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Earth Science

New Study Suggests We Don't Understand Supervolcanoes ( 105

Better microsampling (and analysis) are revealing "previously obscured" clues about how super-hot molten lava behaves, according to a Science Alert article shared by schwit1: "The older view is that there's a long period with a big tank of molten rock in the crust," says geoscientist Nathan Andersen from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "A new view is that magma is stored for a long period in a state that is locked, cool, crystalline, and unable to produce an eruption. That dormant system would need a huge infusion of heat to erupt." Such a huge infusion of heat is what's thought to have unleashed a violent supereruption in California some 765,000 years ago... [A]s awesomely destructive as the supereruption was, lingering evidence from the aftermath can tell us about the magma conditions deep underground before the top blew so spectacularly.

Specifically, an analysis of argon isotopes contained in crystals from the Bishop Tuff -- the large rocky outcrop produced when the Long Valley Caldera was created -- shows the magma from the supereruption was heated rapidly, not slowly simmered. Geologically speaking, that is -- meaning the heating forces that produced the supereruption occurred over decades, or perhaps a couple of centuries. (A long time for people, sure, but a blink of an eye in the life-time of a supervolcano.) The reasoning is that argon quickly escapes from hot crystals, so it wouldn't have a chance to accumulate in the rock if the rock were super-heated for a long time... Unfortunately, while scientists are doing everything they can to read the signs of volcanic supereruptions -- something NASA views as more dangerous than asteroid strikes -- the reality is, the new findings don't bring us any closer to seeing the future.

"This does not point to prediction in any concrete way," warns geologist Brad Singer, "but it does point to the fact that we don't understand what is going on in these systems, in the period of 10 to 1,000 years that precedes a large eruption."
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New Study Suggests We Don't Understand Supervolcanoes

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Any process which has a form of relaxation oscillations, such as mounting mechanical tension resulting in catastrophic release in an earthquake, or supernova blast in a binary star system, or an supervolcano eruption caused by a sudden event, has to have three underlying processes: first, of slow rise to criticality, second, of constant dissipation which pushes system away from criticality, and the third: of sudden relaxation when level of criticality is crossed.

    Looking at the Earth geology, we first must u

  • Laka...Céilí band
  • Humans don't understand nearly as much as they think they do.
  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @09:37AM (#55539727)

    It turns out a massive eruption at Yellowstone would only wipe out the part of the country that us coastal elitist don't care about! [] #WhoNeedsFoodAnyway ;)

    • by Salgak1 ( 20136 )

      And, as a (former) geologist, the resultant shock of the Caldera Collapse would also likely trigger the entire San Andreas and New Madrid fault systems, so we're looking at massive earthquakes in areas outside the ash zones.

      So even MORE death and devastation would be the sprinkles on top of the Sundae of Doom (grin)

    • #WhoNeedsFoodAnyway

      Most of it comes from California, and if it doesn't have to go to those places in the red because they've gone all Pompeii, there'll be more for us.

  • Like we don't understand why someone would choose a nick like FrostyPis--oh,wait. I got it. Never mind

  • Col. Robert Iverson: People. Doctors Zimsky and Keyes? You guys are our resident geophysicists, so what do you make of this?

    Dr. Conrad Zimsky: The mantle is a chemical hodgepodge of, a, variety of elements...

    Dr. Ed 'Braz' Brazzelton: Say it with me: "I don't know."


    The first rule of being a true scientist. Admit you don't know everything.

  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @10:15AM (#55539851)
    Science is an ever-evolving field. I've noticed that a lot of scientists display a lot of hubris so it's always refreshing to hear when a group admits that they were wrong or that they really do not know it all. The expert complex is really dangerous because there is nothing more harmful than advice given by people who claim expertise but do not have anything other than their own experience to go on.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Are you writing about true scientists (whom you have likely never met in person), or the popularized version in the various media (who don't really exist in any numbers)? And when true scientists talk, do you have enough awareness to distinguish between the larger picture (which they rightly may be confident of) and the smaller, evolving details (which they may be less sure of)? I think that you have a lot less expertise in evaluating scientists than you claim.

  • Should say "new study says we DON'T UNDERSTAND A LOT OF THINGS we THINK we know about Earth".
  • Suppose we somehow find a way to precisely predict the eruption of a super volcano. Imagine it is the one underneath Yellowstone. When that thing lets lose it is predicted that only the southern tip of Florida and the area of Maine near the Canadian border would survive. So our whiz bang prediction tells us that in 60 years the land mass of the US will be 98% destroyed, along with wildlife and structures as well. Instantly the world economy goes into panic and crash mode. All properties in the doom
    • >The Arab emirates that compose five nations will have to be evacuated prior to 2025 as warming in that area will be so severe that the land can not support human life nor can things like air conditioning save the day.

      I'll bet you $10,000 that is completely, totally, untrue.
      In fact, I'll double-or-nothing you that in 2025 the population of the UAE will be higher than today.

      • In fact, I'll double-or-nothing you that in 2025 the population of the UAE will be higher than today.

        What's the average elevation of the UAE again?

      • The expected temperature on a typical day will be 125 degrees F.. That means there can be no crops, very little in the way of livestock as well as an inability to maintain half way normal life. Take a look at what already happens to roads in the hot states in the US in summer time. Much of the violence that we already see in the Arab regions is due to being deprived of food due to loss of crops due to climate change. Europe is already trying to deal with flocks of refugees trying to escape the violence cau
  • I thought I was the only one that didn't understand super volcanoes. It's good to know that people with a Ph.D.s don't know too. That's a huge relief.
  • "previously obscured" clues about how super-hot molten lava behaves

    Lava is on the surface, so I think this is about magma. Also all lava is hot and molten.

    "A new view is that magma is stored for a long period in a state that is locked, cool, crystalline

    Wouldn't that be referred to as "rock" and not "magma"?

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.