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January 27th, 2011
11:02 AM ET

Physicist Michio Kaku on supervolcano: 'all you can do is run'

There's trouble brewing underground and it's no joke; Physicist Michio Kaku says a supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park is due to erupt.

There's no way to determine precisely when the explosion will occur but scientists say the ground around the volcano has started to swell, indicating subterranean activity. It was a similar volcano that helped bring an end to the dinosaurs and this one will 'wipe out the United States as we know it', Dr. Kaku says. But Dr. Kaku is also telling people not to panic because the volcano could blow at any moment...within the next one hundred thousand years.

Hear more from Kiran Chetry's interview with Dr. Michio Kaku:

Filed under: Science
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. RD

    I feel sorry for you folks who are busy putting down Dr. Kaku, one of the most brilliant minds currently on the planet. I do respect his statements on this matter that this supervolcano does erupt every 600,000 years (proven) and we are currently 40,000 years overdue for a possible ELE
    (Extinction Level Event).
    Those that are trumpeting "but the level rise of 10 inches has happened over 3 years and NOT 1 year" as Dr. Kaku mentioned have to realize that in geologic terms, there is basically NO difference in that short span of time! Geologic events are well known to happen over millions if not billions of years, so 1 year or 3 years is pretty insignificant.
    Based on very good basic science, Dr. Kaku has made it very clear to ME that this event WILL happen one day, and the only thing you could do WHEN this thing happens is either run like hell or stand there and perish.
    Don't know about YOU guys, but I'm going to make a run for it.

    February 8, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  2. Dustin

    All of you that are hating on Dr. Kaku simply can't understand his level of intelligence. He's one of the best to comment on anything involving the natural sciences.

    February 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  3. Stentor

    Funny we saw Yellowstone erupt in that apocalypse movie from last year 2012.

    I love how she says that it will destroy Earth as we know it, and Michio quickly corrects her in saying North America as we know it. I guess in her mind, America is the world as we know it.

    February 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  4. Robert

    No need to worry until you see a mass exodus of animals from Yellowstone National Park similar to the animals leaving New York city in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow". They are the best indicator of something catastrophic about to occur.

    February 4, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  5. Sara

    Also, it really doesn't mean it's soon. This has happened three times before, in cycles of millions of years. It's a give or take 50,000 years type of deal.

    February 4, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  6. Sara

    Don't get too worked up about it. This happens every couple of decades. Now if it were like 2 or 3 feet every month or something like that, then I'd be worried. And there'd be no running from this. When the volcano broke the crust, the crust would fall in, creating even more debris that would end up covering the US up to about the Mississippi river. Most of the rest of the world would be plunged into nuclear winter for about 5 years because of the sulfur ejected into the atmosphere that would deflect sunlight.

    February 4, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  7. Dana

    You guys have GOT to be kidding me! Are you so naive that you don't realize that it IS just a matter of time before that thing blows again? I'm not saying we should all run for our lives in fear, but to disregard it like it won't happen is really naive.

    It will happen, we just don't know when.

    And though I don't get why they involved him in this article... if you guys don't know who Michio Kaku is than you're living under a rock. He's a genius and nothing he said was wrong. He said it could happen anytime within the next 100,000 years and they're was MORE than one extinction event.

    Do any of you read?

    February 4, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  8. seraphim0

    Funny how all these people are dissing kaku. The man is a brilliant physicist, not a 'Hey, I'm a scientist!' nobody. This wasn't his field of expertise, and I don't think he should have commented on it- but just because the man isn't an expert in geology doesn't make him a dunce. At least Google his name if you've never heard of him before. CNN should have gone to an expert in the correct line of science. Kaku should have refused the interview on the subject. Two wrongs, unfortunately... but the man is extremely intelligent in his field.

    February 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  9. Kerry

    I didn't know Minnesota was north of Wyoming. Huh.

    February 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  10. Dr Ken Sims

    This is nonsense, you need to look at the probability based on recurrence intervals, This guy is charlatan and should not be given future interviews.

    February 2, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  11. April

    I just love that they have the initials for Montana as MN...

    February 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  12. sandeep deba misra

    it's a serious matter to think about. but my mind say that we must not be panic. we should follow what the scientists are saying about the issue.

    February 1, 2011 at 6:25 am |
  13. Julia

    I love how they ask the physicist about everything, be it psychology or geology. Don't get me wrong, Michio Kaku is brilliant and all but I just don't see how his opinion on Yellowstone and Super-volcanoes really matter.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  14. DingleBerry

    The ice age will pretty much bury that whole area in ice before this volcano builds enough energy to actually erupt. So who really cares. If it went off now it wouldn't do anything more destructive than what any other large volcano can do. It still needs thousands of years to reach cataclysmic potential. Nice story though. Calderas are really interesting.

    January 31, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  15. Arch Stanton

    I always thought that Montana (MT) was located east of Idaho, not Minnesota (MN). C'mon CNN, where's the proofreading on this map?

    January 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  16. Butters

    Just imagine how many nuclear silos are in that area.....hmmmmm Volcano + nuclear winter....He does have a point, America will cease to exist as we know it....It will be glowing a pretty green and red. I think we should be more concerned about our own self destructive tendencies than how mother nature can and will kick our backsides. PEACE!

    January 31, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  17. Paul

    This is pretty poor. What happened to real reporting? Send a novice out with the yellow pages, grab the first person who says, "Hey, I'm a scientist!" and this is what you get.

    A science fiction movie!

    January 30, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  18. Amie

    I'm heading out the door right now to run up all my credit cards!!1Woooohoooo!

    January 30, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  19. Rok

    It has raised 10" since 2004, not in the last year.

    From the ORIGINAL article from NG:

    "But beginning in 2004, scientists saw the ground above the caldera rise upward at rates as high as 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) a year.

    The rate slowed between 2007 and 2010 to a centimeter a year or less. Still, since the start of the swelling, ground levels over the volcano have been raised by as much as 10 inches"

    January 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  20. Phil Warnell

    Look on the bright side, as this being one of the few times as of late that a scientist hasn’t been on television to tell us how all the worlds problem are our fault. That is the only time lately they give a scientist air time is to have them preach to us how we must all repent for our short sightedness and greed. Oh how I miss the days when Carl Sagan was on the air to have us appreciate the mysteries of the Universe and how with an increased understanding of it and faith in human potential left all feeling optimistic and hopeful.

    January 30, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  21. Aaron

    No offense CNN, but why the heck did you send out Michio Kaku to comment on this story? It was painfully obvious that his grasp on volcanology is somewhat limited. Honestly, if you're going to have a scientist of a different discipline provide commentary on an event your best bet is to ALWAYS go with Bill Nye.

    Remember when everyone was struggling to understand the difficulties and challenges of plugging up the Gulf oil spill last spring? All he did was come onto CNN with a plastic tube, empty water bottle, and a couple of washers and within three minutes everyone understood the complexity of the challenge. Bill Nye = good layman's science.

    January 30, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  22. warytraveler

    So Canada is just some massive empty space that has no significance in this disaster, apparently.

    January 30, 2011 at 7:15 am |
  23. wmscott

    This reporting is so very inaccurate CNN should take some responsibility and publish a retraction and apology. I think they should also apologize to the great scientific team at YVO and the amazing Park Ranger staff at Yellowstone. Clearly not the slightest bit of research was done and the alarmist nature of the report was fitting only for Fox News.

    January 30, 2011 at 2:35 am |
  24. ed

    The Yellowstone Supervolcano and Caldera wouldn't destroy half of the US, anyone who claims this would be overreacting. 1/3 of the US territory would be a much better estimate, and this CAN be predicted, not in a 100% way but vulcanology has improved a lot in terms of predicting a volcanic eruption, specially on the emission of toxic gases and the amount of these, that would indicate a possible imminent eruption. Once an imminent volcanic eruption warning is issued, that whole area and nearby cities of states next to Wyoming would have to be evacuated, that would be the most difficult task yet, still, it isn't evacuating the most important and populated cities of the US: NY, LA, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Detroit, or San Francisco ARE ALL SAFE from the "massive devastation" zone, the most populated areas of the US territory aren't even in danger of an imminent eruption from Yellowstone, I don't believe it would be hard to evacuate the area that's in great danger.

    January 30, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  25. Bill from Florida

    This is really scary and the scientists seem powerless to offer any words of wisdom that would lighten the load as it were. Lets see – every 600,000 years the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts and destroys North America as we know it. That would seem to suggest that humankind would suffer an enormous setback – possibly resetting humankind back to the stone age. It would also seem to suggest that humankind would never get to some advanced state to be able to mitigate this event. And if the supervolcano doesn't destroy us, a sufficiently large asteroid will do the same thing. A biblical event to be sure and possibly the only one mankind will ever see before he is sent back to some gene pool.

    January 29, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  26. mememw

    Man you people have a problem listening to what he is saying and what they are reporting. Obviously he got his facts from geological data at Yellowstone and he is just interpreting that. It doesn't take a geologist to know that ground swelling is an indication of magma build up.

    January 29, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  27. Sarah

    Are you kidding me CNN? Thanks for the fake-scare about a serious threat. Ground uplift has DECREASED according to YVO. Yellowstone constantly goes up and down.

    Every three years I see yellowstone make headline news, and people become terrified.

    YVO has an EXCELLENT way to monitor the volcano. Using info from normal volcanoes, from new earthquake monitoring system, etc. Furthermore, you failed to mention that Yellowstone erupting does not automatically mean it will be at its full capacity. It could be an eruption smaller than Mount St. Helen.

    January 29, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  28. Harry

    Where is the ground swelling 10 inches!? Roads would be crumbling, buildings would be falling, Trees would be uprooted. Dr. Kukoo is just trying to pump his book. Bad reporting.

    January 29, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  29. ken fowlie

    Pe3ople do need to worry.This is no joke.Im not a scientist or anything.But im not stupid either.That earth quake that caused that sunami that wiped out them countries somtime ago caused all the screwed up weather.It really messed up this world we call home it changed the seasons in length.It has caused alot and people are acting ignorant.Blowing this off .We really need to pay attention to this.If this hapens the way i think its going to then we are all introuble.The government really needs topay attention to this .If this was natureal then we would have a mountain there by now .Sure it changes all the time but not like this .Its hapening way to fast.This is going to hapen real soon.I hope for my childrens sake this Im wrong .But i dont beleive I am.This world belongs to our kids not us anymore .We just have to try to take care of it till hey can.One of these days it will be too late. A very concerned father

    January 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  30. James

    All I have to say, regardless of the information in this interview, is that the YVO, USGS, and other US based earth science institutions are all funded by the US Federal Government. Go ahead and believe everything your government funded scientists tell you. It wouldn't be the first time they were told to disinform you. You'll eat it up. I'll be ready to survive with my guns and supplies. Y'all have a good time living in rose-colored glasses land. Cya on the other side!


    January 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  31. Ann Hansen

    Membery – No, it did not rise 10 inches very quickly. I took years and if you will look at the true authorities (YVO and USGS) you will see that it has actually gone down over the past year.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  32. Glen

    Kiran: Do not allow CNN to lower your journalistic standards by interviewing a physicist about geology. I am a geologist and I would not go on your show to be interviewed about physics – even if I had a book to pimp! His level of knowledge was unprofessional. Thanks for correcting him about the 640 million years.

    January 28, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  33. Tammi Corchero

    As someone (a park ranger) who lives in the middle of Yellowstone, I can say with some authority that there is just so MUCH that is WRONG with this! First of all, when did Minnesota move north of Wyoming? Second of all, we have some truly outstanding geologists in this park who know what's going on here...why didn't CNN talk to them? I too have respect for Dr. Kaku...when it comes to physics! He needs to speak only on what he knows and CNN needs to wake up and smell the coffee! Very, very bad reporting.

    January 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  34. Daniel

    oops. Was thinking about KT, my mistake.

    January 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  35. Daniel

    NEW THEORY: The volcanism occurred because of the meteor. The volcanoes are located the exact opposite side of the earth as the meteor; the meteor had so much energy that it transferred through the Earth, shattered the crust in India and caused the massive volcanism.

    January 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  36. Charlie

    This is so alarmist! And besides, we all know we'll be dead for generations before this occurs due to man-made global warming. Once Florida is under water in 2047 as predicted by Al Gore, we'll go fast.
    I've already told my kids to move to Saskatchewan as it will be beach front property and very sunny in the future.

    January 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  37. David

    Parts of the Bay of Naples (near another slumbering supervolcano) rose by 2 metres (6 feet) in the early 1980's, without an eruption.. so the activity at Yellowstone is far from extraordinary.. Of course, this might be a surprise to a string theorist.

    January 28, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  38. Membery

    Michio Kaku is fairly credible and has been involved in global policy for disasters, nuclear disarmament, and global warming for some time now. You miss the point of the clip – The ground has risen 10 inches very quickly.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  39. Sitnalta

    This story is asinine. Don't talk to a theoretical physicist about volcanology. I have great respect for Michio Kaku, but he doesn't know what he's talking about in this case.

    CNN, hire correspondents who have a basic, high school-level science education. College-level critical thinking would hurt either. Stories like this just make you look like amateurs.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  40. Raven

    The Geologist Chris Smith at Yellowstone said virtually the same exact things....

    And "Any time in the next 100,000 years"
    could mean TOMORROW.

    Personally I think Bush is to blame.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  41. Mark Hollcraft

    It's true, I believe that it will erupt soon leads to a very
    coldest weather that ashes blocks sunlight the earth that worldwide will be dark and very coldest and snowy weather that lead population will starve to death due to very short of food.
    Jesus Christ will take care of all people.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  42. Ann Hansen

    When did they move Minnesota?

    January 27, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  43. Andrew Alden

    The world is full of geologists who can do a better job than this unqualified physicist at explaining the minor burblings at Yellowstone. Unfortunately, none of them would make such "great TV" because they would stick to the facts.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  44. Ann Hansen

    Look at the chart on the YVO website. The swelling has been going down over the past year and is a noted, natural occurance of any volcanic activity.

    Who is this clown and why did CNN give him any airtime? Me thinks he just wanted his 3 minutes of fame.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  45. Rob

    This is fairly old news. Some show on Discovery made this same prediction/warning a couple years ago & more recently given the current state of Yellowstone. End of the U.S.? More like, end of the world as we know it.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  46. Harold Tobin

    Kaku says a breathtaking number of factually incorrect or misleading things in this brief interview, and does a real disservice to the credible scientists engaged in volcano monitoring and eruption prediction. Why on Earth didn't you interview a actual expert in the field? "It's black magic trying to predict exactly when it will blow"? This is just irresponsible.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  47. super volcanos are cool

    US Geography 101:
    MN =Minnesota
    MT =Montana

    Fantastic job CNN! We wonder what's wrong with our youth. Look, we're not going to be around much longer. At least get our state abbreviation correct in the meantime.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  48. Gareth

    Wow. There is so much wrong with this. Like Erik said, why didn't you get someone in who has spent more than 10 minutes researching volcanoes?

    January 27, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  49. Scott

    Hey CNN... Montana is MT. Nice graphic.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  50. Guy McCoy

    Here's what I envision; one day Yellowstone and every other volcano will explode, while an asteroid ,as big as what wiped out the dinosaurs, hits the Earth, and the Sun turns into a Red Giant, and all the tectonic plates crumble, and the Space Invaders shoot their Death Ray at us, while Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves attack, as all the nuclear bombs explode. It's gonna be a bad day.
    Or try this hypothesis, You and everyone else on this Earth is going to die, just not all at the same time. It's called Life. So whatever time you have left of Life, live it, and quit obsessing about what's going to end it.
    Jeezzz! Give Me a Break!

    January 27, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  51. Ann Hansen

    In addition to the above, you can find a lot of accurate information (as opposed to sensationalize journalism) at the website for YVO.

    "An article published by National Geographic on January 19, 2011 highlights the current research results of scientists from YVO partner University of Utah (UU) and the National Central University of Taiwan. The National Geographic piece has led to several subsequent articles about Yellowstone, some of which misrepresent the research, current geological activity, and the potential for future eruptions. Geological activity over the past five years includes widespread ground uplift and two notable earthquake swarms. Though scientifically interesting, such events are common in large caldera systems like Yellowstone, and are not indicative of an imminent eruption. Moreover, the research described ground uplift stopped about a year ago.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  52. Ana Montana

    "All you can do is run?"

    Seriously? That's the best he can come up with?

    This is disgraceful, alarmist, innacurate science at it's worst. Horrible. (Not that anybody at CNN would know the difference)


    January 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  53. Ann Hansen

    Funny thing is, is that geologist say that –

    “There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is imminent. Current geologic activity at Yellowstone has remained relatively constant since earth scientists first started monitoring some 30 years ago. Though another caldera-forming eruption is theoretically possible, it is very unlikely to occur in the next thousand or even 10,000 years. Scientists have also found no indication of an imminent smaller eruption of lava.”

    And that –

    “The science of forecasting a volcanic eruption has significantly advanced over the past 25 years. Most scientists think that the buildup preceding a catastrophic eruption would be detectable for weeks and perhaps months to years. Precursors to volcanic eruptions include strong earthquake swarms and rapid ground deformation and typically take place days to weeks before an actual eruption. Scientists at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory* (YVO) closely monitor the Yellowstone region for such precursors. They expect that the buildup to larger eruptions would include intense precursory activity (far exceeding background levels) at multiple spots within the Yellowstone volcano. As at many caldera systems around the world, small earthquakes, ground uplift and subsidence, and gas releases at Yellowstone are commonplace events and do not reflect impending eruptions.
    *The YVO is a collaborative effort between the US Geological Survey, the University of Utah, and YNP to monitor and study the Yellowstone Volcano. Congress has given the USGS the responsibility of volcano hazard assessment, and YNP assists the USGS in their volcano monitoring effort.”

    I think I will believe them before I believe this guy.

    January 27, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  54. Randy Kerr

    How will the Tea Party blame Obama for this??

    January 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  55. Greg Martin

    Are you for real? You should have talked with a Geologist or a volcanologist who actually knows about Yellowstone. Talk about sending the wrong message to your Viewing audience. Oh well guess the general population now has their doomsday issue for 2011. Bad reporting Poor interviewing

    January 27, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  56. Tom Ray

    It is only a matter of time, just hoping it is is in the far distant future ... of course "hope is not a plan" as Katrina showed. Just some things are "too big" to plan for and humanity must accept our fate... besides, we don't have the budget to stay alive for it ... reference the other stories on the extinction of the middle class on the same blog. Good for us December 23, 2012 is just a myth, and everything will be fine as long as we just believe our leaders and sacrifice for the sake of their welfare. {Sarcasim intented}

    January 27, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  57. Greg

    What a shock... CNN publishes an article that will get everyone worked up over nothing and it's not until the end of the article that says an eruption could occur at any time over the next 100,000 years.

    January 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  58. Dooby Cat

    Never mind.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  59. Dooby Cat

    It was a meteorite that killed the dinosaurs. Not a volcano.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  60. Erik Klemetti

    Why didn't you talk to a geologist about Yellowstone? Seems like lazy reporting to me.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:45 am |