yellowstone erupting are further minimized as scientists discovered that the magma laying therein doesn’t contain much in the way of sulfur so we’re probably not looking at a long and drastic climate change in the event Yellowstone erupted.

In short, we’re probably not as screwed as people make us out to be. Though those in close proximity would be very much dead. And considering the aftermath being the killer, elevation probably isn’t going to be saving you.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I don’t understand. To me the factors that matter would be distance and whether or not you are up or downwind from the event. There are just so many death dealing possibilities from poison gasses through old fashioned roasting, falling boulders, suffocating ash. If you’re on a hilltop in a lake of lava——well you get the picture.

Winter_Pariah's avatar

@stanleybmanly It’s believed that the ensuing ash cloud would envelop the earth for as much as a few days to a month and the effects from that would be felt for at least a decade. So being up or downwind wouldn’t really matter.

Coloma's avatar

Elevation would matter not, the ash cloud would/could, potentially, block out the sun for 40 years or more. Sure, you might not be consumed in fire but you’d be just as dead from the lack of oxygen, toxic gasses, ash clogging your lungs.
It would be an epic geological and atmospheric event.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I think I am in the kill zone (Salt Lake City), so I hope something will save me – elevation would do just fine. But I think the shock wave would probably do it before fire, debris, or bad air.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Winter_Pariah The suffocating ash that I’m talking about is the stuff heavy enough to fall to earth relatively quickly in the aftermath of the explosion, and there’s certain to be enough of it to cover the land East of the event (downwind) for hundreds of miles.

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