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Is the Yellowstone Supervolcano About To Blow? 877

Posted by timothy
from the four-horsemen-dressage dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Apparently, Yellowstone National Park has been having a very unusual number of earthquakes. Many of the most recent tremors have been deeper underground, an ominous sign. Combine that with a rapid rise in elevation over the past three years, and the possibility that earthquake activity from surrounding areas could trigger such an eruption on its own, and you've got the possible warning signs of a supervolcano eruption that would wipe out half to 2/3 of the continental US, plunge global temperatures, and wipe out a very significant chunk of world food sources. Here's a little more info to make your New Year brighter!"
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Is the Yellowstone Supervolcano About To Blow?

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  • Global Warning (Score:1, Interesting)

    by knarfling (735361) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @07:56PM (#26286641) Journal

    If a volcano erupts, is it considered part of global warming?

  • Heres hoping.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by dutchct (673848) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @08:00PM (#26286669)
    ..it's releasing more energy then its storing. The fact that the park is so geothermally active may be a good thing. It's much better for us if its releasing it's energy slowly rather then all at once. Sort of like a pressure relief valve on a hot water heater.
  • Well, either that or I'm the type of gambler who believes that bad luck draws more bad luck.

  • Slashdot crowd (Score:2, Interesting)

    by IF_I_was_G*d (825192) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @08:20PM (#26286877)
    It's kind of interesting, how the Slashdot crowd has really nothing meaningful to comment on this possible and according to some scientists "overdue" event.
  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @08:22PM (#26286895)

    You have NO friggin' idea what you're talking about. The mega-eruption, if it happens, could be *hundreds of thousands* times bigger than Mount St. Helens. The last super volcano was 75,000 years ago. Light was blocked out all over the world. 35 centimeters of ash fell *2500 miles* away. The global temperature plunged 21 degrees. Mankind was almost extinguished, cut back to only a few thousand. This one...could be *ten times bigger*.

  • by UconnGuy (562899) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @08:30PM (#26286953)
    You are forgetting about the volcanic dust in the lungs that will cause a painful death for many. For the most part, the dust is too fine to be filtered out.
  • by praedictus (61731) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @08:32PM (#26286991) Journal
    I noticed that too, and the local distribution of the cluster does look somewhat like pre-volcanic activity. But if it were the supervolcano. I'd expect activity along the caldera margins. This looks more like something that would result in a new cone or maybe just some new hot springs under the lake.
  • Re:Global Warning (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @08:40PM (#26287081) Homepage Journal
    I believe the point being that if this particular volcano erupts, pretty much everyone will hear it.
  • Re:drilling (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @09:07PM (#26287281)

    Probably not, but Yellowstone is a very geologically active area, and my first thought when I hear about new activity there (which comes and goes all the time) is of hydrothermal effects.

    There's a lot of water moving around underground there, lots of faults, and lots of heat to drive it. When water or ground moves it can change the pressure in other areas, which may allow existing fractures or faults to slip and cause earthquakes. (The hydrostatic pressure of water and CO2 in cracks in rocks can reduce the effective confining pressure holding the rocks together, so they slip more easily -- understanding fluid effects is critical to understanding earthquakes.)

    It seems like every time there's an earthquake, or change in geyser activity, or some ground inflation, or whatever, the popular press starts barking about gigantic volcanic eruptions. Before you pay attention to them, consider that a volcanic eruption requires molten rock to reach the surface. On its way it will have to push lots of existing rock out of the way, and that rock will have to go someplace, probably up, which we would detect as significant ground inflation. On its way volatiles would be released which we would expect to detect as unusual concentrations of various volcanic gases and changes in water chemistry. Significant changes in the behavior of existing geothermal features would also be expected.

    We also hear a lot about Yellowstone's largest eruptions, but most eruptions are small.

    Interestingly, it has been calculated that as much as almost 1/3 of a cubic kilometer of basalt is intruded beneath Yellowstone each year, which if I recall correctly is similar to the amount entering the magma system beneath Hawaii. In Yellowstone, however, it's trapped beneath a gummy layer of molten silica rich rock which itself eventually erupts and partially accounts for Yellowstone's famously explosive outbursts. The basalt, for its part, tends to cool and solidify underground, over time forming a long track of high density rock that is easy to see on any topographic map of the western US as a feature we call the Snake River Plain, terminating with the Yellowstone Caldera as the head of the snake.

  • Geothermal Energy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Caspase9 (1442471) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @09:18PM (#26287389)
    Honestly, this isn't that big of a deal. Even though the Yellowstone caldera is geographically huge, the very fact that it takes half a millennium to build up enough pressure to erupt shows that the geothermal energy is stored under yellowstone very slowly. Or at least the majority of it is released via the geysers and shift in tectonics. If geoscientists had firm evidence that yellowstone had a high chance of eruption within the next 10 years, all we would need to do is build geothermal plants and suck up as much geothermal energy as the mantle puts in. So not the drama.
  • by Keen Anthony (762006) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @09:23PM (#26287431)

    Mankind was almost extinguished, cut back to only a few thousand.

    But this was human civilization from 75,000 years ago, which intellectually and technologically pales in comparison to human civilization today. Wouldn't the advancements we've made since the Toba eruption help us to endure the effect of another mega-eruption?

  • by coaxial (28297) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @09:24PM (#26287433) Homepage

    The three last eruptions [yellowstonepark.com] were 6000, 700, and 2500 times Mt St Helens 1980 (MSHE), which released 1.67 exajoules [wikipedia.org] (1.673 x 10^18 Joules). According to the esteemed Christopher Thomas [slashdot.org] 1 Burning Library of Congress (BLoC) is equivalent to 4 petajoules (4 x 10^15 Joules). Converting MSHE to BLoC gives 1 MSHE = 418.25 BLoC. So the last three eruptions were 2509500 BLoC, 292775 BLoC, and 1045625 BLoC, respectively. Since we don't know how big the next eruption will be, let's just assume the mean of the last 3, and that's 1282633.3 BLoCs, or 39% of the total solar energy that strikes the surface of the Earth [wikipedia.org].

  • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @09:47PM (#26287617)

    The starving people back then didn't have guns.

    And nuclear weapons.

    I'd say, no, most of the advancements when we're talking extinction-level events, are going to hurt not help.

  • by Failed Physicist (1411173) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @09:53PM (#26287659) Journal

    It sound like a simple constantly running mister integrated into ventilation systems could easily take care of this given problem. Ancient civilisations didn't have this luxury.

  • Re:Um no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @10:03PM (#26287725)

    At its worst, there will be an immense disruption of the electrical and telecommunications grid, immense expense from ash damage and removal, alot of immediate deaths and some ash deaths.

    You forgot one little detail: Widespread subzero temperatures and no new food anywhere on the planet for at least a year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @10:36PM (#26287935)

    Pah, that's nothing. Super eruption my ass. That map should be lit up with hundreds and hundreds of earthquakes around the whole caldera. It's nothing but a small and localized burp.

    Wake me up when the earthquake swarm is over the whole area and there is evidence of updoming from clinometers and DGPS monitors.

  • by xx01dk (191137) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @10:57PM (#26288117)
    Just thought I'd post these up again:

    Main global earthquake map [usgs.gov]

    List of EQs in the SouthWest [usgs.gov]

    Display of drum recorders for the Southwest [usgs.gov]

    Cheers and Happy New Years!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @11:43PM (#26288381)

    The 1980 explosion at Mount St. Helens in Washington state blew out about 540 million tons of debris. Morrell said an explosion at Yellowstone likely would be 1,000 times greater, releasing about half a billion tons of ash.

    Um, since when is half a billion tons 1,000 times greater than 540 million? (I realize they're not your numbers, timeOday)

  • Re:Global Warning (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @12:26AM (#26288597) Homepage

    well, if that does happen then there will certainly be major food shortages around the world and severe infrastructure damage (reservoirs becoming silted up, dams breaking, entire towns covered by meters of ash, power lines in other areas snapping from the weight of ash cover, etc.) in the US, but i think science & technology will prevail. my city happens to be within the ash cover area, but i think the city population would still be able to survive.

    first off, we would need to get respirators and gas masks, then we would have to secure a water supply. next, we'd need to repair the power lines or build our own little power plant. since no one is going to be driving on the roads, we would have plenty of gasoline to run a large gas turbine capable of powering a small community for a couple of years.

    with basic infrastructure restored, we can then focus on securing a food supply. with careful rationing (America is the land of waste and excess after all), existing food supplies that were produced before the disaster would probably last a good year or so. that would be just enough time to establish a local food supply. lack of sunlight and cold weather won't be a problem with a power plant available. it's not too hard to build a greenhouse (or use an existing one) and set up a hydroponic system and grow lamps to produce artificial sunlight & heat.

    it will take some hard work, but it's nothing that a little human ingenuity can't overcome. if anything, it'll encourage people to adopt more sustainable lifestyles, foster cooperation and a sense of community, and create a more efficient and egalitarian society in the long run. if Americans want to survive this kind of disaster, they'll have to learn to cooperate with and help one another. rather than depending on agribusiness and corporate farms hundreds of miles away to produce one's food, local communities will have to get together and set up farming co-ops and learn to be more self-sufficient.

    if this were India, China, or Africa, then there might be a large death toll. but America has a lot more material wealth and natural resources. we also have a more educated population and the technological and scientific knowledge that brings. our biggest challenge is simply overcoming our culture of selfishness and ignorance. if mass hysteria breaks out or society degenerates into lawless chaos, with everyone fighting over immediate resources, each person blindly pursuing their own selfish interests rather than working together, then we probably won't survive. but chances are most communities will be able to make it through such an ordeal.

    personally, i'd travel to the nearest university where there are the highest concentrations of:

    • progressive civic-minded & altruistic individuals
    • intellectuals and knowledgeable experts in assorted fields
    • innovative freethinkers and fresh young minds

    additionally, college campuses have large libraries, digital knowledge repositories, advanced research labs, scientific equipment, and many even have greenhouses and seed banks. so you have the human resources, information resources, and material resources to survive the catastrophe. and you'll also be connected to a global academic network.

  • Re:Global Warning (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ex-MislTech (557759) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @01:13AM (#26288785)

    Yup, your "dead" on.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Global Warning (Score:3, Interesting)

    by powerlord (28156) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @02:26AM (#26289083) Journal

    ong term? - During the 20th century mankind's GHG emmissions dwarfed those from volcanos and I suspect our areosols [wikipedia.org] (soot,etc) over the same period have done more to keep a lid on warming than the ash from volcanos.

    Maybe ... but I still remember being in Hawaii and being informed that the volcanoes there would qualify as the #1 environmental polluter if it had been a factory.

    Apparently the fact that it was a "natural system" let it off the hook, but you still didn't want to be downwind of the Vog (Volcano Fog).

  • Re:Um no (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ex-MislTech (557759) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @02:27AM (#26289089)

    The Ash fall for one of the bigger past eruptions has been
    traced by geologists to be this size.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HuckleberryRidgeTuff.jpg [wikipedia.org]

    It covers most of 13 states.

  • Re:Um no (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Evil Pete (73279) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @03:17AM (#26289267) Homepage

    Um. So that means one foot of rock over your roof. Can it take it? I believe most roofs can only handle half that amount of volcanic ash, especially if it rains (which it will, typical volcano behaviour).

  • Re:Global Warning (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fallen Kell (165468) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @03:57AM (#26289417)

    It won't "burn/melt most of the populated areas of Canada and Mexico", not even close. The magma/lava discharge will simply stay in and around the area of Yellowstone +/- at most 100 miles (heck, the longest known magma/lava flow in the solar system is only ~160 miles, and that is on Jupiter's moon, Io). The only thing that people outside that area have to worry about is ash and volcanic gasses which will be discharged. Unfortunately, the jet stream will force that eastward across the USA (and around the world, in the event of a major eruption). Get your facts straight. And the people modding the parent up for informative should also get their facts straight...

    There is also no direct evidence that the eruption of Mt Toba was the cause of the drop in human population. For all we know there could have been a major epidemic which was highly contagious which would slowly kill someone over the course of a year or more (think something like an AIDs virus which was transmitted simply by close contact, not sexually transmitted). We simply don't know for certain. We are now, however, much more technologically capable of dealing with a mini-ice age if it was triggered by an event like this. While it would be difficult, if we really had to work for something, we would develop filters for removal of the particles of ash and soot in the air, and eventually also devise methods to remove or trap the volcanic gasses.

  • Re:Global Warning (Score:5, Interesting)

    by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @03:59AM (#26289423)

    Interestingly, when St. Helens erupted, the majority of the ash fell in a relatively small agricultural region. I know, I lived right in the middle of that farm country at the time. When it happened, everyone assumed a total loss for the year, since the ground was caked in inches of the ash cement. The region looked like a wasteland, and mobility was very limited.

    But the agricultural disaster never happened. The crops bounced back with a vengeance and produced spectacular record yields. Not just for that year, but for several years thereafter. It turns out that the several inches of ash acted as incredible fertilizer and helped the soil retain moisture, and the crops poked their way through the ash after a couple good rains. Most of the US would get that kind of dusting of ash across its agricultural belt, and while there might be some cooling it will likely be offset in part by a massive agricultural rebound that compensates for a significant part of it. We expected the worst when St. Helens erupted, but the reality was far less than that in terms of food production.

  • Oplaan (Score:2, Interesting)

    by symbolset (646467) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @05:08AM (#26289629) Journal

    First, if you think all the major nations don't have an operation plan that covers this and all plausible contingencies, you're naive. It's their job and they're good at it.

    If Russia nukes the Yellowstone valley, we nuke the Siberian Traps. If you think Global Climate Change is bad, you should see those models. They're bad .

    Nuclear submarines will be unaffected by ash, and both sides have them. Tracked vehicles traverse ash just fine. Some nations are prepared with tanks and ships in underground bunkers as well. Remember that we'll be weak with little influence from our national government for five years or more. That means that after at most four years and at least 30 days, our federal government won't have plausible authority. At that point it's every man for himself. They could nuke us then and get nuked back, but what if South America, which is nuke free, chose that moment to invade? Could we push them back with our bogged down infantry? If we wanted to wipe them out, who would we nuke?

    At that point we as individuals will choose. Will we choose rightly? I don't know. There are points of history that can't be predicted because the outcome is decided by heroes. That's what "hero" means.

    Let's hope this unpleasant contingency does not occur. But let's be prepared for it, just in case.

  • by kanweg (771128) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:16AM (#26289803)

    Your laptop has an acceleration sensor. It can be used to detect earthquakes.

    http://qcn-web.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu]

    Bert

  • Re:Global Warning (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zoney_ie (740061) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @07:57AM (#26290021)

    I know if a localised calamity was due to affect a city here in Ireland, we would have the national bus operator's fleet transferred to special trips for evacuation, and similarly full trainloads would be organised to other cities and emergency facilities. The government would reemburse the transport operators from tax money - because we all pay taxes (yes, even the unemployed thanks to our regressive indirect taxation of 21.5% sales tax and direct charges for just about everything). Ireland is kinda US-looking, so I guess you would get a bunch of morons on the other coast complaining about the cost (despite the fact they would be quite in favor of such action if the calamity affected them instead - and the fact the country would be rather worse off with a sudden wiping out of so many citizens).

    It seemed crazy to me that in the New Orleans situation, it was expected of everyone to get out under their own steam by private car or regular transport. Even for many who did have private cars, it should have been preferable for them to be specifically evacuated by special mass transit services. There should *never* have been a need to provide "centres of last resort". Anyone left should have been forcably evacuated. Of course some people's reluctance to leave is an indictment of the ability of the forces of law and order to protect people's property (i.e. from thieves rather than natural forces) even under normal circumstances in the US.

    It seemed like they did things more along the correct lines the second time around (masses of special bus services, etc.), but it's actually distressing that they didn't get it right first time around when it was not an unanticipated problem.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @07:59AM (#26290029) Journal
    Solar power doesn't do you much good when there's enough ash in the air to block out the sun for several weeks or months.
  • by Rakarra (112805) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @08:23AM (#26290115)

    Ugg. The problems with the Somalis are far worse than merely not being "born into relative privilege."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:23AM (#26290323)

    Better them than me. The squeamish will hesitate and die. The strong will live. Choose.

    That's fine. Give me your address and approximate location and I'll make sure to include you among the ones I have to kill. Fair enough, isn't it? Remember: There's always someone else stronger than you out there. You're not as tough as you think, and neither am I. Am I tougher than you? I don't know, and neither do you.

  • Re:Um no (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drsquare (530038) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:06AM (#26290747)

    Folks know ash collapses roofs. So, gasp, folks would clear the ash as it accumulates.

    How, exactly? I suppose everyone will climb into their roofs with dusters... And that's just for the roofs that are accessible to non-professionals.

    Many or most people would evacuate anyway.

    Where to? The ash could cover most of North America. And with the transport system completely shut down by ash, no-one's going anywhere. Even if you got somewhere, there wouldn't be enough food as the ash would kill it all.

  • Re:Um no (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:46AM (#26290929)

    Depends where you live. I used to do architectural design in a place that routinely required designing the building for 100 lb-per-sq-ft snow loads on the roof, and it wasn't all that far from Denver. Don't know what their building code requires, but people living in the Rockies are used to both heavy loads on the roof and having to shovel them off periodically. Building collapse in the area would not be one of the primary concerns for me.

  • Re:Oplaan (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shihar (153932) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @01:01PM (#26291407)

    If the US is so utterly wiped out that its military can't stomp the piss out of anyone who is looking to attack, the world is over and everyone has bigger problem. A huge fraction of the US military isn't even in the US. Further, much of the US's military is still tooled up to survive a nuclear holocaust. Even if all the nuclear silos were wiped out (they wouldn't be), the nuclear subs would be utterly fine and happy to glass large sections of the Earth's surface to dissuade the apparently suicidal masses that want to enter a disaster zone so utterly inhospitable that the US can't prevent them.

    As far as a break down in command and control goes, the US military would not break down. It is at once one of the most loyal armies in the world and at the same time has one of the most flexible command structures that allows isolated units to operate effectively without command. Even if the entire civilian government was wiped out in the US (which is absurd... most people would successfully be evacuated) that would leave tens of thousands of embassy employs and hundreds of thousands civilians who were not in the US at one time or another.

    You have been watching too many end of the world movies. You could make every single person in the US drop dead and every single machine in the US stop functioning... and the US would still have more than enough military power and allies sitting around to make short work of suicidal armies looking to take over a wasteland. If the 300,000 or so soldiers stationed off of US soil couldn't do it and NATO decided that it wasn't going to live up to its treaty obligations, that would still leave a few hundred nuclear missiles to give a convincing no argument.

  • Re:Global Warning (Score:3, Interesting)

    by R2.0 (532027) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @01:52PM (#26291725)

    Don't forget guns
    A) people will want the guns more than anything else you have - well, maybe not the porn.

    B) you'll need them to defend your stuff from other people with guns.

  • Re:Global Warning (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Noren (605012) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @02:19PM (#26291869)
    Well, let's take an example from the past and compare speed of federal government response. How about the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906? Surely we've improved since then. Here's a bit of the timeline [sfmuseum.net]:

    April 18, 1906: 5:13 a.m. Earthquake hits
    A messenger arrived at Ft. Mason at 6:30 a.m. with orders from Gen. Funston to send all available troops to report to the mayor at the Hall of Justice.
    First army troops from Fort Mason reported to Mayor Schmitz at the Hall of Justice around 7 a.m.
    At 8 a.m., the 10th, 29th, 38th, 66th, 67th, 70th and 105th Companies of Coast Artillery, Troops I and K of the 14th Cavalry and the First, Ninth and 24th Batteries of Field Artillery arrived Downtown to take up patrol.
    War Department received a telegram from Gen. Funston at 8:40 p.m., Pacific Coast time, that asked for thousands of tents and all available rations. Funston placed the death toll at 1000.
    April 19, 1906
    Secretary of War Taft at 4 a.m. ordered 200,000 rations sent to San Francisco from the Vancouver Barracks.
    Secretary Taft ordered all hospital, wall and conical tents sent to San Francisco from army posts at Vancouver; Forts Douglas, Logan, Snelling, Sheridan and Russell, from San Antonio and the Presidio of Monterey.
    Secretary Taft wired Gen. Funston at 4:55 a.m. that all tents in the U.S. Army were en route to San Francisco.

    The Federal government did a better job helping after a disaster in 1906- even in the first 24 hours- than they did about a century later.
  • Re:Global Warning (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NIckGorton (974753) * on Thursday January 01, 2009 @05:14PM (#26293269)
    1) Commandeer the newsmedia and make the following policy announcements:
    2) All major highways out of the area in question will be made unidirectional for 5 days (with a one lane exception for police/military/fuel supply). If you have a car/van/MC/etc and wish to leave with it, you must do so within the next 5 days.
    3) National guard/army/police will be at crucial checkpoints inspecting vehicles. Any vehicle without one passenger for every seat will not be allowed to pass. However, people without vehicles (such as the poor who were left during Katrina) may assemble at these sites and will be offered a seat in your car/van/etc if it is not full.
    4) If you refuse to take assigned passengers and/or refuse to eject possessions to do so, your vehicle will be commandeered and given to a car-less driver.
    5) On the 6th day all roads will be shut down to personal vehicles and the roads become bidirectional.
    6) On days 6-10 buses (and semis capable of hauling people in the trailer) will begin making round trips to evacuate as many of the remaining people as possible. Only vehicles capable of carrying at least 10 people will be allowed on the road.
    7) Continued refusal to comply and/or seriously disruptive behavior will result in you being shot on site (both because the delay or misuse of resources you are causing will threaten the lives of others and absolute order is essential to getting as many people out as possible.)
    8) The seriously infirm (i.e. nursing home patients, people in the ICU/on vents in hospitals, people who have a less than 6 month life expectancy due to cancer/etc) will not be transported out. If supplies are available and these people consent, euthanasia should be offered by health care workers. To prevent too much hysteria though, during the first 5 days, if you can schlep your family member, they can go in your car/van/suv.
    9) All people living outside the 1000km radius will have people assigned to inhabit their living spaces and will be required to accommodate them until more habitable space is available for them. (#7 applies outside of the 1000km radius as well.)

    Of course this assumes I have those dictatorial powers. And this certainly would not get everyone out, but I think it would do the most good for the most possible. Though just instituting #3 would have saved hundreds of lives and the suffering of thousands during Katrina.
  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @05:58PM (#26293639) Homepage Journal

    Modern civilization is a network. It allows us to gain the benefits of economies of scale by having us specialize. These efficiencies makes modern civilization extremely robust with respect to small to medium sized disasters. Local famine is not even noticed by those portions of society which have the money to draw resources from far away.

    On the other hand, a disruption large enough to damage our ability to communicate and transport might actually be worse for us than it would be for a more primitive civilization.

    Think of people living, say, five thousand years ago. They may trade materials and items over surprisingly long distances, but they are basically self-sufficient. Life his hard, and a large world wide disaster would make that harder, but anybody living in a place where survival is possibly have a good shot. This disruption of trade has practically no effect.

    How, think about the effect of the collapse of trade on your ability to survive. Can you build a shelter? Or even build a fire, once matches run out? Can you hunt, grow, or forage enough food to survive? (It's funny how so many people's first thoughts seem to run to guns. Of course guns are useful, but only over the short term.)

    I'd posit that modern civilization is vastly more robust in the face of disruption ... up to a point.

  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Thursday January 01, 2009 @06:22PM (#26293861)

    I'll travel to meet up with some hunter friends of mine who have guns and wilderness survival skills... we'll shoot you and your newly found progressive buddies, eat your vegetables, and have a long pig BBQ

    Six weeks, six months?

    Guns need powder and ammunition. Lubricating oils. Spare parts.

    Although nice firearms aren't needed for game. Besides using firearms I've also hunt with bow and arrows and have trapped wildlife. Though I don't like fish I have woven nets that can be used to fish.

    Game becomes hard to find. Edible plants, fruits, nut and berries become hard to find.

    Now that depends on the location and population. Even though I live in a major metro area in the north, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St Paul, on the postage stamp sized lot where I live I can grow 10% of my own food food easily in my garden. Though I started my carrots and radishes late this year, I had enough lettuce and cherry or grape tomatoes for salad every day for a month. I had enough tomatillos for one soup, or salsa, a week for months. There was enough rhubarb for a few sticks a week as well. This spring I'll add blue berries and strawberries. And maybe potatoes and corn. This past growing season I got a bunch of remarks about how well my garden grew and was asked a number of tymes how I was able to grow my plants as big as they did grow. A few said they wanted me to help them on their garden next year. And my growing season is short.

    And that's just where I live now. When I lived in Florida I was able to grow enough food for most of the year in my mother's backyard. Preserving food, canning [wikipedia.org], drying [wikipedia.org] or dehydrating, smoking [wikipedia.org], and using other methods of preserving food allows the food supply to last longer. I mention each of these because I have done all of them, and have lived in survival situations.

    Falcon

  • Re:just speculating (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RockDoctor (15477) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:02PM (#26295293) Journal

    Has tapping this as an energy source ever been considered ?

    Short answer OK for you?

    Yes.

    i am not a geologist

    I am, and I've written enough pages on this topic already to not want to write much more unless you're seriously interested.

    but I am thinking if there is so much geothermal energy right beneath our feet (probably very deep) of such enormous magnitude there could be a way to tap into this.

    Yes, there are ways to do it, both on the drawing board and under active development. But there are also significant hazards to doing it precisely here. Read my other replies in this thread (filtering out the ones where I was being funny), and you'll be better informed and could probably work out some of the issues yourself. Bear in mind the old joke that "if we knew what we were doing, we couldn't call it research".

  • by RockDoctor (15477) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:19PM (#26295455) Journal

    the seismologists studying this earthquake activity all mysteriously resigned and moved to Africa.

    What would be in the least bit mysterious about that? That would be as mysterious as a geologist living at 80-several metres above sea level (around 10 m above the approximate wash level of the Haltenbanke Tsunami) on a 1:7 slope (meaning that rainfall runs away and floods some other poor schmuck), in an area that has never been subject to mining (and hence has no mining-related subsidence) and hasn't got enough slope to generate its own solifluction movements. That's as mysterious as the stable boy making a nice profit by betting on the horses that he's training. That's as mysterious as a not very mysterious thing.

    If I were a seismologist, I'd be keeping a weather eye on this little lot. I don't see any particular advantage to moving to Africa though - too many people. I've already declined to post my destination, if this gets more "interesting".

    mind you, one of my class mates from University did his PhD in seismology ; I might try to find an email address for him, check out where he's living these days. Worth knowing that.

  • NEW YEAR NEW DRAMA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AmigaMMC (1103025) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:38PM (#26295567)
    Happy New Year first of all (let's be polite) :) I live one hour from Yellowstone Lake, which is the center of the latest supervulcanic explosion caldera. I haven't felt any tremors and neither have anyone of the residents here. I have worked in Yellowstone and (as anyone visiting the Old Faithful Visitor Center can see from the seismographer there) Yellowstone has hundreds of micro earthquakes every day. On the other hand, Yellowstone's supervolcano has gone off every 600,000 years or so and the last eruption happened... well... about 600,000 years ago. So, geologically speaking it's time. Will it be 2009? I doubt it. And to prove it to you next summer I'll go scuba diving Yellowstone Lake like many people do.
  • by tnk1 (899206) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:54PM (#26295691)

    Okay, I'm seeing two general threads here:

    % People who are stupidly calling something like this the end of the world

    % People who are stupidly downplaying the threat

    This will not be the end of the world. It wasn't the end of life on the planet the last time it happened. We know this.

    Now that we got that out of the way, let's be clear here. People seem to think that 35cm of ash is like snow, and that they can handle 35 cm of snow. Here's a hint. Snow eventually melts and is taken back up into the atmosphere or is absorbed into the ground. Water is part of the standard climate cycles we deal with every day.

    Ash is not water. Ash does not melt. Ash is fine particles of non-organic solids. If it ends up on your roof, it does not melt off the top of your house, it collapses your roof. Once it is on the ground, it makes a big pile of crap, and then stays there, forever. When you try and plow it or whatever, it will end up in your lungs and choke you.

    Pyroclastic flows, magma and all the rest will simply eliminate 13 states. Those 13 states probably produce most of the food in the United States. Even if you evacuate, food supplies would probably be completely exhausted in a few weeks.

    After an eruption in the early 1800's we had what was called The Year Without a Summer. Crops failed, people really did starve, and this was just a rather big explosion of a relatively normal volcano. Yellowstone, should it blow, will likely completely eliminate organized agriculture except (if we are incredibly lucky) in the most optimum of places. Those places will might produce food, but not enough for 6-7 billion people. And even if those people were likely to want to export food that they don't have, there would cease to be a transportation infrastructure capable of feeding people across the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.

    Most people will die. When they die they will rot. When they rot there will be disease. We'd probably be better off resorting to cannibalism so that we can at least do something with matter that will otherwise breed plague.

    There is a saying that we are 24 hours from barbarism at all times. This is true. Even if people do the unexpected and all pitch in to rationally help one another, the infrastructure for most modern civilization will likely be untenable in most of North America and quite possibly elsewhere. There is no modern society without energy sources and the means to get it where it needs to go.

    People will survive, but those people who believe that the advances of modern society will soften the blow appreciably fail to understand that our advances have taken most people farther away from the skills that they need to survive, rather than made them safer from this sort of threat. Our technology level could be helpful, but no one has really used it to protect against this sort of threat, and therefore, we would be reduced to what still would work when we get sucker punched by this.

    If you point at other lesser volcanic eruptions as proof that its not so bad, you fail to comprehend the scale of the threat. These eruptions are survivable precisely because they are localized. They only remove a little infrastructure locally, but only a few miles away, everyone is fine. An explosion of this magnitude can affect ALL of the infrastructure at the same time, within a very brief amount of time. It is quite simply the same thing as if we launched all of our nuclear weapons at one another at the same time, minus the radiation.

    It is bad, mmkay?

    Happily, nothing is exploding anytime soon. These fools are just trying to make a buck with some good old fashion alarmist journalism. But, let's be very, very clear. If this did happen, you need to put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye unless Jesus loves you and you get taken up in the Rapture. Otherwise, you're dead meat.

"Love your country but never trust its government." -- from a hand-painted road sign in central Pennsylvania

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