Since the earthquake swarm at Yellowstone started on 12/27, I've been following it with modest amusement. The idea of a super-eruption (VEI8, or even if just 7) of a supervolcano is mind-boggling, thus fascinating -- certainly would make the man-made financial crisis infinitesimally, pathetically trivial.
BBC did a very good drama on supervolcano -- watch all 12 of the two-part series:
It's drama, but fairly correct scientifically except, of course, the part about timing. Although the timing is intentionally ambiguous, it implies it's sometime in the near future of human civilization. This is pure speculation. To quote an old SNL bit: it's possible...but it's unlikely...but it's possible...but it's unlikely...
However, my passing interest peaked when I checked the U of Utah realtime webicorder in the park (http://www.quake.utah.edu/helicorder/yell_webi.htm).
Look at about 14:00 and 17:00. See something?
Yes, familiar nice sine wave patterns. It's called harmonic tremor. It means the magma was on the move. It has two possible outcomes: either stop and disappear, or the shit blows up.
If you check the other stations in the park for the same time segment, you'll see the same harmonic tremor pattern almost all over the park.
We dodged a potentially huge fucking bullet, this time.
BTW, according to USGS, the water output from Yellowstone River has been steadily increasing since 12/27 while it "should" be decreasing based on historical averages:
It's known that there's a dome at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake, where virtually all of the quakes of this swarm have taken place, that's been rising in recent years. It doesn't take a very imaginative mind to link the two.
What'll happen next? From all I can gather, seismo-vulcanologists say it could happen before I finish this sentence or it could be a million years from now. In other words, they're as clueless as Paulson/Bernanke on CDS, or Bush on the joy of intellectual stimulation, or Obama on unrealistic expectations.
Nothing to worry about, though. If it's a global extinction event, then there's no pain -- who's gonna be around to witness and record all the fantastic screaming and scrambling around and unfulfilled love and unfinished blog posts? The topology of the pain space is circular, infinity = 0. Just as globalization of the financial crisis, through Lehman bankruptcy, made crisis management that much easier and less painful.
Future rat archeologists will no doubt puzzle over their findings a great deal. Poor little fuckers.
PS: As the massive molten mass of magma was sloshing around under Yellowstone, I was enjoying GREAT food and decent wine at a newly discovered Hunan restaurant, the discovery of which was as accidental and meaningless as Yellowstone decided not to blow up at just about the same time, in Flushing with a bunch of friends celebrating my birthday. I thought I had a great birthday party going. But little did I know how great it was.
PPS: If you have to know, it's called 湘水山庄, about 100 yards east of Northern Blvd and Main St, on Northern Blvd. The best, most authentic Hunan food I've found on this continent, before it's covered in three feet of volcano ash anyway. It's so authentic they don't even bother with an English menu. Setting and service are quite decent, and the price is CHEAP.