Sunday, April 24, 2005

No fear caused by film about supervolcano

CHEYENNE - A cable television docudrama depicting a cataclysmic eruption of the Yellowstone National Park "supervolcano" has drawn some free advice from the public but nary a concern from folks making plans to visit the popular park, officials say.

"There's been no impact on reservations whatsoever," said Scott Cote, executive director of operations for park concessionaire Xanterra Parks & Resorts. "It was interesting, and it was entertainment, but evidently people aren't taking it all that seriously."

Cote said this week that reservations for park lodging are on par with the past two or three years.

"We've had just a few inquiries here at the park but not many," said Yellowstone spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews.

The docudrama, "Supervolcano," was shown over the past two weekends on the Discovery Channel. The made-for-television movie is based on the Yellowstone volcano erupting again.
The heart of Yellowstone is an enormous volcano that last erupted 640,000 years ago. Other massive eruptions occurred 1.3 million and 2.1 million years ago. The huge caldera, measuring 50 miles by 30 miles, makes it the largest active volcano in the world, geologists say.

"It's the largest magma chamber that we know about," says Jake Lowenstern, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist and scientist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, a cooperative arrangement of the USGS, the University of Utah and the National Park Service.
The movie has prompted letters from people offering suggestions on how to lower the pressure on the magma chamber, said Lowenstern, who is based near San Francisco.

The free ideas include drilling a hole into the magma chamber - something that wouldn't do any good since the hole would be quickly plugged up by hot, mushy rock, Lowenstern said.
"Very interesting ideas, but not necessarily ones that would be feasible," he said.

Anticipating questions from tourists this summer because of the movie, Yellowstone interpretive rangers have been receiving training from Henry Heasler, the park's supervisory geologist.

"I'm doing what I can to make sure those Park Service rangers have the correct information to pass on about the supervolcano," Heasler said.

Heasler said the more people learn about Yellowstone the better.

One thing they will learn is that a supereruption as depicted in the movie isn't likely anytime soon because there is no evidence to suggest one is about to occur, he said. "As a geologist I found the drama fascinating, but the thing to remember it's about an extremely unlikely event," Heasler said.

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