I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" Revelation 6:12-17 (NASB)
What kind of event could cause the kind of ecological disaster that this seal mentions? When you read this kind of description – with the sun black as sackcloth – the moon becoming red like blood – the sky split like a scroll – and every mountain and island moved – it seems impossible except for maybe some kind of miracle by which it would take place. That may well be what causes this event – but there is evidence of a geological anomaly that could very well be part, if not all, of what causes this disaster.
Scientists from The University of Utah as well as others from the USGS (United States Geological Survey) have recently realized that underneath the some 300 active geysers, thousands of bubbling mud pots, and steam vents in Yellowstone National Park is a couple of magma reservoirs unmatched in our knowledge of what lies under the earth’s crust. The super volcano has been a mystery for years and would still be one if it were not for recent seismic technology being used to do a kind of CT-scan of the chambers beneath Yellowstone. What they found from the three-dimensional seismic maps they were able to put together dwarfs any previous thoughts about the size of the what is going on beneath the park. A subsequent article reviewing their findings was published in March of 2015 in the journal Science.
HOW BIG IS THIS SUPERVOLCANO?
The researchers scientists from Utah found that beneath Yellowstone Park are two huge magma chambers – and upper and a lower one – whose size is staggering to grasp. The upper chamber is closest to the surface and has 2,500 cubic miles in volume. It measures about 19 by 55 miles. The lower reservoir is close to 5 times that size, measuring 11,500 cubic miles, and measures 30 by 40 miles and is roughly about 16 miles thick. These two chambers are the some of the largest ever found by researchers. Although these chambers have not erupted, their presence has been made known as recently as 2003. Park officials closed Yellowstone at this time because they feared that people would burn their feet walking on the ground or that their tires would be melted and ruined by the roads that were melting at the time. The ground temperatures rose to such a level that geysers dried out and amazingly, even trees in the area were destroyed as the sap within them boiled. Thermometers were put a few inches under the surface and recorded temperatures rising to 200 degrees Fahrenheit – just a few degrees more and one would have been able to boil water just beneath the soil.
The real problems came when researchers began to describe the effects of an eruption of this super volcano. The best way to understand this is by comparing volcanic eruptions of the past with what is possible if Yellowstone were to erupt. Compared to Yellowstone, Mount St. Helens was a lovely picnic in the park. This eruption covered the state of Washington with an ash bed nearly the size of all of Lake Michigan back in 1980. In the Philippines the Mount Pinatubo blast of 1991, which yielded an earthquake over 7.0 in magnitude. In addition to this Pinatubo, considered the second largest eruption in the 20th century, blew 1 cubic mile of debris into the air almost 22 miles high – and spread ash as far away as the Indian Ocean – and dropped temperatures throughout the region by at least 1 degree for the next year.
If we compare the largest volcanic blasts known to us in modern times we have to go back to Krakatoa (1883) and the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815. Krakatoa blew on August 26-27 of 1883 and sent 11 cubic miles of debris into the air. The explosion from this volcano ruptured the eardrums of people as far as 40 miles away – and completely obliterated two mountains that disappeared into the sea. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami from this event sent a wave 120 feet high into Java and Sumatra – killing an estimated 36,000 people – and sending ships a mile inland. But the mother of all known modern volcanoes was that of Mount Tambora. Tambora killed 10,000 people instantly and over 100,000 people before it was over. It launched over 30 cubic miles of debris up to 38 miles into the atmosphere. Other effects of this volcano were a period of 3 to 5 days without any sunshine and a 5-degree drop in worldwide temperatures. The weather patterns of the whole earth were so dramatically impacted that it caused famines and crop failures as far away as the U.S. and Europe – and 1816 was referred to as the year without a summer.
HOW BIG WOULD THE BLAST BE?
Here are the comparisons of a blast in Yellowstone to those of recent history. Tambora shot 30 cubic feet of debris over 35 miles into the atmosphere. It is estimated that an eruption of the super volcano under Yellowstone could launch up to 600 cubic miles of debris at least that high into our atmosphere. The effects of this would be disastrous to the earth. First, it is estimated that over 100,000 people would be killed almost instantly – and the entire population of North America would face death from the ash, gasses, and lava bombs that would result. Such an eruption would so fill the entire atmosphere of the earth that travel by air would be impossible for up to as long as a year or more. The temperature change involved in such an eruption could be as high as 10 or more degrees – almost ensuring a kind of volcanic winter for at least a year. The destruction to agriculture would be beyond compare – making almost the entire surface of the United States unusable for years or even decades. What is shocking is how a super volcano blast of this magnitude would mirror the events of Revelation 6 in many ways. I will examine this in my next article.
I would be remiss if I did not also tell you that such an eruption of the super volcano underneath Yellowstone is considered to be very unlikely. Scientists who have studied this put the odds of it around 1 in 700,000 – or the likelihood that you will be struck by lightning. But, with that said, it is interesting that such a scenario as that of Revelation 6 is possible from a geological standpoint.