Living down wind of one of the largest volcanos on the planet has it’s advantages and it’s disadvantages. Certainly the Yellowstone ecosystem is one of the last bastions of what North America used to be like.  Even though the park service messed with the ecology back around 1900 in a mostly disasterous fashion, life finds a balance and has mostly recovered.  The surrounding country in the three state area (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming) is some of the most pristine wilderness left in the lower 48 states.  This is the big advantage.

The very features that make the Yellowstone ecosystems environment so protectable and worth preserving also makes it quite a dangerous place for own existence.  Having a super-volcano that erupts roughly every 600,000 years around is somewhat unnerving.  Particularly since it has been around 600,000 years since it last erupted therefore any day now…… An eruption would absolutely destroy the very ecosystem that thrives because of the volcano.  Ironic and a big disadvantage.

The unique fauna and flora there are a direct result of the geologic phenomena that are so abundant. It was recognized early on that there was a huge benefit from preserving this area. Because of this rare geology, forward looking government figures fought to save those features from exploitation which in turn, mostly saved the ecosystem from “modern” development.  The geographic isolation also played a part in this preservation but I directly attribute the preservation to the absolutely rare hydrothermal features of this huge volcanic caldera.  

Dangerous?  You bet.  As I write this, a swarm of hundreds of small quakes center under Yellowstone Lake in the caldera have occurred over the last few weeks and continue today.  Though by no means do I have information the following is actually happening, it could. The heat from magna interacting with water several miles down causes steam pockets which can lead to huge steam explosions.  Far short of the near extinction level event that a caldera explosion would be, these steam explosions can be quite large.  The last one over 150,000 years ago blew out the West Thumb part of Yellowstone lake.  This was a really big poof but no one was hear to see it.  I wouldn’t want to be within several hundred miles of this if it happened but the aftermath would probably be just a great tourist attraction.  Having to rebuild all the historic lodges would really be a bad thing though.

Of course this is a highly unlikely event somewhere near the probability of you dying on a commercial airliner. This is still an issue though.  Just ask the old guy that hung out at Spirit Lake on Mt. St. Helens. Living upwind might be a better choice.