The northwest corner of Wyoming is boiling. There, 10,000 hydrothermal features transform Yellowstone National Park into an alien world with searing waters and steaming vents—all fueled by a simmering supervolcano.
While scientists agree that Yellowstone is not likely to erupt anytime soon, if and when it does, the event would be catastrophic. A massive magma chamber feeds this supervolcano, and an eruption would pack enough power to expel more than a thousand cubic kilometers of rock and ash at once. That would blanket most of the continental United States in debris and potentially plunge Earth into a volcanic winter.
So in 2017, NASA scientists ran a thought experiment to see if they might be able to halt a future supereruption. The internal study led by Brian Wilcox, an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, suggested drilling a series of wells around the perimeter of the park and pumping cold water down into the hot rock. The hypothetical solution would cool down Yellowstone’s magma chamber and prevent calamity.
As a bonus, the system would provide enough geothermal energy to power the entire country.