It might be America’s first and most treasured national park, but Yellowstone can be dangerous to humans. This week, National Park Service Officials closed off parts of the vast public lands both at Yellowstone and in nearby Grand Teton National Park to humans due to fissures that have appeared in rock close to the supervolcano.
Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point are now closed to tourists due to a possible safety hazard and park rangers are initiating a risk assessment, according to a statement from the National Park Service.
Superintendent David Vela said, “Human safety is our number one priority, and with an abundance of caution we are temporarily closing this area until we can properly assess the situation.”
The supervolcano under Yellowstone has not erupted in hundreds of thousands of years. Recently, several incidents, including this one where cracks appeared in rock over just twenty-four hours, indicate that the caldera is coming to life after being very quiet for a long time. If it does blow, the fall out will be devastating to humans for years, and the blast would be much, much larger than the one that ripped one side of Mount St. Helens off in 1980.
However, it does not appear we are at that point yet. The geologists want to take a good look and get an assessment before allowing humans back in an area that may well be dangerous.
“The Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point areas are currently closed due to elevated potential for rockfall. The area was closed to protect human safety on July 10 after expanding cracks in a rock buttress were detected. It is unknown how long the closure will be in effect. Geologists are monitoring the buttress for movement and have initiated a risk assessment for the area.’
As for when, exactly, we should expect a blast from Yellowstone:
We’re fine, but don’t take my word for it; here’s what Dr Janine Krippner, a volcanologist at Concord University and smiter of ludicrous volcanological rumors, told IFLScience: “If Yellowstone erupted every time a tabloid said it was going to, it would be one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.
“Yellowstone is, however, one of the most well-monitored volcanoes on Earth. If it were about to erupt, we would see much more than a crack appearing.”
Looks like we’re safe for now.