Yellowstone is the world’s first national park and perhaps the only land in the USA that has never been fenced or farmed. It has mountains, clear rivers, deep lakes, four kinds of conifer forest, valley meadows, and is the world’s most active geothermal site. Wildlife abounds.
It’s the geothermal features that make this place famous. Those include geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and terraces. Fumaroles are openings in the earth’s crust emitting hot gases and/or liquids. Terraces result where underground minerals are deposited on the surface and over time build up as domes, hills, or plateaus. Yellowstone, which sits on an active mega-volcano, has them all.
The one you know about is the geyser, Old Faithful. Once it was faithful, but since an 80’s earthquake it blows every 45 to 90 minutes. The only way to predict an eruption is by knowing the time of the previous one, add an hour and hedge your forecast by plus or minus ten minutes. We found the place by walking upstream against the traffic from the previous group of viewers. There’s seating for maybe 800 and standing room on a boardwalk for 5,000 more. While we sat I heard a little kid whining “I’m tired of waiting for Old Facebook!” and knew exactly how she felt. And then the steam began to pour, and off it went. Our verdict: good, not great.
The Grand Prismatic Spring and Mammoth Hot Springs were much better. The former is a classic hot spring with modest terracing (mineral buildup) and elaborate growths of extremophiles, bacteria that thrive in acidic liquids at temperatures above those needed to pasteurize milk. They form 3-D patterns resembling lichens in a multitude of colors. Mammoth is a terrace complex colored by extremophiles and accented by corpses of the trees it has killed as its location moved in recent years.
The volcano whose three eruptions created the area last blew 640,000 years ago. If the next eruption is only equal to the last (an 8 on the Volcanic Explosive Index) we could have another Ice Age. World temperatures will drop 3 to 5 degrees Celsius ending grain production in Canada and the Ukraine, and if Asian temps lead to a hard freeze just one night in their rice growing season, that crop will be lost. North American average temperatures will drop 10 to 15 degrees C, or 18 to 27 degrees Fahrenheit.
It would be a very nasty cure for global warming.