Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Super Volcano Will Challenge Civilization, Geologists Warn
SPACE.com ^ | March 8, 2005 | Robert Roy Britt

Posted on 03/08/2005 4:16:02 AM PST by AntiGuv

The eruption of a super volcano "sooner or later" will chill the planet and threaten human civilization, British scientists warned Tuesday.

And now the bad news: There's not much anyone can do about it.

Several volcanoes around the world are capable of gigantic eruptions unlike anything witnessed in recorded history, based on geologic evidence of past events, the scientists said. Such eruptions would dwarf those of Mount St. Helens, Krakatoa, Pinatubo and anything else going back dozens of millennia.

"Super-eruptions are up to hundreds of times larger than these," said Stephen Self of the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) Open University.

"An area the size of North America can be devastated, and pronounced deterioration of global climate would be expected for a few years following the eruption," Self said. "They could result in the devastation of world agriculture, severe disruption of food supplies, and mass starvation. These effects could be sufficiently severe to threaten the fabric of civilization."

Self and his colleagues at the Geological Society of London presented their report to the U.K. Government's Natural Hazard Working Group.

"Although very rare these events are inevitable, and at some point in the future humans will be faced with dealing with and surviving a super eruption," Stephen Sparks of the University of Bristol told LiveScience in advance of Tuesday's announcement.

Supporting evidence

The warning is not new. Geologists in the United States detailed a similar scenario in 2001, when they found evidence suggesting volcanic activity in Yellowstone National Park will eventually lead to a colossal eruption. Half the United States will be covered in ash up to 3 feet (1 meter) deep, according to a study published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Explosions of this magnitude "happen about every 600,000 years at Yellowstone," says Chuck Wicks of the U.S. Geological Survey, who has studied the possibilities in separate work. "And it's been about 620,000 years since the last super explosive eruption there."

Past volcanic catastrophes at Yellowstone and elsewhere remain evident as giant collapsed basins called calderas.

A super eruption is a scaled up version of a typical volcanic outburst, Sparks explained. Each is caused by a rising and growing chamber of hot molten rock known as magma.

"In super eruptions the magma chamber is huge," Sparks said. The eruption is rapid, occurring in a matter of days. "When the magma erupts the overlying rocks collapse into the chamber, which has reduced its pressure due to the eruption. The collapse forms the huge crater."

The eruption pumps dust and chemicals into the atmosphere for years, screening the Sun and cooling the planet. Earth is plunged into a perpetual winter, some models predict, causing plant and animal species disappear forever.

"The whole of a continent might be covered by ash, which might take many years -- possibly decades -- to erode away and for vegetation to recover," Sparks said.

Yellowstone may be winding down geologically, experts say. But they believe it harbors at least one final punch. Globally, there are still plenty of possibilities for super volcano eruptions, even as Earth quiets down over the long haul of its 4.5-billion-year existence.

"The Earth is of course losing energy, but at a very slow rate, and the effects are only really noticeable over billions rather than millions of years," Sparks said.

Human impact

The odds of a globally destructive volcano explosion in any given century are extremely low, and no scientist can say when the next one will occur. But the chances are five to 10 times greater than a globally destructive asteroid impact, according to the new British report.

The next super eruption, whenever it occurs, might not be the first one humans have dealt with.

About 74,000 years ago, in what is now Sumatra, a volcano called Toba blew with a force estimated at 10,000 times that of Mount St. Helens. Ash darkened the sky all around the planet. Temperatures plummeted by up to 21 degrees at higher latitudes, according to research by Michael Rampino, a biologist and geologist at New York University.

Rampino has estimated three-quarters of the plant species in the Northern Hemisphere perished.

Stanley Ambrose, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois, suggested in 1998 that Rampino's work might explain a curious bottleneck in human evolution: The blueprints of life for all humans -- DNA -- are remarkably similar given that our species branched off from the rest of the primate family tree a few million years ago.

Ambrose has said early humans were perhaps pushed to the edge of extinction after the Toba eruption -- around the same time folks got serious about art and tool making. Perhaps only a few thousand survived. Humans today would all be descended from these few, and in terms of the genetic code, not a whole lot would change in 74,000 years.

Sitting ducks

Based on the latest evidence, eruptions the size of the giant Yellowstone and Toba events occur at least every 100,000 years, Sparks said, "and it could be as high as every 50,000 years. There are smaller but nevertheless huge eruptions which would have continental to global consequences every 5,000 years or so."

Unlike other threats to mankind -- asteroids, nuclear attacks and global warming to name a few -- there's little to be done about a super volcano.

"While it may in future be possible to deflect asteroids or somehow avoid their impact, even science fiction cannot produce a credible mechanism for averting a super eruption," the new report states. "No strategies can be envisaged for reducing the power of major volcanic eruptions."

The Geological Society of London has issued similar warnings going back to 2000. The scientists this week called for more funding to investigate further the history of super eruptions and their likely effects on the planet and on modern society.

"Sooner or later a super eruption will happen on Earth and this issue also demands serious attention," the report concludes.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: archaeology; callingartbell; climatechange; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; supervolcano; theskyisfalling; weredoomed
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-100101-135 next last
the end is nigh.. sort of..


1 posted on 03/08/2005 4:16:06 AM PST by AntiGuv
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry

bottleneck ping!


2 posted on 03/08/2005 4:16:28 AM PST by AntiGuv ()
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv
The eruption of a super volcano "sooner or later" will chill the planet and threaten human civilization, British scientists warned Tuesday.

Global warming is about to be replaced by The Big Chill.

3 posted on 03/08/2005 4:22:10 AM PST by hflynn
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv
Explosions of this magnitude "happen about every 600,000 years at Yellowstone," says Chuck Wicks of the U.S. Geological Survey, who has studied the possibilities in separate work. "And it's been about 620,000 years since the last super explosive eruption there."

It could erupt next year. Or in another 200,000 years. The 600,000 figure is an average.

4 posted on 03/08/2005 4:25:25 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: dirtboy

So let me guess: Now we need to shut down US industry to prevent this big volcano from erupting!


5 posted on 03/08/2005 4:27:30 AM PST by Pete98 (After his defeat by the Son of God, Satan changed his name to Allah and started over.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Pete98
So let me guess: Now we need to shut down US industry to prevent this big volcano from erupting!

Nah, but a major super volcano eruption would probably lead to the death of at least 90 percent of the world's population, if not more.

6 posted on 03/08/2005 4:30:07 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv

"And now the bad news: There's not much anyone can do about it."

I once saw Mighty Mouse fly around Krakatoa, creating a knot with his contrails and tying up the exploding volcano. So don't tell me there's nothing we can do about it.

On a more serious note, are these the same guys who can't get tomorrow's weather straight?


7 posted on 03/08/2005 4:31:26 AM PST by almcbean
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv
Look at the areas covered by the ash...clearly this is a long-term plot by the DNC and the UN to elimate opposition to their Globalist/Socialist agenda by eliminating the "Red" States. It explains their incompetence at winning elections...they aren't thinking short term; they are thinking long term.

/sarcasm

8 posted on 03/08/2005 4:34:27 AM PST by Abundy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv
There's not much anyone can do about it.

Cept build nuke power plants and warm your toes on an electric heater next to your hydroponic vegetables.

9 posted on 03/08/2005 4:34:41 AM PST by sam_paine (X .................................)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: Pete98

Well, when it happens, it'll be President Bush's fault.


11 posted on 03/08/2005 4:34:51 AM PST by wolfpat (Dum vivimus, vivamus)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: TonyRo76

Since roughly 3.8 million years ago...


12 posted on 03/08/2005 4:36:02 AM PST by AntiGuv ()
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv

....Yellowstone may be winding down geologically.....

If so, how come the base elevation in the park has risen by 18 to 20 inches?

Yellowstone is presently active.


13 posted on 03/08/2005 4:38:07 AM PST by bert (Peace is only halftime !)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: dirtboy
Nah, but a major super volcano eruption would probably lead to the death of at least 90 percent of the world's population, if not more

This, of course, would hurt women and minorities the most.

14 posted on 03/08/2005 4:38:31 AM PST by freedumb2003 (1st you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women (HJ Simpson))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv

That ought to chill out those global warming alarmists - unless they try to blame volcanic eruptions on global warming.


15 posted on 03/08/2005 4:40:00 AM PST by shekkian
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: gieriscm

ping...


16 posted on 03/08/2005 4:40:43 AM PST by BCR #226
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv

So there is a solution to global warming.


17 posted on 03/08/2005 4:43:06 AM PST by CzarNicky (The problem with bad ideas is that they seemed like good ideas at the time.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #18 Removed by Moderator

Comment #19 Removed by Moderator

To: SunkenCiv; blam

Maybe something for the list. Interesting links w/in the article.


20 posted on 03/08/2005 4:44:14 AM PST by elli1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #21 Removed by Moderator

To: bert

why not make a giant underground tunnel and release the pressure slowly. I know it wouldn't relieve all the pressure, but it could possibly delay an eruption.


22 posted on 03/08/2005 4:45:46 AM PST by Bostton1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv
British science....
I always either cringe or prepare to guffaw at the standard line. They are so full of baloney. Their funding is WAY too much and they have WAY too much time.
I never know what's worse, their redundacy, their lunacy, their crytal ball predictions or their condescending.
Oh well, they keep me amused.
23 posted on 03/08/2005 4:47:09 AM PST by starfish923
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: almcbean
I once saw Mighty Mouse fly around Krakatoa, creating a knot with his contrails and tying up the exploding volcano. So don't tell me there's nothing we can do about it.

Heehee, GOOD one.
I will use that some time and always remember you.

24 posted on 03/08/2005 4:48:23 AM PST by starfish923
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: sam_paine
Cept build nuke power plants and warm your toes on an electric heater next to your hydroponic vegetables.

Your scenario is actually plausible, but it would have to be planned for to work. We could even hypothetically Freep during the freeze if we were hooked up to the nuke plant.
25 posted on 03/08/2005 4:48:43 AM PST by Blowtorch
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: dirtboy
"Nah, but a major super volcano eruption would probably lead to the death of at least 90 percent of the world's population, if not more."

I can always tell when you've been talking to Carl Sagan.

How is he doing, by the way? ;)

26 posted on 03/08/2005 4:48:52 AM PST by G.Mason ("If you are broken It is because you are brittle" ... K.Hepburn, The Lion In Winter)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv; Carry_Okie; hellinahandcart; NYC GOP Chick; cyborg; Lil'freeper
The eruption of a super volcano "sooner or later" will chill the planet and threaten human civilization, British scientists warned Tuesday.

And now the bad news: There's not much anyone can do about it.

Oh yes we can. We can sign Kyoto. /s

27 posted on 03/08/2005 4:49:17 AM PST by sauropod (The wattle, the emblem of our land. You can stick it in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Bostton1

I hope Flash Gordon is keeping an eye on this. He may need to save every one of us.


28 posted on 03/08/2005 4:51:31 AM PST by Blowtorch
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Bostton1
"why not make a giant underground tunnel and release the pressure slowly. I know it wouldn't relieve all the pressure, but it could possibly delay an eruption."

That's it!

Hell, my dentist did that to me when I had a bad abscess and it worked.

Prolly need to wait for a strong wind, 'cause the smell is real bad.

29 posted on 03/08/2005 4:53:08 AM PST by G.Mason ("If you are broken It is because you are brittle" ... K.Hepburn, The Lion In Winter)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: TonyRo76

Sme people will not believe fossil evidence.


30 posted on 03/08/2005 4:59:52 AM PST by docbnj
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv

This has made me cancel plans to visit Yellowstone.


31 posted on 03/08/2005 4:59:58 AM PST by sgtbono2002
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #32 Removed by Moderator

To: AntiGuv
"Temperatures plummeted by up to 21 degrees at higher latitudes"

Well, I guess that'd take care of that pesky global wariming "problem".

33 posted on 03/08/2005 5:03:52 AM PST by sweetliberty ("To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv
We're gonna need a really big sweeper:


34 posted on 03/08/2005 5:04:31 AM PST by WestVirginiaRebel (Carnac: A siren, a baby and a liberal. Answer: Name three things that whine.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: almcbean
On a more serious note, are these the same guys who can't get tomorrow's weather straight?

There are geologists and probably climatologists. Weather people are meteorologists.

35 posted on 03/08/2005 5:10:02 AM PST by Netizen (jmo)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv

The eruption pumps dust and chemicals into the atmosphere for years, screening the Sun and cooling the planet. Earth is plunged into a perpetual winter, some models predict, causing plant and animal species disappear forever.'

That'll get the Feds going. Fines for everyone.


36 posted on 03/08/2005 5:10:31 AM PST by wiley
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: almcbean

I've always had good luck with baking soda.


37 posted on 03/08/2005 5:13:40 AM PST by libbybelle
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv

I am interested in this topic, but I think this particular announcment may have more to do with the upcoming BBC docudrama about such a supervolcano explosion in Yellowstone actually taking place. It was supposed to have aired already, but they delayed it because they thought the Tsunami coverage would make their movie look fake.

There had been a series of similar news announcments in the lead up to the original schedule, plus re-airing of the science documentary on the yellowstone supervolcano, all to drum up interest. I think they're just starting up the hype cycle again.


38 posted on 03/08/2005 5:13:42 AM PST by Phsstpok ("When you don't know where you are, but you don't care, you're not lost, you're exploring.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv

DOOMED!!


39 posted on 03/08/2005 5:15:00 AM PST by reagan_fanatic ("Darwinism is a belief in the meaninglessness of existence" - R. Kirk)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pete98

If we're going to ensure the future of the human race we have to get off the planet. That needs to happen sooner than later. Later may be too late.


40 posted on 03/08/2005 5:15:11 AM PST by meatloaf
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv

What I don't understand about that Lava Creek ash pattern is that prevailing winds blow from west to east due to coriolis forces that are unlikely to change. So, how would it be distored westward?


41 posted on 03/08/2005 5:29:38 AM PST by Carry_Okie (There are people in power who are really stupid.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: wiley
"That'll get the Feds going. Fines for everyone."

Damned straight skippy. With all that dust in the air don't even THINK about lighting off the BBQ.

But we face a dual danger in this here United States. On the one hand we face the dangers of volcanic ash. And then there's Hillary with her volcanic ass. We're DOOMED I tell ya, DOOMED!

42 posted on 03/08/2005 5:43:50 AM PST by Enterprise (President George W. Bush - the leading insurgent detergent.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: bd476

of interest to you?


43 posted on 03/08/2005 5:51:41 AM PST by Rushmore Rocks (.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Enterprise

My turn, All your ashes belong to us.

mc:>)


44 posted on 03/08/2005 5:55:01 AM PST by mcshot (Boldly going nowhere with a smile and appreciation for life.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 42 | View Replies]

To: dirtboy

d,
Soooo....do I have to go to work tomorrow, or not?


45 posted on 03/08/2005 5:57:21 AM PST by Gefreiter (When seconds count, the police are minutes away.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv
Super Volcano Will Challenge Civilization, Geologists Warn

More like it will wipe civilization off the map in the affected area. When Tomu erupted the estimates were that about 70,000 humans survived worldwide.

46 posted on 03/08/2005 5:57:48 AM PST by Centurion2000 (Nations do not survive by setting examples for others. Nations survive by making examples of others)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Pete98

"So let me guess: Now we need to shut down US industry to prevent this big volcano from erupting!"

These scientists aren't using scare tactics to try and push social engineering like the environmentalists, they just want more funding.

They haven't figured out how to make it sound like an urgent emergency yet, so they'll likely be ignored.


47 posted on 03/08/2005 5:58:08 AM PST by untrained skeptic
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: mcshot
I heard Bill really liked BBQs cause there were always lots of women to grope.

Ashes to ashes, bust to bust.

48 posted on 03/08/2005 5:59:00 AM PST by Enterprise (President George W. Bush - the leading insurgent detergent.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 44 | View Replies]

To: Carry_Okie

Volcanic eruptions frequently eject debris with such force that prevailing air currents have little initial bearing on the distribution pattern. In particular if the volcanic eruption is asymmetrical (as Mount St. Helens was, by example) then the resulting ash zone can easily end up extending completely against the wind direction.


49 posted on 03/08/2005 6:02:43 AM PST by AntiGuv ()
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 41 | View Replies]

To: AntiGuv
"There's not much anyone can do about it."

That's settled. On to the next story.

50 posted on 03/08/2005 6:02:46 AM PST by verity (The Liberal Media is America's Enemy)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-100101-135 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson