Tag Archives: yellowstone

So, boiling chicken in Yellowstone’s hot springs is illegal

You’d think some things go without saying but, well, it happened. A group of tourists in Yellowstone tried ‘cooking’ some chicken in a Yellowstone hot spring. It didn’t go too well.

Good for sightseeing, bad for cooking. Image credit: CC-BY-SA-3.0

Winner, winner

To their merit, they came prepared. Two cousins, one neighbor, and their families spent a day canoeing and hiking in one of the more remote areas of Yellowstone Park (the Shoshone Geyser Basin). But reports started coming to the ranger’s office of people hiking with “cooking pots”, says Linda Veress, a park spokeswoman.

The three men had indeed brought big pots to a remote part of the park. They were planning to ‘cook’ a meal for themselves and their friends and family in the geothermal hot springs of the Shoshone Geyser Basin. To their merit, they did take some measures to limit contamination: they wrapped the two chicken in burlap sacks and roasting bags before dropping them into the hot spring.

They got caught before they could try out their concoction (though let’s face it, how good can boiled chicken really be?). The rangers found them and after assessing the situation, they came back with citations, fining the would-be chefs, banning them from the park, and placing them under probation after a night in jail.

Unsurprisingly, it’s illegal in several ways. For starters, it’s illegal to go off trails in Yellowstone (and many other national parks). You shouldn’t venture into remote areas. Throwing stuff into hydrothermal springs is even worse. For starters, you’re putting yourself at risk as any splashing can cause serious, maybe even life-threatening burns. You’re also polluting one of the most pristine and unique environments on Earth, so it’s a big no.

The hot springs are also acidic and are likely not good to cook in. They typically contain things like sulfur and chloride which smell bad, taste bad, and really shouldn’t be consumed.

There is a local legend though, of an angler catching a fish in Yellowstone and then cooking it in a nearby hot spring without even taking it off the hook. Henry J. Winser described performing this in his 1883 guide for tourists. He caught a fish, and then in front of spectators, dipped it in and out of a hot spring for a few minutes. Yes, the man boiled a fish alive, which today should also be a pretty big no.

To sum it up, if you’re somehow transported into the past or faced with a post-apocalyptic situation and fighting for your life, cooking in hot springs can work — but then and only then. Otherwise, just don’t do it.

If you’re looking for quirky ways to cook chicken, here are two ancient recipes taken straight from the history books:

The Yellowstone caldera (circled in red) in Wyoming is the world's largest super-volcano. Credit: USGS.

Yellowstone supervolcano erupted twice 630,000 years ago

The Yellowstone caldera (circled in red) in Wyoming is the world's largest super-volcano. Credit: USGS.

The Yellowstone caldera (circled in red) in Wyoming is the world’s largest super-volcano. Credit: USGS.

As the name implies, a supervolcano is just like a volcano, only on a far grander scale (ejecta volume greater than 1,000 km3). One of the hallmarks of a supervolcano is that it forms a wide depression called a caldera. New research suggests that not one but two closely spaced powerful eruptions from 630,000 years ago sculpted the massive caldera (72 x 48 km) around the Yellowstone supervolcano. In the aftermath of the two eruptions, which were 170 years apart, global warming was put on hold by the double cooling effect.

Winter is coming

“We discovered here that there are two ash-forming super-eruptions 170 years apart and each cooled the ocean by about 3 degrees Celsius,” said  James Kennett, a geologist at the University of California Santa Barbara, and lead-author of the new study presented at a recent conference hosted by the Geological Society of America.

By peeling off the soil, scientists can learn fairly accurately how a region’s geology looked like, even millions of years ago. They can also use clues to determine not only if there was a cataclysm, such as a megaflood, but also when it happened. Seafloor sediments in the Santa Barbara Basin, which lies off the coast of Southern California, contain two layers of volcanic ash whose chemical fingerprint matches that of Yellowstone’s most recent supereruption.

The ash layers, which scientists call tephra, are sandwiched between sediments that, like time capsules, record information about the ocean and climate change at the time they were deposited.

Both ash and sediments told scientists that the Yellowstone supervolcano’s last eruption, which has been extensively studied, was not a single event. Instead, Kennett and colleagues found evidence of two closely spaced eruptions.

A massive amount of plume, ash, and dust was ejected by both eruptions, creating an atmospheric blanket that let less sunlight reach the planet’s surface. Around 630,000 years ago, the planet was just recovering from an ice age. The eruptions, however, put global warming on hold, causing two planetary winters.

Scientists inferred the temperature in the ocean following the eruption by studying the tiny shells of foraminifera that sank to the seafloor where they were buried and preserved in the sediment. Such shells have oxygen isotopes in their composition which are temperature-depended, revealing the surface temperatures in which the animals lived.

Together, the volcanic ash record and the foraminifera climate readings made it quite clear that the supervolcano eruptions caused two volcanic winters. The onset of the global cooling events was abrupt and coincided precisely with the timing of the supervolcanic eruptions. This was the first observation of its kind.

Kennett adds that the eruptions triggered feedback mechanisms that enhanced the cooling magnitude and duration. For instance, the eruptions might have led to increased sunlight-reflecting sea ice and snow cover or a change in ocean circulation that would cool the planet for a longer time.

“It was a fickle, but fortunate time,” Kennett said of the timing of the eruptions. “If these eruptions had happened during another climate state we may not have detected the climatic consequences because the cooling episodes would not have lasted so long.”

Yellowstone has erupted at least three times before: 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 630,000 years ago. Geologists think we’re in the ‘right’ timeframe for another eruption. One recent study found the next supervolcano eruption could occur even within decades, with potentially catastrophic consequences for all life on Earth. It could also just as well happen in thousands of years.

Yellowstone Park

Scientists launch new survey of Yellowstone to make the most accurate map of the park’s subsurface

Yellowstone Park

Credit: Pixabay

The first national park in the world is currently being surveyed by electromagnetic and magnetic sensing instruments in order to map its subsurface in unprecedented detail. While Yellowstone’s crust has been extensively studied, there are still many mysteries with regard to the flow paths water takes as it gushes through Old Faithful and the several other geysers of the park.

“Nobody knows anything about the flow paths of hot water. Does it travel down and back up? Does it travel laterally?” said USGS lead researcher Carol Finn.

Finn and colleagues are hoping to fill in the gaps with a new survey mission which began on November 7. For the next couple of weeks, a specially equipped helicopter will systematically probe Yellowstone’s underground piping from about 200 feet above the ground’s surface. Attached to the helicopter is an electromagnetic system resembling a giant hula hoop which can sense and record tiny voltages that can be related to the ground’s electrical conductivity.

Combined with existing geophysical, geochemical, geological, and borehole data, the expected new map will bridge the knowledge gap between the hydrothermal systems and the deeper magmatic system.

SkyTEM electromagnetic and magnetic survey flying over Spirit Lake, near Mt. St. Helens, Washington. Mt. Adams volcano is in the background. Credit: Image courtesy of USGS

SkyTEM electromagnetic and magnetic survey flying over Spirit Lake, near Mt. St. Helens, Washington. Mt. Adams volcano is in the background. Credit: Image courtesy of USGS

What we know for sure so far is that the famous hot water spurting from Yellowstone’s geysers is actually ancient precipitation. As snow and rain percolated the crust, it got heated and ultimately returned to the surface once the pressure reaches a critical threshold. This process can take hundreds, maybe thousands of years but it’s not clear yet which pathways this hot water takes to reach the surface.

The new survey will be able to differentiate between rock and water up to a depth of 1,500 feet , which scientists hope to be enough to map all the channels that hot water uses to gush out.

Understanding Yellowstone’s hydrothermal blueprint might be more important than you think. About 13,800 years ago, an eruption made a mile-wide crater at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake. Essentially, Yellowstone is a massive ‘supervolcano’ which might erupt with 2,000 times the force of Mount St. Helens. These massive outbursts are rare, striking somewhere on Earth only once or twice every million years.

“We would have a good idea that magma is moving up into the shallow depths,” said Jamie Farrell, a Yellowstone expert and assistant research professor at the University of Utah. “The bottom line is, we don’t know when or if it will erupt again, but we would have adequate warning.”


Volcano facts and other pieces of hot science

Volcanoes are some of the most amazing geological features but quite often, they’re misunderstood or not understood at all. Here we’ll get to know them a bit better, starting with the basic facts and the moving onto cool and surprising facts, and of course, continuing with everyone’s favorite (from a distance): eruptions.

Basic Volcano Facts

1. Volcanoes are ruptures in the Earth’s crust. Our planet’s crust is split into 17 major tectonic plates, and almost all volcanoes occur at the edges between these plates.

2. There are three types of volcanoes: stratovolcano (conical volcano consisting of layers of solid lava), cinder cone volcano (steep hill of tephra that accumulates around the vent) and shield volcano (built entirely or almost entirely from fluid lava vents).

3. Volcanoes can be active (with eruptions in the past 10,000 years), dormant (no eruptions in the past 10,000 years, but could wake up) and extinct (unlikely to ever erupt again). However, active volcanoes can become dormant and extinct, and dormant volcanoes can wake up. Before 79 AD, Vesuvius was considered dormant and its eruption was catastrophic. Knowing whether a volcano is truly extinct is hard to determine.

4. We’re still not sure how many volcanoes there are in the world, but geologists identified about 1300 active volcanoes, not counting underwater volcanoes.

5. The biggest volcano on Earth is Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. At 33,500 feet (10,210 meters) it’s even taller than the Everest, but most of it is underwater, so its height relative to sea level is lower. However…

6. The tallest volcano in the solar system is on Mars. Olympus Mons on Mars is a shield volcano with a height of nearly 22 km (16 mi), almost three times higher than Mount Everest. It was able to grow this big because Mars doesn’t have active tectonic plates.

Volcanic eruption on Io. Image credits: NASA/JPL.

7. Earth isn’t the most active place in the solar system – Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanic body in the solar system. Astronomers recently witnessed two huge eruptions, possibly largest than any ever recorded on our planet.

8. The two most active volcanoes in the world are Etna in Italy and Hawaii’s Kilauea, depending on how you judge. Etna has been active in the past 3,500 years, but it’s still being used for agriculture because its slopes are so fertile. Kilauea has been in a state of constant eruption since 1993, and more than 90% of its surface is made from young lava.

Image via USGS.

9. Volcanoes can be scary, but supervolcanoes can be downright terrifying. St. Helens, one of the largest eruptions in history spewed up 0.25 cubic kilometers of volcanic material while the last known eruption from the Yellowstone caldera ejected 4000 times more – 1000 cubic kilometers.

Volcano Eruption Facts

10. There are three types of volcanic eruptions: magmatic eruptions (involving gas decompressions that propel the eruption forward), phreatic eruptions (superheating of steam via contact with magma, often with no ejected material) and phreatomagmatic eruptions (compression of gas within magma, the complete opposite of magmatic eruptions).

11. How dangerous are volcano eruptions? In 1815, the volcano Tambora exploded in Indonesia. All vegetation on the island was destroyed and projected into the sea. Uprooted trees mixed with pumice ash, washed into the sea and formed rafts up to 5 km (3.1 mi) across. The eruption sent material into the stratosphere, at an altitude of more than 43 km (27 mi). Over 10,000 people were killed directly by the eruption, but that was only the beginning.

The epic explosion of Mount Tambora in 1815 left a massive crater behind, 3.7 miles wide and 3,600 feet deep. (NASA)

Over 40,000 people were killed by hunger and disease in neighboring islands, and the effects were felt globally. The following year, 1816 was called “the year without a summer”, as snow fell in the summer in Boston and New York. Crops were destroyed, widespread famine was reported in Asia, Europe and the Americas. It’s impossible to estimate the total damage, but up to 100,000 people lost their lives following this eruption. A Massachusetts historian summed up the disaster: “Severe frosts occurred every month; June 7th and 8th snow fell, and it was so cold that crops were cut down, even freezing the roots.” Which leads us to another question:

12. What if a supervolcano erupts? Geologically, it won’t mean much for the planet. At a geological scale, supervolcanoes erupt all the time… but for humans, the effects would be ghastly. The tens or hundreds of thousands of lives lost will pale in comparison to what will happen. The world will be thrown into a nuclear-type winter, where food availability could become a luxury (because volcanic eruptions can block sunlight, lowering global temperatures). Famine and widespread disease will emerge for at least a couple of years, as no country has the food reserves to last that long; it’s extremely difficult to gauge the full impact such an eruption might have. However, you shouldn’t waste much sleep on this – it’s extremely unlikely for such an eruption to take place in the next few thousand of years.

13. The last known supervolcano eruption was the Toba eruption 74,000 years ago, when more than 2,500 cubic kilometers of magma were erupted. The largest eruption in recent human history was the 1815 eruption described above.

Chichester Canal circa 1828 by J. M. W. Turner. Image via Wikipedia.

14. But it’s not all bad. Volcanic eruptions make sunsets more vibrant. The eruptions spew hundreds, thousands or even millions of tons of dust and gaseous sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. The finer dust particles remain in the atmosphere, sometimes for years, producing vivid sunsets and twilight effects.

In fact, a team of German and Greek researchers are studying paintings of sunsets after historical eruptions to discover clues about our atmosphere, and even study global warming.

Image via Wikipedia.


15. Some volcanic eruptions can create massive thunderstorms and we still don’t know exactly why. A study published in Science found that this phenomenon, also called dirty thunderstorms, appear because electrical charges are generated when rock fragments, ash, and ice particles in a volcanic plume collide and produce static charges, just as ice particles collide in regular thunderstorms.

More Volcano Facts

16. You need at least 3.35 kg of lava to boil a liter of water. Quora user Nissim Raj Angdembay calculated that for a lava of an average temperature of 950 °C, you need to use 3.35 kg of lava to boil a liter of water. Of course, this is only a theoretical calculation, and in practice, you’d need a bit more as some of the heat will be lost to the ambient.

17. There is one unique volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai, that produces black carbonatic lava. It also isn’t as hot as other types of lava and it’s much less viscous – comparable to water.

Black carbonatic lava. Image via SwissEduc

18. The volcanic rock pumice is the only rock that can float in water. Pumice is an extrusive volcanic rock with a very high content of water and gases extruded quickly out of a volcano. The unusual foamy configuration makes it very light.

19. Volcanic energy can be harvested to warm water and even generate electric energy. Geothermal energy generates about 3% of renewable energy-based electricity.

20. The Maleo bird in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi uses volcanic heating to incubate its eggs.

21. When Paricutin in Mexico erupted from 1943-1952 (more on that a bit later), not a single person was killed by lava, rocks or flows, but three people were killed by lightning.

Paricutin. Image via Wikipedia.


22. Lava temperature varies between 700 to 1,200 °C (1,292 to 2,192 °F). Geologists do sometimes use a thermometer called a “thermocouple” to take a volcano’s temperature.

23. Lava chemistry greatly influences both the temperature and the type of eruption. Lava with greater silica content (more basic) tends to be hotter, more fluid, and erupt more “gently” – think of the Hawaiian lava flows. Lava with less silica (acidic) tends to have more explosive eruptions. They also form different types of rocks.

24. In 1943, a Mexican farmer named Dionisio Pulido started to notice something strange in his cornfield. It started as a slight depression, and soon started to fissure, eliminating volcanic material. By 1952, the volcano was already 424 meters high and damaged a 233 square km area with the ejection of stone, ash and lava. Three people were killed by lightning as described above. Today, Paricutin the volcano is 2,800 m (9,200 ft) high and is considered dormant.

Magma chamber beneath Yellowstone National Park might be even vaster than thought

Beneath one of the most famous touristic attractions in the world, the Yellowstone National Park, there lies one of the largest and most complex volcanic systems in the world. Yellowstone is a supervolcano of perplexing size, but as Utah seismologists found… it may actually be even bigger than previously thought.

“For the first time, we have imaged the continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone,” said co-author Hsin-Hua Huang, a post-doctoral researcher in geology and geophysics at the University of Utah. “That includes the upper crustal magma chamber we have seen previously plus a lower crustal magma reservoir that has never been imaged before and that connects the upper chamber to the Yellowstone hotspot plume below.”

A supervolcano is technically defined as any volcano capable of producing a volcanic eruption with an ejecta volume greater than 1,000 km3 (240 cubic miles). Just so you can get an idea, a Yellowstone eruption which took place just over 2 million years ago ejected 2,500 cubic km, while the infamous Mount Helens 1980 eruption only spewed up 0.25 cubic km – 10,000 times less! Needless to say, should Yellowstone erupt, it would be an unprecedented disaster in the history of mankind – a gargantuan event with huge planetary consequences. Naturally, geologists and geophysicists want to understand it as best as possible.

Image via National Geographic.

For this reason, several studies have been undertaken, trying to estimate the extent of the caldera through different methods. Now, scientists from the University of Utah have used a technique called seismic tomography to take a better look at the Yellowstone caldera, and they’ve come up with surprising results: according to their calculations, the caldera is 4.4 times larger than previously thought.

The technique they used is not innovative, although it’s relatively new in the geophysical arsenal of study methods. Seismic tomography is an imaging technique that uses seismic waves generated by earthquakes or controlled explosions to create  computer-generated, three dimensional images of Earth’s interior. The time it takes  for a seismic wave to arrive at a seismic station from an earthquake can be used to calculate the speed along the wave’s ray path. By using arrival times of different seismic waves scientists are able to define slower or faster regions deep in the Earth. There are several material properties which define the wave speed, but under the right circumstances, seismic tomography can reveal deep underground structures – such as the Yellowstone caldera.

“It’s a technique combining local and distant earthquake data better to look at this lower crustal magma reservoir,” Huang says.

A very basic explanation of how seismic tomography works. Image via Northwestern University.

According to their results, the reservoir lies 12 to 28 miles (19 to 45 kilometers) beneath the Yellowstone supervolcano and is more than four times bigger than the magma chamber that is already known to exist. However, this doesn’t really means there’s an increased hazard associated with Yellowstone.

“The actual hazard is the same, but now we have a much better understanding of the complete crustal magma system,” says study co-author Robert B. Smith, a research and emeritus professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah.

Jamie Farrell, a co-author of the study published online today in the journal Science added:

“The magma chamber and reservoir are not getting any bigger than they have been, it’s just that we can see them better now using new techniques,” Farrell says.

Tourist pollution is changing the colors of Yellowstone’s pools

The bright, rainbow-colored thermal pools of Yellowstone park may owe their spectacular color to tourist pollution, a new study suggests. Using mathematical models, the study showed the initial colors of the ponds – the ones they had before tourists started polluting them.

The Morning Glory pool was blue 200 years ago, a new model shows. Image credits: Charles Kozierok

Morning Glory Pool is a hot spring in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park. Its distinct colors attract millions of tourists each year; the colors come from the bacteria which inhabit the water, creating layered mats that change the water’s color. Scientists say that because tourists threw make-a-wish coins, thrash and rocks into the pond, its chemistry changed, allowing the bacteria to thrive and leading to the colors we see today.

Researchers from Montana State University and Germany’s Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences explained their model in a study published Friday by the journal Applied Optics.

“We didn’t start this project as experts on thermal pools. We started this project as experts on optical phenomena and imaging, and so we had a lot to learn. There are people at my university who are world experts in the biological side of what’s going on in the pools. They’re looking for ways to monitor changes in the biology – when the biology changes, that causes color changes – so we’re actually looking at possibilities of collaborating in the future,” said Joseph Shaw, co-author of the study.

(Photo : Nugent, Shaw, and Vollmer) These are historic and current simulations of Morning Glory Pool, using bare rock and pure water of varying depth for the historic image and a uniform orange microbial mat and pure water of varying depth for the current image.

Using data gathered by DSLRs and long-wave infrared thermal imaging cameras, along with spectrometers, the scientists were able to determine how the chemical reactions are changing the color of the water, and reverse engineer the process to find out how the water would have looked like in the past, before humans started interfering. The Morning Glory Pool, for instance, had a very deep color of blue.

The pool’s center is still deep blue, due to the way the light is diffracted by the water. The fact that researchers were able to figure this out using a relatively simple mathematical model is even more remarkable.

“What we were able to show is that you really don’t have to get terribly complex — you can explain some very beautiful things with relatively simple models.”

So, what do you think? Is this a rare case of pollution doing good and turning a relatively mundane pond into something very special? Or is it just yet another case of humans ruining something natural and beautiful



Swarm of earthquakes shake Yellowstone National Park

Could the Yellowstone supervolcano be waking up?


In his 53 years of monitoring seismic activity in and around the Yellowstone Caldera, Bob Smith has never witnessed two simultaneous earthquake swarms; now, the Utah University geophysicist has seen not two, but three such swarms.

“It’s very remarkable,” Smith said. “How does one swarm relate to another? Can one swarm trigger another and vice versa?”

Because such an event is unprecedented, Smith doesn’t want to jump to conclusions, and doesn’t think this is a signal of any potential volcanic eruption.

“A total of 130 earthquakes of magnitude 0.6 to 3.6 have occurred in these three areas, however, most have occurred in the Lower Geyser Basin,” a University of Utah statement said. “Notably much of seismicity in Yellowstone occurs as swarms.”

No significant changes are to be expected, except possibly for geyser activity.

“We know that a significant enough earthquake in the region has potential to alter geyser activity,” the spokesman said. “A strong enough earthquake, like the one that occurred out at Hebgen Lake in 1959, did change the interval of Old Faithful eruptions.”

Yellowstone Geyser

New Yellowstone study suggests volcanic activity is more frequent than previously thought

The Yellowstone super volcano, which basically outlines the whole Yellowstone National Park, is part of one of the most active volcanic regions in the world. A recent research conducted by a joint team of international scientists from Washington State University and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre is set to cast doubts on the frequency of eruptions and, most importantly, super eruptions from the Yellowstone area, which the team found to be more frequent than previously thought.

Yellowstone GeyserYellowstone’s many attractions include geysers, such as Old Faithful, and hot springs, which have been formed, it is believed,  a result of the giant pool of magma that Yellowstone sits on. Beyond its serene and truly beautiful status today, Yellowstone is one of the most dangerous patches on Earth. Its largest eruption took place some 2.1 million years ago, and in the subsequent spew of lava and ash over half of the United States was covered in a dark shroud blocking sun light, and reaching areas of as far away as Texas, Louisiana and southern California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

This two-million-year-old lava deposit has three layers.

“That got us thinking whether these things were representing different magma batches [from a single eruption] or different events,” said study leader Ben Ellis, a volcanologist and postdoctoral researcher at Washington State University.

The team lead by Ellis analyzed rock samples from all three layers using the latest isotope dating techniques, involving the potassium 40 and argon 40 isotopes. Like a geological clock, the technique helps dating samples and have a precision of 0.2 percent. Darren Mark, study co-author at the Scottish research center, recently helped fine tune the technique to improve it by 1.2 percent. Apparently, the uppermost layer of lava was deposited some time later than the other two, hinting that a second eruption took place.

The team of researchers claim that the super eruption, which formed  massive volcanic depressions known as “calderas“, most famous of which being Huckleberry Ridge, actually took place in two different eruptions at least 6,000 years apart. The first eruption generated 2,200 cubic kilometers of volcanic material, while the second, smaller eruption generated 290 cubic kilometers. As a measure of comparison, the infamous Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption from 1980 produced about 1 cubic km of volcanic material.

These latest findings, which were reported in a recent paper published in the journal Quaternary Geochronology, suggest that the Yellowstone super eruption are less powerful, and more frequent at the same time than previously thought. Also, the study suggest that the volcanic formation known as the Island Park Caldera is more active than previously thought and could help geologists to more accurately predict its next seismic event. The caldera is actually comprised of two smaller calderas and stretches 58 miles from Wyoming to Idaho. The last known Yellowstone eruption to cause a lava flow was about 70,000 years ago, smaller steam-only eruptions have caused seismic events like the one at Yellowstone Lake almost 14,000 years ago that created a 5 km crater.

source: national geographic 

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bears back on the endangered list

Grizzly Bear

Last week, the court appeal which sought to put the mighty Grizzly bear back on the endangered species list, and thus receive much need protection, granted favor on their side, sealing a victory.

In 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Service scrapped grizzlies belonging to the Yellowstone Distinct Population Segment (DPS) off the endangered species list, speculating that they would be able to adapt to climate change and that their numbers have risen to a stable amount. The grizzlies habitat and food supply has whitebark pine forests at its core, which along the past decades has been extensively destroyed. Infestations with introduced fungus (white pine blister rust), native bark beetles, and successional replacement, partly fueled by climate change, has lead to hundreds of thousands of acres of whitebark pine being destroyed.

Luckily, the court rejected the claim that there wasn’t a correlation between reduced numbers of bears and whitebark pine deforestation, writing that the agency had ignored a well-established relationship between “reduced whitebark pine seed availability, increased grizzly mortality, and reduced grizzly reproduction.”

“We recognize that scientific uncertainty generally calls for deference to agency expertise,” Judge Richard Tallman wrote for the three-judge panel. “But we nonetheless have a responsibility to ensure that an agency’s decision is not arbitrary. It is not enough for the service to simply invoke ‘scientific uncertainty’ to justify its action. The service must rationally explain why the uncertainty regarding the impact of whitebark pine loss on the grizzly counsels in favor of delisting now, rather than, for example, more study. Otherwise, we might as well be deferring to a coin flip.”

Over the past 35 years, federal protection has allowed for the grizzly bear to foster in the Yellowstone area, tripling in numbers since to the present 600 specimens.

Still, the Fish and Wildlife Service isn’t too happy about the decision. Recently, more and more cases of grizzly bears have sprung out which claim they’ve been attacking farm animals and acting rampant. Six Grizzly bears were captured in the last two weeks alone, of which two female Grizzlies had to be put down because they were killing people’s livestock and returning to populated areas.

*This article was modified accordingly for accuracy since it’s initial posting. Props to Tyler Johnson for his input. 

Yellowstone Volcano Inflating With Molten Rock At Record Rate


Yellowstone is being visited by over 2 million tourists every year and it spans an area of 3,472 square miles (8,987 km²) which makes it North America’s largest volcanic field. The main interest was around the Old Faithful Geyser and the Yellowstone Lake which is the largest high-altitude lake in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera.But now everybody is following the “supervolcano” which rose at a record rate since mid-2004, likely because a Los Angeles-sized, pancake-shaped blob of molten rock was injected 6 miles beneath the slumbering giant, University of Utah scientists report in the journal Science. It is produced by a “hotspot” — a gigantic plume of hot and molten rock — that begins at least 400 miles beneath Earth’s surface and rises to 30 miles underground, where it widens to about 300 miles across. The magma chamber gets supplies from there; scientists think that the magma chamber begins about 5 miles beneath Yellowstone and extends down to a depth of at least 10 miles.

But they say that we should not worry. “There is no evidence of an imminent volcanic eruption or hydrothermal explosion. That’s the bottom line,” says seismologist Robert B. Smith, lead author of the study and professor of geophysics at the University of Utah. “A lot of calderas [giant volcanic craters] worldwide go up and down over decades without erupting.”. But there is no evidence that an imminent volcanic eruption is not going to take place. Chang, the study’s first author, says: “To say if there will be a magma [molten rock] eruption or hydrothermal [hot water] eruption, we need more independent data.”.

What they know is that from mid-2004 through 2006, the Yellowstone caldera floor rose as fast as 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) per year — and by a total of 7 inches (18 centimeters) during the 30-month period. The uplift has not stopped but it is a bit slower; when rising molten rock reaches the top of the magma chamber, it starts to crystallize and solidify, releasing hot water and gases, pressuring the magma chamber. The most recent giant eruption created the 40-mile-by-25-mile oval-shaped Yellowstone caldera.