The program had been sitting on my TiVo for a while, because it’s hard for me to commit to an hour of Alias, much less a three-hour made-for-cable movie. But I knew I’d eventually watch it, because from the moment I first heard about the Yellowstone supervolcano, it was one of those nagging, back-of-my-mind fears. So much so, that I actually included a lengthy monologue about it for a script I was writing. (That scene got cut, so feel free to write your own.)
For those who don’t know, Yellowstone National Park, home of the Old Faithful geyser, is actually the caldera of a massive volcano. And not just a “theoretical” volcano: it’s erupted at least three times before: 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and 640,000 years ago. Which, if you do the quick math, suggests that it erupts every 800,000 to 660,000 years. Which means it’s due to erupt now.
Which is very, very bad.
When Yellowstone erupts, it will be big-summer-disaster-movie apocalyptic. Think Armageddon x The Day After Tomorrow. Twenty feet of jagged volcanic ash strewn across the Midwest, tapering down to a centimeter on the East Coast. Global temperatures will fall. The monsoon will fail. Drought, famine, starvation lasting for years. As Discovery says on the website:
A modern full-force Yellowstone eruption could kill millions, directly and indirectly, and would make every volcano in recorded human history look minor by comparison.
Suddenly, moving to Australia looks a lot more enticing. Yes, there’s the global famine, but at least you don’t have ash falling on your head.
But here’s the thing: Yellowstone is not actually “due” to erupt. That’s a logical fallacy. And the celebrity spokesperson who proved it to me is Michelle Pfeiffer.
Let me provide context.
In 1994, my friend Elizabeth and I went to see The Madness of King George at a movie theatre on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. The movie theatre was pretty full, so we ended up sitting next to a man and woman — who turned out to be Michelle Pfeiffer and her husband David E. Kelly. Being good Los Angelenos, we pretended we didn’t know they were beautiful and famous. We just ate our popcorn, watched the movie, and gossiped after they left.