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Super-eruptions may have Surprisingly Short Fuses
Scientific Computing ^ | 6/6/12

Posted on 06/06/2012 8:17:23 PM PDT by null and void


3-D view of Long Valley, CA, created by imaging radar on the space shuttle Endeavor. Courtesy of NASA/JPL

Enormous volcanic eruptions with potential to end civilizations may have surprisingly short fuses, researchers have discovered. These eruptions are known as super-eruptions because they are more than 100 times the size of ordinary volcanic eruptions like Mount St. Helens. They spew out tremendous flows of super-heated gas, ash and rock capable of blanketing entire continents and inject enough particulate into the stratosphere to throw the global climate into decade-long volcanic winters. In fact, there is evidence that one super-eruption, which took place in Indonesia 74,000 years ago, may have come remarkably close to wiping out the entire human species. Geologists generally believe that a super-eruption is produced by a giant pool of magma that forms a couple of miles below the surface and then simmers for 100,000 to 200,000 years before erupting. However, a new study suggests that, once they form, these giant magma bodies may only exist for a few thousand years, perhaps only a few hundred years, before erupting.

Our study suggests that, when these exceptionally large magma pools form, they are ephemeral and cannot exist very long without erupting, said Guilherme Gualda, the assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University who directed the study, which appears in the May 30, 2012, issue of the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

The study was performed on the remnants of the Bishop Tuff, the Long Valley super-eruption that occurred in east-central California 760,000 years ago. Using the latest methods for dating the process of magma formation, Gualda and his colleagues found several independent lines of evidence that indicate the magma pool formed within a few thousand years, perhaps within a few hundred years, before it erupted, covering half of the North American continent with smoldering ash.

These giant magma pools tend to be shaped like pancakes and are 10 to 25 miles in diameter and one half to three miles deep. In the beginning, the molten rock in these pools is largely free from crystals and bubbles. After they form, however, crystals and bubbles form gradually and progressively change the magma’s physical and chemical properties, a process that halts when an eruption takes place. As far as geologists can tell, no such giant crystal-poor magma body currently exists that is capable of producing a super-eruption. The research team believes this may be because these magma bodies exist for a relatively short time rather than persisting for hundreds of thousands of years as previously thought.

According to Gualda, the estimates for the 100,000 year-plus lifetimes of these giant magma bodies appears to be an artifact of the method that geologists have used to make them. The measurements have been made using zircon crystals. Zircons are commonplace in volcanic rocks and they contain small amounts of radioactive uranium and thorium, which decay into lead at a set rate, allowing scientists to accurately determine when the crystals formed. They are extremely useful for many purposes, because they can survive most geologic processes. However, the fact that zircons can withstand the heat and the forces found in a magma chamber means that they are not good at recording the lifetimes of crystal-poor magma bodies.

Gualda and his colleagues took a different approach in his studies of the Bishop Tuff. They determined crystallization rates of quartz — the most abundant mineral in the deposits — to gather information about the lifespan of these giant magma bodies. They developed four independent lines of evidence that agreed that the formation process took less than 10,000 years and most likely between 500 to 3,000 years before the eruption. They suggest that the zircon crystal measurements record the extensive changes that take place in the crust required before the giant magma bodies can begin forming as opposed to the formation itself.

The fact that the process of magma body formation occurs in historical time, instead of geological time, completely changes the nature of the problem, said Gualda. Instead of concluding that there is virtually no risk of another super-eruption for the foreseeable future because there are no suitable magma bodies, geologists need to regularly monitor areas where super-eruptions are likely, such as Yellowstone, to provide advanced warning if such a magma body begins to form.

According to a 2005 report by the Geological Society of London, even science fiction cannot produce a credible mechanism for averting a super-eruption. We can, however, work to better understand the mechanisms involved in super-eruptions, with the goal of being able to predict them ahead of time and provide a warning for society. Preparedness is the key to mitigation of the disastrous effects of a super-eruption.

Vanderbilt doctoral student Ayla S. Pamukcu, Mark S. Ghiorso of OFM Research, and Alfred T. Anderson Jr., Stephen R. Sutton and Mark L. Rivers from the University of Chicago participated in the study, which was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.


TOPICS: Extended News; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: catastrophism; supervolcanos; volcanos
Related thread here

This thread is a little bit more technical.

1 posted on 06/06/2012 8:17:28 PM PDT by null and void
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To: null and void

That’s a really big pancake. Me likey


2 posted on 06/06/2012 8:26:33 PM PDT by wastedyears ("God? I didn't know he was signed onto the system.")
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To: null and void

The biological imperative associated with risk? Hmmph.


3 posted on 06/06/2012 8:45:56 PM PDT by onedoug
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To: null and void

There is no “Long Valley, CA.” Long Valley is just that, a valley with a few isolated homes and cattle and the Owens River, an area north of Bishop and just south of Mammoth Lakes, California. I know, I live half an hour from there.


4 posted on 06/06/2012 8:56:48 PM PDT by Inyo-Mono (My greatest fear is that when I'm gone my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them)
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To: null and void
provide a warning for society

What good would that do?

5 posted on 06/06/2012 9:09:01 PM PDT by steve86 (Acerbic by nature not nurture TM)
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To: steve86

Like keeping a calendar, it gives you better idea of when to duck...


6 posted on 06/06/2012 9:11:01 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1233 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: steve86

Well, maybe a few H-bombs could take some of the pressure off;)


7 posted on 06/06/2012 9:49:11 PM PDT by Frank_2001
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To: Inyo-Mono; bd476; SunkenCiv; blam; NormsRevenge

You could be close to the action.


8 posted on 06/06/2012 9:50:18 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach (The Global Warming Hoax was a Criminal Act....where is Al Gore?)
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To: null and void
...predict them ahead of time and provide a warning for society.

"Attention World. A cataclysmic eruption that will freeze the world for a decade and wipe out 99% of humankind will occur in the next 1 to 2 years. Please commence preparations."

What would you do to prepare?

9 posted on 06/06/2012 10:00:13 PM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: ProtectOurFreedom

Join a Mormon church?


10 posted on 06/06/2012 10:07:03 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1233 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: null and void

For reading later


11 posted on 06/06/2012 10:14:02 PM PDT by VanShuyten ("a shadow...draped nobly in the folds of a gorgeous eloquence.")
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To: null and void

Oh, this is about volcanoes.


12 posted on 06/06/2012 10:17:51 PM PDT by TruthWillWin (The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money.)
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To: VanShuyten

Assuming there is a later...

};^P>


13 posted on 06/06/2012 10:22:31 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1233 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach

Imagine a pyroclastic flow boiling down the Sherwin Grade at 200 mph and 1,000 C.


14 posted on 06/06/2012 10:28:08 PM PDT by Mike Darancette (Ineptocracy; the Obama way.)
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To: ProtectOurFreedom

Make sure I’m right with my maker.


15 posted on 06/06/2012 11:04:27 PM PDT by Terry Mross ("It happened. And we let it happen." Peter Griffin - FAMILY GUY)
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To: null and void

There is nothing anyone can do about a super eruption so if one happens that’s just tuff.


16 posted on 06/06/2012 11:27:13 PM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach; navysealdad; calljack; lainie; BurbankKarl; pollywog; Brad's Gramma; ...
Thanks for the Ping, Ernest!

Earthquake Ping List.
If you wish to be removed from the Earthquake Ping List or added to it, please FReepmail me.

17 posted on 06/06/2012 11:40:30 PM PDT by bd476
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To: TigersEye

Tuff? Be gneiss.


18 posted on 06/07/2012 3:28:29 AM PDT by JimSEA
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To: null and void
"The fact that the process of magma body formation occurs in historical time, instead of geological time, completely changes the nature of the problem, said Gualda. Instead of concluding that there is virtually no risk of another super-eruption for the foreseeable future because there are no suitable magma bodies, geologists need to regularly monitor areas where super-eruptions are likely, such as Yellowstone, to provide advanced warning if such a magma body begins to form.

According to a 2005 report by the Geological Society of London, even science fiction cannot produce a credible mechanism for averting a super-eruption. We can, however, work to better understand the mechanisms involved in super-eruptions, with the goal of being able to predict them ahead of time and provide a warning for society. Preparedness is the key to mitigation of the disastrous effects of a super-eruption.

Vanderbilt doctoral student Ayla S. Pamukcu, Mark S. Ghiorso of OFM Research, and Alfred T. Anderson Jr., Stephen R. Sutton and Mark L. Rivers from the University of Chicago participated in the study, which was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation."

Translation: More money, please.

19 posted on 06/07/2012 4:37:32 AM PDT by StAnDeliver (=)
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To: TigersEye

Pumice us you won’t pun like this again!


20 posted on 06/07/2012 5:16:58 AM PDT by Campion ("Social justice" begins in the womb)
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To: null and void

Bush’s fault. (pun? what pun?)


21 posted on 06/07/2012 5:39:01 AM PDT by Loud Mime (Defeat Obama. Everything else is secondary)
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To: ProtectOurFreedom
What would you do to prepare?

Quit my job and start drinking better scotch.

22 posted on 06/07/2012 5:42:08 AM PDT by Tijeras_Slim
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To: ProtectOurFreedom

Buy at least an acre within half a mile of a nuclear power plant.


23 posted on 06/07/2012 7:12:42 AM PDT by W. W. SMITH (Maybe the horse will learn to sing)
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To: TigersEye

Well played...


24 posted on 06/07/2012 7:44:38 AM PDT by null and void (Day 1234 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: JimSEA

*ouch*


25 posted on 06/07/2012 7:45:34 AM PDT by null and void (Day 1234 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: Campion

NOooooooooo!


26 posted on 06/07/2012 7:46:53 AM PDT by null and void (Day 1234 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: JimSEA

When the schist hits the fan the time to be gneiss will be over.


27 posted on 06/07/2012 10:59:45 AM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: Campion

Only if you’ll buy me a couple of quartz of dark shale.


28 posted on 06/07/2012 11:08:30 AM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: null and void

There were some nuggets of comedy gold to be mined here but I think the claim is played now.


29 posted on 06/07/2012 11:11:47 AM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: TigersEye

LOL. Deep enough and well timbered.


30 posted on 06/07/2012 11:22:02 AM PDT by JimSEA
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To: TigersEye

I wouldn’t take that for granite...


31 posted on 06/07/2012 11:27:18 AM PDT by null and void (Day 1234 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: JimSEA

Dunno. No one has made a total ash of themselves yet...


32 posted on 06/07/2012 11:37:51 AM PDT by null and void (Day 1234 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: null and void

Depends if anyone has been using a slate to keep score.


33 posted on 06/07/2012 11:50:27 AM PDT by commish (Freedom tastes sweetest to those who have fought to preserve it.)
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To: null and void; JimSEA
You guys are claim jumpers ore you salted the mine.
Either way you're low down crusty pyrites.
34 posted on 06/07/2012 11:51:40 AM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: TigersEye
Either way you're low down crusty pyrites.

Nah, they are just boulder than some and lava rocking the boat.

35 posted on 06/07/2012 11:55:25 AM PDT by commish (Freedom tastes sweetest to those who have fought to preserve it.)
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To: TigersEye

Please remain clam, before you loose you’re marble.


36 posted on 06/07/2012 12:03:37 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1234 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: null and void; commish
Has this thread gone over the cliff?
And if so how long before it hits rock bottom?

Something metamorphic needs to happen here soon.

37 posted on 06/07/2012 12:20:44 PM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: TigersEye

It’s just a thread, asbestos I can telluride, it’s no reason to get all sedimentary...


38 posted on 06/07/2012 12:28:46 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1234 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: TigersEye

“Something metamorphic needs to happen here soon.”

So you think we’re hitting a transitional zone?


39 posted on 06/07/2012 12:29:31 PM PDT by JimSEA
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To: JimSEA

I was drilling for an answer to that but there seems to be no end to the gaseous formations we’ve tapped into. Maybe I’m just jaded.


40 posted on 06/07/2012 12:52:23 PM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: TigersEye
I was drilling for an answer to that but there seems to be no end to the gaseous formations we’ve tapped into. Maybe I’m just jaded.

We just hit rock bottom.

41 posted on 06/07/2012 1:01:32 PM PDT by Lazamataz (People who resort to Godwin's Law are just like Hitler.)
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To: null and void
It’s just a thread, asbestos I can telluride, it’s no reason to get all sedimentary...

You must think I'm igneous to buy a layered explanation like that. You grotto be kidding me!?!

42 posted on 06/07/2012 1:04:57 PM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: TigersEye

*shrug* I learned my riprap from Bob Marl-ey


43 posted on 06/07/2012 1:08:33 PM PDT by null and void (Day 1234 of our ObamaVacation from reality [and what dark chill/is gathering still/before the storm])
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To: Lazamataz

Stalactite to your inner core. Through shear accretion this thread is going to test your strain rate with a stratified drift of the terrane.


44 posted on 06/07/2012 1:18:56 PM PDT by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: TigersEye

All this punning is giving me a quaternary.


45 posted on 06/07/2012 1:36:21 PM PDT by Timocrat (Ingnorantia non excusat)
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To: ProtectOurFreedom
What would you do to prepare?

Get some new credit cards and max them out.

46 posted on 06/07/2012 4:09:03 PM PDT by thulldud (Is it "alter or abolish" time yet?)
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach; 75thOVI; agrace; aimhigh; Alice in Wonderland; AndrewC; aragorn; ...
Thanks Ernest.



47 posted on 06/13/2012 8:15:20 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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