On The Bricks

May 19, 2021 Yellowstone

About three million people visit Yellowstone National Park each year, a park that is a giant volcano says The Book of Bizarre Truth. Hordes of tourists sit and wait to watch Old Faithful do is thing every 90 minutes or so. They also hike, and maybe do a little fishing.

Geologists concur that some sort of volcanic activity is responsible for the park’s strange, volatile, steamy landscape. But evidence of an actual volcano, the familiar cone – shaped mountain that tells that a huge explosion once took place on the spot wasn’t a part of Yellowstone.

In the 1960s, NASA took pictures of Yellowstone from outer space. When geologists saw the photos, the saw a vast volcano, so big it was difficult to spot without the photos from space. The crater of the Yellowstone volcano includes practically the entire park, covering about 2.2 million acres. Yellowstone appears to be a supervolcano.

There is no recorded history of any supervolcano eruptions, but geologists believe Yellowstone has erupted about 140 times in the past 16 million years. The most recent blast was about 100,000 times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington, and it spread ash over almost the entire area of the United States we of the Mississippi River. Some of the previous Yellowstone eruptions were many more times destructive.

In the past 20 years or so, geologists have detected significant activity in the molten rock and boiling water below Yellowstone. In other words, the surface may be shifting. Scientists have calculated that Yellowstone erupts about every 600,000 years. And the last Yellowstone eruption took place about 640,000 years ago.

Don’t get too worried. Those at work at Yellowstone assure us that an eruption is not likely to happen for at least another 1,000 years. And even then, any eruption would be preceded by weeks, months, or perhaps even years of telltale volcanic weirdness.

Famous Okie information: Oklahoma’s state fossil is the saurophaganax maximus. In 1931 and 1932, John Willis Stovall uncovered remains of a large theropod near Kenton in Cimarron CountyOklahoma. In 1941, they were named Saurophagus maximus by Stovall. The generic name is derived from Greek “lizard” and “to eat”, with the compound meaning of “lizard eater”. Later, it was discovered that the name Saurophagus had already been given by to a tyrant-flycatcher. In 1995, Daniel Chure named a new genus Saurophaganax. A large skeleton of Saurophaganax can be seen in the Jurassic hall in the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman. Although the best known Saurophaganax material was found in the Oklahoma Panhandle, a possible partial skeleton including a femur, several tail vertebrae, and a hip bone, has been found in northern New Mexico.

Just FYI: Lightning can develop any time there is a major static charge in the atmosphere. Volcanic eruptions, snowstorms, and even large forest fires have been associated with lightning discharges.

A little more FYI: Legend has it the man who invented the lightbulb, Thomas Edison, was scared of the dark.

Keep going on New Year resolutions: Work to give out at least one compliment a day. Be sure that it is something you believe and not an empty compliment. You never know the difference a compliment might make in someone’s day.

Made me laugh: I threw a boomerang a few years ago. Now I live in constant fear.

Hope you have enjoyed all your graduations, award ceremonies, band and choir concerts, proms, confirmations, and track meets.

See you on the bricks, soon! Stay safe.