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Earth Science

Supervolcano Drilling Plan Gets Go-Ahead 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.
sciencehabit writes "A project to drill deep into the heart of a 'supervolcano' in southern Italy has finally received the green light, despite claims that the drilling would put the population of Naples at risk of small earthquakes or an explosion. Yesterday, Italian news agency ANSA quoted project coordinator Giuseppe De Natale of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology as saying that the office of Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris has approved the drilling of a pilot hole 500 meters deep. The project’s organizers originally intended to bore a 4-kilometer-deep well in the area of the caldera late in 2009, but the plan was put on hold by then-mayor Rosa Russo Iervolino after scientists expressed concerns about the risks."
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Supervolcano Drilling Plan Gets Go-Ahead

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  • Dear Syfy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:41PM (#40046515)

    The Italians would like to give you the plot and backdrop for your next movie. Add a giant creature (maybe it's den was in a cavern above the caldera.. or even better it lives in the magma) and there you go, instant movie.

    • The Italians would like to give you the plot and backdrop for your next movie. Add a giant creature (maybe it's den was in a cavern above the caldera.. or even better it lives in the magma) and there you go, instant movie.

      ...

      I see no other possible outcome...

      Facciamolo!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Haven't they done that movie... a few times... in the last couple weeks...?

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Not that this has stopped anyone, but I think it's been done [imdb.com].

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Italians would like to give you the plot and backdrop for your next movie.

      Mario Bros vs. Cthulhu

    • by Svartormr (692822)
      What's the worse that could happen? An Inferno [wikipedia.org]? >:)
    • by ppanon (16583)
      It's been done already [wikipedia.org]. 40 years ago even.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    What could go wrong?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Jesus. Is this shit smart? They want to bury another city in volcanic ash???

  • In Italy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jesseck (942036) on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:43PM (#40046533)
    Is this the same country that sued scientists over not predicting natural disasters last year? Who gets sued if / when the Volcano erupts (regardless of the cause- natural or drilling)?
    • Awesome this time they will be able to give a good warning... In the next three months while we drill into the caldera.

      Problem solved... maybe they will manage to completely destroy all the people who were disatisfied with the lack of warning last time?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In the case of a supervolcano eruption I would like to think the locals would have better things to do in their remaining minutes of life than file lawsuits.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by moj0joj0 (1119977)

        In the case of a supervolcano eruption I would like to think the locals would have better things to do in their remaining minutes of life than file lawsuits.

        I think you may have some rather high expectations on this one...

    • by medv4380 (1604309)
      It's a Super Volcano. If and when it erupts there won't be anyone around to care enough about who gets sued. Any survivors will be scrambling for survival.
      • Re:In Italy? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Plekto (1018050) on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:18PM (#40046833)

        Actually they won't. They'll be digging out from under 20+ feet of ash.

      • by chill (34294)

        If there is one species that is more resilient than cockroaches it has to be lawyers.

        I can easily foresee lawsuits from neighboring countries, especially those downwind of the eruption.

        The various airlines might see an opportunity as well.

        • Re:In Italy? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Sunshinerat (1114191) on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:33PM (#40046939)

          We are all downwind from super volcanoes.

        • by jonadab (583620)
          No, see, it'll actually be a _benefit_, because when the sulfur compounds in the ash get into the upper atmosphere it will create a cooling effect that will offset a hundred years or so of global warming -- kind of like a bigger, cooler, 1816 on steroids.

          (Yeah, now you have to decide if you think I'm serious or just making jokes. Good luck with that; I'm not entirely sure I know the answer to that question myself.)
    • by slew (2918)

      Is this the same country that sued scientists over not predicting natural disasters last year?

      That's the sensationalist headline, but it's more a lesson on how scientist should present their theories. Say'n stuff like " no reason to suppose a sequence of small earthquakes could be the prelude to a strong event", probably should have instead been something more like: it's unlikely that small earthquakes are are prelude to a strong event... Sure it sounds weasly, but is probably more representative of how science really should be presenting information to make it more resistant to politician-tele

      • Re:In Italy? (Score:5, Informative)

        by ankhank (756164) * on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:59PM (#40047135) Journal

        It's been done before, accidentally:

        "Monday December 22, 2008
        Big Isle well strikes deep lava chamber
        Magma flowing into a shaft was the first seen in its “natural habitat”
        By Rod Thompson
        Honolulu Star-Bulletin
        HILO Geologists around the world are perking up at the news from San Francisco last week that magma flowed a short distance into a Big Island geothermal well during drilling in 2005, revealing an unusual mineral.
        Geologists on the Big Island are taking the news more calmly since they were informed months earlier, and a much more dramatic case of magma in a geothermal well took place in Iceland in 1977...."

        • Geologists on the Big Island are taking the news more calmly since they were informed months earlier, and a much more dramatic case of magma in a geothermal well took place in Iceland in 1977...."

          Yeah. So you're basically saying we have ~30 years before it begins to cause problems?

              -- joking.. really.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Is this the same country that sued scientists over not predicting natural disasters last year? Who gets sued if / when the Volcano erupts (regardless of the cause- natural or drilling)?

      At that point, does it matter?

    • by citizenr (871508)

      Is this the same country that sued scientists over not predicting natural disasters last year? Who gets sued if / when the Volcano erupts (regardless of the cause- natural or drilling)?

      No, they sued a person responsible for warning people in case there are signs of trouble, they sued him because he went in front of cameras and told people to IGNORE earthquakes because there was NO WAY a big one was coming, and on the next day there were 150 dead people, people that would exit their homes when earth started to shake like they used to for years if they didnt listen to that retarded "scientist".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:43PM (#40046535)

    In other news, geologists from Naples saw a wild dog outside their lab. In order to see if it was rabid or not, they decided to poke it with a pointy stick.

    • by BagOCrap (980854)

      Turns out the dog wasn't rabid, so they went on with their plans of drilling into the supervolcano in order to see whether it is active.

    • Re:In other news (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bobwrit (1232148) on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:02PM (#40046693) Homepage Journal
      I feel like I should share this story at this point. While I was taking Differential Equations at my University, our prof would (pretty heavily) motivate problems with stories behind them. His method of elaborating second order linear ODE's. was "OK, imagine that you have a mass on a spring. This system is then immersed in a vat of goo. You put on your hazmat suit, and go into the goo yourself, with a pointy stick. You then begin to poke the mass on the spring. We want to model the mass's movements. Go." It was quite hilarious at the time, and one of my more memorable moments(the other two were his motivation for non-linear first order ODE's(it involved bunnies stacking on top of each other), and solving 2nd order non-linear ode's... specifically with Einstein's corrections to newton's second law to deal with perihelion precession. and seeing the solutions for black holes pop out from that). Back to the topic at hand: this could be a good idea, but only if they don't plan on drilling a significant distance to the magma chamber of the volcano. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure the stress may cause a premature eruption(which, albeit, probably wouldn't be as bad as letting it go to full term/letting the chamber fill up so much it erupts).
  • From what I understand this is supposed to help further knowledge about how dangerous that particular super volcano is. Is there a possibility that they are too confident and think that there is no way they could inadvertently trigger an eruption?
    • by Aguazul2 (2591049)
      > Is there ... no way they could inadvertently trigger an eruption?

      Never mind an eruption, they could cause a vent to open that spews lava for years to come. Wasn't there a place they did this in the Philipines somewhere? Very runny lava spewed out for years and years covering and destroying a large surrounding area, like a big very flat volcano. But I suppose it relieves the pressure and could build some more islands or something if they want that.
      • Re:Bad Idea? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:45PM (#40047041)

        That wasn't lava, that was mud. It's still active and it's in Indonesia.

        Sidoarjo mud flow [wikipedia.org]

      • by Anonymous Coward
        So we need to get ready to sell some inventive high temperature resistant "For Sale" signs to Italian realtors...

        This Lot won't last long!
        (it's going to be covered over)

        Smokin' Deal!!!
        (no, really)

        Scenic Mountain View
        (coming soon)
      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        That sounds like a great way to prevent a volcano from erupting, if you do it just right. Lava spewing out for years and years is far preferable to having an actual eruption. And if you can direct the lava into a nearby ocean, you can create more land, which in a place with a land shortage can be very useful.

        Of course, there's the possibility of screwing up and causing an early eruption. That would still probably be better than a natural eruption (it'd be a lesser magnitude, and you might have more contr

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      I suspect drilling into this area is about as likely to cause an eruption as sticking a hypodermic needle into your butt is likely to cause you to bleed to death. Unless the magma chamber is extremely shallow it will most likely solidify and plug the borehole long before it hits the surface.

  • So the area has an issue with bradyseism, wouldn't that be a sign that perhaps they may accidentally pierce a magma chamber?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:56PM (#40046655)

    At a press conference held in the drilling facility earlier today, a chief engineer responded to questions by leaning into a microphone and stating "Don't worry. Everything will be fine. We have put in place extra safety procedures, and we have everything well under control." Interestingly, as he completed his sentence, a strange whirring sound could be heard coming from a hallway full of steam pipes leading off from the room where the microphone stands had been placed. A junior engineer returned a few minutes later, sighting no sign of damage, but noting that a tall blue crate with a light on top was sitting by access grate number five, and nobody could remember bringing it in by forklift.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      At a press conference held in the drilling facility earlier today, a chief engineer responded to questions by leaning into a microphone and stating "Don't worry. Everything will be fine. We have put in place extra safety procedures, and we have everything well under control." Interestingly, as he completed his sentence, a strange whirring sound could be heard coming from a hallway full of steam pipes leading off from the room where the microphone stands had been placed. A junior engineer returned a few minutes later, sighting no sign of damage, but noting that a tall blue crate with a light on top was sitting by access grate number five, and nobody could remember bringing it in by forklift.

      That was a police box.

  • even minute, the Italian government can arrest the engineers and scientists, just like they did to the seismologists who failed at correctly predicting an earthquake that killed hundreds of people.

    http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/05/27/italian-scientist-charged-manslaughter-failing-predict-earthquake/ [foxnews.com]

  • Eh (Score:5, Informative)

    by tmosley (996283) on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:05PM (#40046719)
    If a single borehole into a magma chamber were all it took to trigger an eruption, we wouldn't have supervolcanoes, as they would have all bled out their pressure long ago. You might get a tiny earthquake, or an explosion large enough to collapse the borehole, but the it is very unlikely that anything worse than that would happen. If something that small could cause it, it would have been triggered naturally.
    • by Mirkman (1720140)

      If a single borehole into a magma chamber were all it took to trigger an eruption, we wouldn't have supervolcanoes, as they would have all bled out their pressure long ago. You might get a tiny earthquake, or an explosion large enough to collapse the borehole, but the it is very unlikely that anything worse than that would happen. If something that small could cause it, it would have been triggered naturally.

      My thoughts exactly

    • True enough. If that was the case then you'd have terrorists aiming to take out the USA buying drilling equipment and smuggling into Yellowstone to trigger the supervolcano there.

  • despite claims that the drilling would put the population of Naples at risk of small earthquakes or an explosion

    How much risk is actually behind that statement, versus making such a statement only to avoid ending up on manslaughter charges like some other Italian geologists... See what happens when you mix politics and truth?

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      How does Asylum make money with those crappy movies anyway? No one watches them, and they're rated as poorly as (or maybe worse than) Uwe Boll's movies on IMDB.

      I suspect they're involved in money laundering somehow.

    • where Italy was~

      That's pretty optimistic.

      Have you started building your shelter yet? In all likelihood, you won't be around to see them, since the
      intra-generational gap will spread in the post-apocalyptic world. But a shelter would increase your chances.

      -AI

  • We can only hope that a capable administrator like Hank Scorpio is running this project.

  • Sidoarjo Mud Flow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tiny69 (34486) on Friday May 18, 2012 @06:42PM (#40047475) Homepage Journal
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidoarjo_mud_flow [wikipedia.org]

    It is expected it to flow for the next 25 to 30 years.

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Friday May 18, 2012 @09:58PM (#40048701)

    Duck and cover. The thousand degree cloud of gas and ash will pass harmlessly over you.

    • Or preserve you for some future culture to dig you out and make your city a museum in a couple thousand years. Win/win.
  • ...Dr. Wile E. Coyote was quoted as saying, "This will be a great scientific breakthrough...and we should reach lava about the time that damn bird is scheduled to run through. Nothing could go wrong this time!" The project's main sponsor, Acme Drilling Co., could not be reached for contact.
  • What could possibly go wrong?
  • it would be our luck drilling will start on december 21, 2012 - I wonder how the mayans knew.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington

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