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More Disasterblogging

Brad Plumer gives me something else to worry about:

Hidden deep beneath the Earth's surface lie one of the most destructive and yet least-understood natural phenomena in the world - supervolcanoes. . . . The last supervolcano to erupt was Toba 74,000 years ago in Sumatra. Ten thousand times bigger than Mt St Helens, it created a global catastrophe dramatically affecting life on Earth. . . . It is little known that lying underneath one of America's areas of outstanding natural beauty - Yellowstone Park - is one of the largest supervolcanoes in the world. Scientists have revealed that it has been on a regular eruption cycle of 600,000 years. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago... so the next is overdue. . . . Scientists . . . do know that the impact of a Yellowstone eruption is terrifying to comprehend. Huge areas of the USA would be destroyed, the US economy would probably collapse . . . it would devastate the planet. Climatologists now know that Toba blasted so much ash and sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere that it blocked out the sun, causing the Earth's temperature to plummet.
Oh boy.

December 31, 2004 | Permalink

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» Disaster Blogging from Something Requisitely Witty and Urbane
Matt Yglesias has this:Hidden deep beneath the Earth's surface lie one of the most destructive and yet least-understood natural phenomena in the world - supervolcanoes. . . . The last supervolcano to erupt was Toba 74,000 years ago in Sumatra. [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 31, 2004 1:40:58 PM

» Kaboom from The Agitator
Last December, Matt Yglesias and Blad Plumer noted that we're past due for an eruption of the "supervolcano" that is... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 5, 2005 3:27:40 PM

» Kaboom from The Agitator
Last December, Matt Yglesias and Blad Plumer noted that we're past due for an eruption of the "supervolcano" that is... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 5, 2005 3:28:42 PM

» Lake Toba Sumatra - Super Volcano? from nerdojo :: ganja insomnia
Seems like there is some concern for a potential super volcano in the vicinity of Sumatra's Lake Toba. Professor Ray Cas of Monash University's School of Geosciences said the world's biggest super volcano was Lake Toba, on Sumatra island, site... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 19, 2005 12:48:01 PM

» Lake Toba Sumatra - Super Volcano? from nerdojo :: ganja insomnia
Seems like there is some concern for a potential super volcano in the vicinity of Sumatra's Lake Toba. Professor Ray Cas of Monash University's School of Geosciences said the world's biggest super volcano was Lake Toba, on Sumatra island, site... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 19, 2005 12:53:38 PM

Comments

Fuck. Haven't even had my coffee yet. We'd better get that Mars colonization plan into high gear.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Dec 31, 2004 12:27:45 PM

The tectonic activity that led to increased volcanism in western North America has moved elsewhere on the planet. Like SE Asia.

I don't think worrying about it would do anything anyway. Maybe we could get the president's ear and let Halliburton clean it up. A works project to last, oh, 100,000 years might interest them.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis | Dec 31, 2004 12:46:03 PM

"causing the Earth's temperature to plummet".

Obviously, the solution is to pump more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere to warm the planet up.

Posted by: Al | Dec 31, 2004 1:03:17 PM

So the chances of an eruption are good over the next 10 to 50 millenia. I'll update my insurance.

Posted by: jimBOB | Dec 31, 2004 1:11:11 PM

Well, thank God I don't have to worry about global warming anymore.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Dec 31, 2004 1:12:06 PM

There goes Matt again, hating Mother Nature. If it wasn't for supervolcanoes, we wouldn't have any diamonds. And good hand soap for car mechanics.

I got a major, major tick problem. Nasty little black dots that attach to my dogs, become cemented grapefuits full of blood, drop off and lay 5000 eggs all over the house. But you don't hear me criticizing the Lord's bounteous variety, and the mystery of the Plan. I love Nature. Just frigging adore it.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 31, 2004 1:12:55 PM

If I recall correctly, another one is the Long Valley Caldera east of the Sierra. That's a lot closer to where real people live.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Dec 31, 2004 1:54:28 PM

On the plus side, if a presidential election falls after the complete destruction of the six or so states around the Yellowstone suprvolcano and before the nuclear winter that kills all of us, the Democrat will have a huge advantage.

Posted by: old guy | Dec 31, 2004 1:57:52 PM

worse than supervolcanoes (1st one is real, next 2...not so much):

1- Gamma Ray Burst: Occur when gigantic stars collapse into black holes and thier mass is converted into pure energy. The energy generated by one of these blasts represent the single most violent event in the universe next to the original big bang: a billion times a billion times a billion times more powerful than a 10 kiloton nuclear bomb. Should one of these go off within 300 light years from earth, we would be bombarded by a wave of gamma rays that would boil the oceans, burn off all plant life, and basically cause your garden variety nuclear destruction. Some scientists believe that the earth was hit by one of these bad boys during one of earth's worst mass extinctions 443 million years ago.

2- Wrath of God: Occurs when boobs are shown too many times at the Super Bowl. Can be manifested in many forms: locusts, fire-storms, Stay Puft Marshmellow Men, etc, etc. However, this way to death has a fatal flaw: remember what you have learned from Indiana Jones...if you keep your eyes closed, God's wrath will only kill the Nazis.

3- Death by Chocolate: Occurs when the body ingests far too many chocolately delights. Pluses: plump gooey corpse. Minuses: can't be applied to this woman (who is, by the way, my hero and future 2nd wife...and by 2nd wife, I mean mormon-style): http://www.ifoce.com/eaters.php?action=detail&sn=20

Posted by: buttermonkey | Dec 31, 2004 2:05:42 PM

See, John Belushi did have a death wish. All that clamoring for "Toba! Toba! Toba!"...

Posted by: PSoTD | Dec 31, 2004 2:24:09 PM

The really cool thing about super-volcanoes, like the one that happened previously in Yellowstone, is that they have enough power to throw magma into space. Now that's frickin' cool -- right up there with sharks with laser beams on their heads.

And as a resident of Denver, I'd have a front row seat.

Posted by: Timothy Klein | Dec 31, 2004 2:56:52 PM

Lasers and Supervolcanoes! 2005 is going to be awesome.

Posted by: Ron Mashate | Dec 31, 2004 3:21:38 PM

Thanks to Bill Bryson's good book A Short History Of Nearly Everything, I recently learned the term "caldera" (Latin for cauldron). Regular volcanoes, as scary as they look, are essentially just dribbling out magma -- that's why you get the cone shape as the lava cools. Supervolcanoes blow massive amounts of magma out of the ground, and the ground collapses into the hole where the magma was collecting. Later -- provided you weren't in the area at the time, of course -- you can see the depression where the magma was, and that's the caldera. Essentially all of Yellowstone National Park is a caldera complex.

On another topic, old guy writes:

[I]f a presidential election falls after the complete destruction of the six or so states around the Yellowstone suprvolcano and before the nuclear winter that kills all of us, the Democrat will have a huge advantage.

Note that those states get 3 electoral votes each even if 99% of their population has been killed by sulfuric ash. I bet the one guy who survives is real tetchy about gun control.

Posted by: alkali | Dec 31, 2004 3:21:49 PM

Yeah, between the Long Valley and the Yellowstone supervolcanoes, I've got plenty of dread.

Posted by: TJ | Dec 31, 2004 3:32:06 PM

Quantum Leap Drinking Game

Posted by: Sam.Beckett | Dec 31, 2004 3:45:21 PM

We'd better get that Mars colonization plan into high gear.

Only to discover that Marsquakes are pretty common.

OK, maybe they are, maybe they aren't. But they just might be...here...in the Twilight Zone. (Duhn-duhn-dunh!)

Posted by: DonBoy | Dec 31, 2004 4:11:38 PM

Went there last year. Rangers were abit nervous about the bulge appearing under Yellowstone Lake. Some of the paths though the geysers were closed because the ground was too hot. At least there wasn't any ticks.

Posted by: LowLife | Dec 31, 2004 4:27:25 PM

Something like that would give off a lot of clues like massive increases in the rate of seismic activity. Just look at St. Helens.

If it does happen, it's sayonara baby for North America. Some folks far away will survive but it will be very rough for them.

Oh well, we can all use a fresh start.

Posted by: John | Dec 31, 2004 5:06:33 PM

It is little known that lying underneath one of America's areas of outstanding natural beauty - Yellowstone Park - is one of the largest supervolcanoes in the world. Scientists have revealed that it has been on a regular eruption cycle of 600,000 years. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago... so the next is overdue.

First: The Yellowstone super volcano is hardly "little known". Second: The three prior eruptions were 2.2-2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 640,000 years ago. That is, the two past intervals were ~800-900,000 years and ~660,000 years; the mean interval is 725,000-825,000 years. So, even assuming that the average there is a "regular cycle" (which, given the standard deviation of well over 100,000 years, and the sample size of 2 intervals, seems hasty) the next major (caldera-forming) eruption isn't due for about 75,000 to 175,000 years.

The most likely "near-term" volcanism in the area are lava flows, of which there have been several apparently since the last calder-forming eruption.

Posted by: cmdicely | Dec 31, 2004 5:11:35 PM

Whew! I was worried about this until I did some research.

http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/yvo/faqs4.html#12

Check out all the various questions and theories on an eruption. The intervals are a BIT more varied than what the BBC article suggests.

Fascinating stuff anyway, check it out!

Besides, what are you going to do about it? Nothin' that's what.

Posted by: Ms Clear | Dec 31, 2004 5:28:45 PM

Dear Matt,

Exit Mundi for all your needs!

http://www.xs4all.nl/~mke/exitmundi.htm

Love,

Mimiru

Posted by: Mimiru | Dec 31, 2004 5:33:40 PM

We need that fellow - what was his name?
Christo - to drape some aluminum foil
over all the volcanos.

Why are "Acts of God" named thusly? Why
do we never get "Acts of Christ?"
If Christ was so gentle, why are Christians so violent?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr | Dec 31, 2004 6:32:51 PM

The Santorini caldera (in the Mediterranean) sort of fits the supervolcano description, at least on one account of its largest "recent" eruption (somewhere around 1500 BC). According to that account, the whole caldera -- basically a circular ring of land (with some gaps, like a Pacific atoll), several miles across, surrounding a very deep crater full of sea-water, with some more recent volcanic land at the center, was formed by the destruction of the rest of what was once a completely contiguous island. In other words the whole center of the island disappeared in the (circa) 1500 BC eruption. There are layers of volcanic ash on the (remains) of the island that are several hundred feet thick. One theory is that this event destroyed Minoan civilization in Crete (not that far to the south). The volcano, of course is still definitely active: it last erupted in the 40's or 50's, I think.

The other account is that the Santorini caldera is much older than the Minoan-age catastrophe.

I'd be curious if anyone knows what's thought about this by people who do this kind of stuff.

Posted by: SqueakyRat | Dec 31, 2004 8:56:38 PM

"Climatologists now know that Toba blasted so much ash and sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere that it blocked out the sun, causing the Earth's temperature to plummet."

As a heat-averse person (hot summer nights are the worst) I find this strangely reassuring.

Posted by: Green Dem | Dec 31, 2004 10:14:05 PM

Well, if the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone erupts it'll still have to settle for 3rd place on the disaster scale. Bush's 1st and 2nd elections will always rank 1-2 among historical events that diminished the quality of life on the planet.

Posted by: steve duncan | Jan 1, 2005 12:49:10 AM

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