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Yellowstone National Park: A magnificent place to explore

America’s first national park – Yellowstone. It's also the first national park in the world, established by Congress in 1872, even before the National Park Service was set up.

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Yellowstone National Park: A magnificent place to explore
More than half the world's geysers are in Yellowstone National Park. VOA

January 2, 2018: When you think about America’s national parks, what probably comes to mind first is America’s first national park – Yellowstone. It’s also the first national park in the world, established by Congress in 1872, even before the National Park Service was set up.

Yellowstone sits on an active volcano, the source of the more than 10,000 geothermal features in the park, including more than half the world’s geysers. National Parks traveler Mikah Meyer made sure he caught the eruption of the best-known of its 500 geysers – Old Faithful, which shoots a column of superheated water up to 42 meters into the air, every 60 to 110 minutes.

“They have geysers that range from Old Faithful to these geysers that are basically holes in the ground that give a glimpse into what the bubbling boiling earth underneath is like.”

And some of what bubbles up is mud. Mikah describes these ‘mudpots’ as a witch’s cauldron. “They look like some sort of witch’s concoction because you’re just walking along this boardwalk and suddenly to your left and your right you’ve got these giant mud pools that are bubbling up in random spots, and so it really is a place where you can see the earth’s underbelly.”

The thousands of steam vents in Yellowstone give off a powerful sulfur odor.
The thousands of steam vents in Yellowstone give off a powerful sulfur odor. VOA

He noted a constant feature of the park — steam. “Anywhere you are in the park it always seems like somewhere in your 360° view you’ll see some steam rising out of the ground.” These fumaroles, or steam vents, are the hottest hydrothermal features in the park, with temperatures as high as 138°Celsius.

Yellowstone is also home to thermophile microbes, which thrive in the hot springs. Trillions of these microorganisms are grouped together, so they appear as masses of color. Since different types of thermophiles live at different temperatures within a hot spring, they produce what looks like a rainbow in the water.

Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone's largest hot spring. It's about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep.
Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring. It’s about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep. VOA

And it’s not just hot water shooting up… Yellowstone also has 350 identified waterfalls that tumble down more than 4 1/2 meters. The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River is the tallest cascade in the park. At 94 meters, it’s twice as high as Niagara Falls.

An abundance of wildlife

Many of the more than 4 million visitors to Yellowstone each year come to see one of the symbols of the American West. Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times, and the park’s herd of 4,000 to 5,000 animals represents the last-known wild bison population in the world.

Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone's largest hot spring. It's about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep.
Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring. It’s about 112.8 meters across and more than 37 meters deep. VOA

Mikah said they really catch visitors’ eyes. “I have this video of what I call a Yellowstone traffic jam which is basically anytime there’s any sort of animal on the side of the road, everyone seems to stop their car and take pictures or pull over and it’s an instant traffic jam!”

But bison aren’t the only iconic animals in the park. Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, including predators like grey wolves and bears, and large herbivores, like big horn sheep, elk and moose.

Two decades ago, 41 wild gray wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released in Yellowstone National Park to start a recovery effort. Today, the park is home to more than 100 animals in eleven packs. (NPS/Jim Peaco)
Two decades ago, 41 wild gray wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released in Yellowstone National Park to start a recovery effort. Today, the park is home to more than 100 animals in eleven packs. (NPS/Jim Peaco). VOA

There are nearly 300 species of birds, 16 species of fish, five species of amphibians, and six species of reptiles.

But the main draw remains the regular eruption of Old Faithful. “If you’re on the hunt for geysers,” Mikah concludes, “you really can’t do much better than Yellowstone National Park.” (VOA)

Next Story

The Polar Vortex Disrupts The Life Of Daily Citizens

The agency said severe snowstorms may be more likely in a warmer climate because of the increased moisture in the atmosphere.

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USA, Cold
Commuters brave the wind and snow in frigid weather in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jan. 30, 2019. VOA

Millions of Americans are experiencing temperatures so cold that a burst of wind could cause frostbite within minutes — conditions that have caused the suspension of regional train service, work and school schedules, and even production of television and stage shows.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday some 25 million people will face temperatures that cause near-instant frostbite in New England (the northeastern United States) and the Midwest — states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan.

In Chicago, Amtrak canceled train service, and even federal mail delivery was suspended in many areas to protect the mail carriers, whose motto declares they deliver mail in almost any weather condition.

In some cities, bus service has been suspended because the cold can cause mechanical difficulties.

 

USA, Cold
A car passes an elementary school closed due to cold weather in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 30, 2019. VOA

 

The governors of Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin have declared states of emergency.

With the wind chill, it was minus 32 degrees Celsius (minus 26 degrees Fahrenheit) in North Dakota on Tuesday and minus 52 degrees in parts of Minnesota. The high temperature in Minneapolis on Wednesday is forecast to be minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit).

In the city of Chicago, renowned for its tough winters, the temperature Thursday is expected to dip near the record low of negative 32.8 degrees Celsius.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling the weather “life-threatening.” Transit buses with nurses on board will be dispatched across the city to serve as emergency warming shelters for the homeless.

Churches throughout Detroit are also keeping their doors open for anyone who has no home and needs a place to keep warm.

At least four weather-related deaths have been reported.

The cold air will stretch from the Midwest to the East Coast and as far south as parts of Florida.

USA, Cold
Ice is seen on the side of the Great Falls National Historic Park as a couple takes in the sights during a frigid winter day in Paterson, N.J., Jan. 30, 2019. VOA

Meteorologists blame the weather on a breakup of the polar vortex — cold temperatures above the North Pole are being pushed south across North America because of a blast of desert heat from North Africa.

Global warming

Reacting to the weather, President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday “What the hell is going on with Global Waming? (sic) Please come back fast. We need you!”

It is unclear if the president was joking.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is devoted to climate science and information, tweeted, “Winter storms do not prove global warming is not happening.”

The agency said severe snowstorms may be more likely in a warmer climate because of the increased moisture in the atmosphere.

Also Read: Extreme Weather Due To Polar Vortex Across The U.S. Causes Misery

NOAA denies any connection between the president’s comment and its social media posting.

“We routinely put this story out at these times,” the agency said in a statement. “Our scientists weren’t responding to a tweet.” (VOA)