Those who are familiar with the tranquil scenery of Yellowstone National Park in the United States cannot imagine the enormous amount of magma that exists in the depths of the region. According to NASA scientists, in addition to beautiful hot springs, the site also poses one of the greatest threats to human life, since it could form a supervolcano.
Besides this one, there are others similar in different parts of our planet, that's why it's so important that researchers seek solutions. In fact, one of them is to use water to decrease their temperature.
The strength of the supervolcano
Currently, approximately 20 supervolcanoes are known to exist around the Earth, with the largest eruptions occurring on average once every 100,000 years. Thus, some scientists believe that this condition may cause difficulties for the production of food in sufficient quantities to feed the global population.
The moment NASA researchers found the problem located in the United States, they figured one of the best solutions was to cool the supervolcano. By the way, the Yellowstone volcano is a huge heat generator, bigger than six industrial power plants combined. But nowadays it has been presenting between 60% and 70% of all the heat coming from below into the atmosphere.
The heat of the supervolcano can be perceived mainly through the water that penetrates the magma chamber through the cracks. In addition, what is left over accumulates within the magma, allowing it to be dissolved further and further at times when the eruption reaches a certain level.
If a supervolcano erupts, it will be many, many times more powerful than this Indonesian volcano (Credit: Getty Images)
Threat greater than an asteroid or comet
If there's one thing that threatens all of humanity, it's this supervolcano that could erupt soon. According to NASA, one of the ideas is to extract the excess heat so that it never erupts. The expectation is that by increasing the heat transfer by 35%, the Yellowstone volcano would no longer be a threat.
However, so far they still don't have a good answer on how this would be done, since it is a complicated operation. So, one of the alternatives raised is to increase the amount of water in the supervolcano, but it would be difficult to get a law passed that would allow this.
Astronauts on the International Space Station get a stunning view as a supervolcano erupts (Credit: NASA / Getty Images)
NASA has an ambitious plan to deal with the situation
With an investment for the project would be 3.46 billion, NASA plans to drill up to 10 km into the supervolcano and pump water at high pressure. With this, the liquid inside the lava giant would return to a temperature around 350°C, helping to extract heat from the supervolcano.
The project to cool Yellowstone will work very slowly, so the developers of the project are not expected to participate in its completion. Thus, it should cool one meter per year, taking thousands of years for it to become a cool rock.
Still, you have to look for ways to avoid a long-term catastrophe. "With a project like this, you would start the process and the main ongoing benefit you would see on a day-to-day basis is this new supply of electricity," Wilcox says.