NASA has released details of plans to prevent Yellowstone’s supervolcano from ever erupting. The theory is there, but will this translate into practice?
Yellowstone national park is a thing of beauty. With an array of gorgeous flora and fauna, visitors are treated to visual spectacles and experiences all year round. However, beneath this seemingly massive area of tranquil land (3,468.4 sq miles to be precise), lies a malevolent natural force. A supervolcano called the Yellowstone Caldera, whose eruption could spell the end of our existence on this planet.
At present, the above may be taken for hyperbole as scientists predict that an explosion from Yellowstone’s supervolcano is highly unlikely. However, a team at NASA have come up with an ingenious plan to remove this risk entirely by ensuring the volcano can never erupt.
Researchers initially propose drilling into the volcano from its lower sides, which conveniently lie outside the boundaries of Yellowstone park. By entering through a lower point and off to the side, the team will be able to prevent the intense heat of the volcano from being directed upwards. This will reduce impacts on the top of the chamber, reducing risks of further issues.
Through the drilled spaces, water will then be pumped into and back out of Yellowstone Caldera at high pressure and speed. This cold water will cool the innards of the volcano, and in turn, return heated water. The resulting water will then be re-purposed for producing geothermal energy. A real win-win then!
However, as with any project on this scale, there are huge risks that need to be carefully considered. Drilling into any volcano is dangerous, and the researchers themselves are not 100% sure that their proposed system will work. And with a multi-billion price tag, this would be one expensive flop!
Despite the wide variety of benefits and challenges related to this project, as it is still only in the conceptual stages, there is no harm in considering its suitability. As there are currently over 20 supervolcanoes, each capable of spewing out over 250 cubic miles of ash, dust and gas, in terms of humanity’s existence, this may be something we cannot afford to shy away from.