Articles in Supervolcanoes
The following news could be anywhere from meaningful to meaningless. The primary problem is that scientists have never witnessed a supervolcanic eruption. They don’t know what indicators they should be looking for, and how much of a warning we get.
Presumably an eruption is preceded by a build-up of magma, and presumably that would cause the ground to rise to some degree:
Italy’s Department of Civil Protection recently raised the alert level for the Phlegraean Fields, where Wiersberg said the ground was rising by about three centimetres a month.
There are concerns that a magma chamber under the fields, presumably connected to the one under Mount Vesuvius, east of Naples, is filling up, the rising pressure possibly heightening the danger of an eruption.
That might be reason for concern, and certainly the Italian government are covering themselves. But if you compare it to some other, relatively recent activity, then there’s no reason for concern:
I didn’t know some of these, so thanks to Cracked for their post 6 Important Things That We Built On Top of Supervolcanoes:
Lake Taupo – this supervolcano is located in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, which is home to 80% of the population. Next time it erupts, population will decrease for sure!
Naples / The Phlegraean Fields – yep, they built a famous city right next to a massive volcano.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area / Long Valley – at least it isn’t a city, but it is a ski resort that sits within a supervolcano.
Guatemala City / Atitlan Caldera – this major central American city is just 70 miles from a supervolcano.
Tanegashima Space Center / Kikai Caldera – I didn’t even know Japan had a space center, but they built it right next door to an undersea supervolcano.
Los Alamos National Laboratory / Valles Caldera – yep, that’s where they developed …
It is well-known by U.S. survivalists that if Yellowstone erupts, the western half of the country will be a terrible place to be. And because ash will ruin motors, the only way to survive would be to stay indoors for long periods, and survive on stored food and water. But what about the rest of the world?
First of all, the economic impact would be extraordinary. California, if it was a country, would be one of the 10 biggest economies in the world. You’d pretty much expect the USA to become bankrupt, and therefore the major global currency would no longer be the dollar. America could be ripe for an invasion… All in all, it would be a much worse situation that the Global Financial Crisis.
What about physical repercussions, worldwide?
The jet stream generally flows from west to east, so the north-eastern states would also get some ash fallout – sufficient to …
Last night I watched yet another cable TV doco on supervolcanoes – this one focused on the Toba eruption 70,000 years ago. I didn’t learn anything new, but a new thought crossed my mind:
Could global catastrophes be the secret ingredient that made us who we are?
According to the documentary, all humans at the time were in Africa, and of the 1 million alive prior to the super-eruption, only 30,000 survived the volcanic winter. According to Wikipedia:
This change in temperature resulted in the world’s human population being reduced to 10,000 or even a mere 1,000 breeding pairs, creating a bottleneck in human evolution.
This theory has a lot of solid scientific support. And it got me thinking… surely prior super-eruptions from other supervolcanoes caused similar bottlenecks? In that case you could argue that these and other cataclysms (local and global) are key ingredients and drivers of human evolution.
Planet Earth is sometimes referred …
Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence (more at Wikipedia).
There is a lot of evidence that epigenetic modifications can last two generations. For example, if your mother was a Holocaust survivor, you could be more prone to post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as your children. Researchers have been trying to discover if such changes can last longer, and become a permanent genetic fixture. Evolution in other words.
This is of great interest to catastrophists – it could mean that global cataclysms were a major ingredient in human evolution. And could again…
DNA extracted from the bones of an extinct bison shows that the environment influenced the way the animal’s genes worked without altering the genetic code. It is the best evidence yet that such epigenetic changes can be fossilized.
…most of the methylations they found were …
Yesterday the Daily Mail has an article about the Laacher See volcano in Germany:
A sleeping super-volcano in Germany is showing worrying signs of waking up.
It’s lurking just 390 miles away underneath the tranquil Laacher See lake near Bonn and is capable of ejecting billions of tons of magma.
This monster erupts every 10 to 12,000 years and last went off 12,900 years ago, so it could blow at any time.
Well, while it could do a lot of harm, that’s normal for a volcano. It’s not a super-volcano, for they are an extinction-level threat. And those bubbles have been happening for centuries. And I’ve not seen any information that suggests this volcano is on a regular cycle. This is a non-story, and no need for people in Europe to be concerned. Wired magazine were quick to point out the same, suggesting that this article is pandering to 2012ers.
But if you do want …
Apocalyptic warnings that islands such as the Maldives will sink beneath the waves are far-fetched, said Nils Axel-Morner, former head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University.
He says that any rise in sea levels is to do with natural historic fluctuations.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2068516/Doomsday-predictions-sea-level-rises-false-alarm–levels-fluctuate.html
Supervolcano: Eruption is a brand new book that caught my eye:
A supervolcanic eruption in Yellowstone Park sends lava and mud flowing toward populated areas, and clouds of ash drifting across the country. The fallout destroys crops and livestock, clogs machinery, and makes cities uninhabitable. Those who survive find themselves caught in an apocalyptic catastrophe in which humanity has no choice but to rise from the ashes and recreate the world…
It is written by Harry Turtledove, a New York Times bestselling author of numerous alternate history novels. $15 hardcover at Amazon USA
This is weak, weak, weak. The headline is quite definite:
Supervolcanoes: Not a Threat For 2012
But if you read the article, NASA expert Adam Voiland (not an expert really, see his resume) points out:
Volcanologists have many unanswered questions about supervolcanoes, including what triggers their eruptions, and how can we predict when the next supervolcano will erupt?
The most recent supereruption occurred in New Zealand about 26,000 years ago.
Scientists have no way of predicting with perfect accuracy whether a supervolcano will occur in a given century, decade, or year – and that includes 2012.
The odds if a supervolcano erupting in any given year is close to a million-to-one.
There’s no sign of a supereruption looming anytime soon.
On that last point, given that scientists have never witnessed such an eruption, and they don’t know what triggers them, how do they know what to look for?
For those of us that believe there were …
Models that have looked into the effects of a major meteorite impact have, until now, used a featuresless perfect sphere to represent Earth. A new model that incorporates the surface features of our planet has found:
…that the seismic waves resulting from the impact would have been scattered and unfocused, causing less severe ground displacement, tsunamis, and seismic and volcanic activity than previously thought.
So instead of the ripples in a swimming pool being quite uniform, we have ripples in say a small river, with some ducks, a fallen tree, and a pile of mud getting in the way. This means that there will be some areas, even reasonably close to the impact, that will survive intact. If there is ever going to be advanced warning of a large impact, such a model might be able to help humans choose the safest places to hide.
Uturuncu is an ancient volcano in southwest Bolivia. …
In 1815 Mount Tambora erupted, killing 90,000 locals and affecting the weather of the entire planet.
Aside from a few minor bursts in steam in the 1960s, the mountain has been quiet for much of the last 200 years. Gede Suantika of the government’s Center for Volcanology said activity first picked up in April, with the volcanic quakes jumping from less than five a month to more than 200.
“It also started spewing ash and smoke into the air, sometimes as high as 1,400 meters (4,600 feet),” he said. “That’s something I’ve never seen it do before.”
Authorities raised the alert to the second-highest level two weeks ago, but said only villagers within 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the crater needed to evacuate. [Washington Post]
In theory it takes more than 200 years for such a volcano to erupt with the same intensity as last time. So we probably shouldn’t be concerned…
The Daily Mail has an excellent article explaining the pros and cons of drilling into the supervolcano at the edge of Naples, and why scientists are concerned:
Now an international team, including scientists from the UK, wants to drill down inside the caldera to try to better understand exactly why part of it has risen 10ft since 1969. The area at the epicentre of the swelling has seen whole streets of houses crumble and collapse. The threat is imminent. The last time the ground rose like this (between 1430 and 1538) there was an eruption that caused the formation of a new volcano.
There is just a single scientist arguing against the drilling, citing an eruption (caused by drilling) of a mud volcano, in Lusi, Indonesia. The key arguments for the drilling are:
The drilling will stop at two-and-a-half miles, two miles short of the magma reservoir.
The risk from drilling into the Naples Supervolcano, planned to take place this month, has been averted for the time being. According to Newsweek:
The project has set off a passionate scientific and philosophical debate in a country where the idea of a volcano that could bury a city is more than just myth. Should they heed the rumblings under the earth and use science to evaluate the danger, possibly helping Naples avoid the tragedy that befell Pompeii? Or is it better not to tempt fate by drilling into the massive volcanic cauldron for fear that the work will disturb whatever combination of luck and geology has been keeping the city safe for thousands of years? The conflict has finally bubbled over, prompting the mayor of Naples, Rosa Russo Iervolino, to delay the start of the project and call a meeting this week in Rome to determine whether it’s safe to …
Naples, Italy sits upon a supervolcano that supererupted just 39,000 years ago. It has been known for some time that scientists are planning to drill into the volcano, an act that some believe could trigger an eruption – in fact the concerns were published in New Scientist last year. Now dates have been set:
The project is due to start early next month, when the team will drill 1640ft into the ground at a site in Bagnoli, near Naples.
The second phase, due to start in the spring, will involve the drilling of a 4,000 metre deep borehole at the same location.
I have a new article at Survive 2012 simply titled Supervolcanoes. If the 2012 event happens to be a supervolcano, or a supervolcanic eruption is triggered in 2012 by something else, then you need to be aware of just how catastrophic it can be…
Scientists have been discussing the possibility of the last supervolcanic eruption nearly wiping out the entire human species. According to New Scientist:
Toba is a supervolcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It has blown its top many times but this eruption, 74,000 years ago, was exceptional. Releasing 2500 cubic kilometres of magma – nearly twice the volume of mount Everest – the eruption was more than 5000 times as large as the 1980 eruption of mount St Helens in the US, making it the largest eruption on Earth in the last 2 million years
Double the volume of Everest is a powerful and memorable statistic!
In theory (which is …
You may not have heard of the Phlegraean Fields (aka Campi Flegrei), but it’s the site of one of the largest supervolcanoes in (relatively) recent times. Erupting 200 cubic kilometres of magma 39,000 years ago, and still active, it is one of the potential candidates for a supervolcanic event in 2012.
Perhaps tempting fate, scientists are due to start drilling into this volcano right now. The reasoning is standard – drill a hole to take a look, and learn more about volcanoes.
But is it worth the risk?
“Under unfavourable conditions, contact of the drilling fluid with magma could be very dangerous,” says Ralf Büttner, a volcanologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany. “It is even theoretically conceivable that, ultimately, a major eruption could result.”
…The greatest risk would be if the drilling accidentally pierced a silica-rich magma chamber under high pressure, releasing trapped gases, saysVolker Dietrich, also of the University of …