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Yellowstone Supervolcano Making Strange Rumblings 411

Posted by Zonk
from the if-you-need-me-i'll-be-in-the-netherlands dept.
Frosty Piss writes "Supervolcanoes can sleep for centuries or millennia before producing incredibly massive eruptions that can drop ash across an entire continent. One of the largest supervolcanoes in the world lies beneath Yellowstone National Park. Significant activity continues beneath the surface. And the activity has been increasing lately, scientists have discovered. In addition, the nearby Teton Range of mountains is somehow getting shorter. The findings, reported this month in the Journal of Journal of Geophysical Research, suggest that a slow and gradual movement of a volcano over time can shape a landscape more than a violent eruption."
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Yellowstone Supervolcano Making Strange Rumblings

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  • by Bloke down the pub (861787) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:30PM (#18366423)
    "Teton" is french for booby.
  • I'm scared (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 0racle (667029)
    I mean it, I'm scared.
    • I'm hungry (Score:5, Funny)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:34PM (#18366481) Homepage
      I mean it, really hungry.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by MindKata (957167)
      I would like to tell you something to help calm your nerves, but I'm too busy digging out my shelter to stop just yet.
    • Re:I'm scared (Score:4, Insightful)

      by flyingsquid (813711) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:49PM (#18366677)
      Super catastrophes are pretty much by definition, super-rare. If they happened every other day, they would be normal, not super.

      Sure, if it goes off it will ruin a lot of people's days. But if it goes off every million years or so, well, what are the chances of being alive to witness it? Not terribly good. Our species may not even be around the next time this thing blows. Same goes with other super-catastrophes like large asteroid impacts. I'm all for long-term thinking, but there's a danger in thinking too long-term as well, that is, let's worry about next year's hurricane season, or that hundred-year flood, rather than what happens when the sun goes into red giant phase a billion years from now.

      Historically, it's the "normal" catastrophes that happen on the order of every few decades or centuries -like earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, plagues, famines, and non-super volcanoes- which have tended to kill hundreds of thousands or millions of people. Not to mention our incredible genius when it comes to killing each other. In terms of minimizing human casualties, odds are the most cost-effective solutions will be things like better building codes to withstand earthquakes, not letting people build in flood-prone areas, and perhaps most importantly, developing the ability to rapidly respond to disasters when they do happen.

    • by blincoln (592401)
      Don't worry, Teddy Roosevelt is on the job [thelostworlds.net].
    • If the Yellowstone Supervolcano blows, the last forecast I heard was that it will be about 100 times as powerful as the Thera/Santorini explosion. The sound alone will probably kill everyone in the contenental US instantly. It's only the rest of the human race that has to suffer and die during the resulting ice age.

      Have a nice day. =)

  • Horizon (Score:2, Funny)

    by gerrysteele (927030)
    There was a BBC horizon program about this several years ago. Apparently it is hundreds of years overdue for its regular eruption. Would wipe out America apparently.

    Better not happen before I find out what happens in Lost.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jandrese (485)
      "Wipe out America" is a bit overstated. It would throw ash everywhere and cause food shortages, but it's not going to split the continent in half or anything.
      • Re:Horizon (Score:5, Informative)

        by gerrysteele (927030) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:39PM (#18366551)
        Sadly that is not quite the case: It's a Supervolcano

        one of the most destructive and yet least-understood natural phenomena in the world - supervolcanoes. Only a handful exist in the world but when one erupts it will be unlike any volcano we have ever witnessed. The explosion will be heard around the world. The sky will darken, black rain will fall, and the Earth will be plunged into the equivalent of a nuclear winter.

        Scientists have revealed that it has been on a regular eruption cycle of 600,000 years. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago... so the next is overdue.

        BBC Science [bbc.co.uk]

        Anyway, have a nice nuclear winter, eithr way.

        • Re:Horizon (Score:5, Funny)

          by rlp (11898) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:41PM (#18366569)
          > The sky will darken, black rain will fall, and the Earth will be plunged into the
          > equivalent of a nuclear winter.

          Fortunately we're compensating with global warming
        • by mosb1000 (710161)
          "The last eruption was 640,000 years ago... so the next is overdue."

          That's kind of like saying "it hasn't rained in a couple weeks, so it'll probably rain today". There is a very small chance this thing will erupt in your lifetime. We should be prepared anyway, though.
          • by peragrin (659227)
            odd it did rain here today.

            though we didn't get the snow they promised.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ragabash13 (1076287)
          Uhmm.. Science actually revealed that has erupted about three times before. Once about 2.1 million years ago, once again around 1.2 million years ago, and most recently 640,000 years ago.

          Science requires more data then this to make accurate predictions. Media on the other hand have no problem reporting based on guesses and bad math. So no, there isn't a pattern yet and I am inclined to believe geology rather then the media.

          That there has been increased activity is interesting, but given that the Yellowstone
        • I understood that there have been 3 eruptions, the last 2 of which are roughly 600000 years apart. Not a very large dataset to make a prediction from.

          The "Supervolcanoes" show was sensationalized (alarmist?) in order to get people to watch it. Did it contain some facts? Sure. Were those facts chosen and presented in such a way to support one theory? In this case the "it's overdue to blow at any moment" theory? Sure seems that way. A quote from a summary of a made-for-TV show isn't necessarily scientific (or
    • So what's FEMA's plan... hello? Anybody? Brownie? Oh, right.

      Looking at their site, they used advanced visualization tools to... help the BBC make a documentary. They also have plans to... evacuate locally, near lava flows.

      Hmm. I think I'll update my passport and buy some gold coins.
      • by Grave (8234)
        There is no real preparing for this. You can prepare for an asteroid, in that you can see it coming, calculate when it will hit, and figure out a way to intercept/divert it (presuming there is enough time).

        You can't stop a volcano. At least not with any known technology, and the consequences of altering a volcano could be worse than it going off in the first place.

        Preparing for a supervolcano eruption is like preparing for full-out nuclear war. There is no effective recovery plan that isn't a lot of loca
        • Which is why my plan is to sew gold coins into my clothing, slip across the border into Mexico, and continue to head south. Ecuador should be about right.
    • by coyote-san (38515)
      The US would just be the start. Some huge fraction of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the US border so she would be in a world of hurt as well. Europe wouldn't get the same ash burden, but it would still get hit by plunging temperatures and acidic rain.

      I'm not sure what 'overdue' means. This isn't a stable system like the periodic ice ages over the last few million years. The earth's crust has been moving over that hot spot and some experts think that the crust is thicker than during t
    • Its "regular" eruption?

      Using wikipedia as the ultimate source of information, Yellowstone has seen eruptions 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago and 640,000 years ago.

      This gives you a total of 3 data points, spaced 800,000 and 660,000 years apart. Thus, the average times is 730,000 years. We are 640,000 years into it so we should still have 90,000 years.

      Of course, the with only 3 data points even that spacing is very speculative at best.

      To make matters more interesting, the size of the 3 eruption's
  • by Anonymous Coward
    sacrifice a virgin! yeah, theres plenty of those here reading slashdot im sure..

    -Dirtbag
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ArcherB (796902) *
      sacrifice a virgin! yeah, theres plenty of those here reading slashdot im sure..

      NOT IT!
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:32PM (#18366455) Journal
    Last time I visited Yellowstone, I saw some people throwing half eaten burritos and other Mexican food loaded with refried beans into these blow holes, vents and what not. Told them it is dangerous, but no body would listen. People are senseless!
    • by digitaldc (879047) *
      Was Yogi in that blowhole? Because he's always hungry.
    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday March 15, 2007 @04:22PM (#18367201)
      Okay...we form a team. We'll need some reckless rebels who act crazy in their off-time but get the job done when the pressure's on. We'll train relentlessly. Then we go in there, and with the help of Tommy Lee Jones, or Bruce Willis, or Robert Duvall, or that chick who played a dude in that one crying movie; we'll blast that bastard all to Hell, against all odds!

      But I warn you, there will be casualties. Everyone but the romantic leading man and the vulnerable-but-tough woman will be in real mortal danger. But I know we can do it!

  • Here I was all smug living in the west thinking I was pretty immune to most natural disasters that you people on the coasts and in tornado alley set yourselves up for...
    • FYI, tornadoes are probably the easiest natural disaster to avoid; all you have to do is pay at least slight attention to the weather and have access to a basement or interior room. I've lived in Tornado Alley my entire life, and it's been 15 years since the last time a tornado came close enough to where I live that taking cover was justified.

      On the other hand, even though it's very unlikely to happen in my lifetime, a Yellowstone eruption would almost certainly own much of North America. An eruption fr

      • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:55PM (#18366783)

        ...a Yellowstone eruption would almost certainly own much of North America.

        On the bright side, SCO would have front row seats.
        Eat hot ash Darl!

      • by Surt (22457)
        I think hurricanes have to qualify as easier to avoid. You typically have days to prepare yourself.
        Earthquakes aren't bad either, assuming you choose to live and work in earthquake safe buildings, your odds of getting caught out are pretty low (but of course you have basically no notice if you are caught out).
  • Remember folks... A volcano is an investment that lasts for generations. That's why you need easy to use software for your volcano so that your kids and unborn grandkids can use it. Microsoft Windows for Volcanos is so simple, sperm can use it.

    You need to get your Volcano software from a company that will be there to send you patches and keep your volcano humming along nicely. You can't trust those pesky Linux starups that last only until all the share options are cashed up.

    You also need to consider Total C

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:39PM (#18366541)
    Judging by all the inflation, pressure and possible eruptions - scientists have concluded that Yellowstone really needs to get laid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by abb3w (696381)

      Judging by all the inflation, pressure and possible eruptions - scientists have concluded that Yellowstone really needs to get laid.

      Ah! I always wondered where that "sacrifice a virgin" meme came from.

  • It's time for Yogi Bear to move out!
  • by sphealey (2855) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:51PM (#18366709)
    Per the article, geoscientists only have detailed large-scale measurements for the last 17 years (which would roughtly correspond to the increasing availability of reasonably-priced GPS and comm units I should think). So how do they know that activity is increasing (or decreasing) on any kind of historical scale?

    sPh
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:51PM (#18366717) Journal
    If I didn't live a stone's throw away from Yellowstone (by which I mean how far Yellowstone is going to throw stones when it goes) I'd be kind of cheering it on in that way I watch hurricanes or tidal waves and think "whoah, that's amazing."
    If Yellowstone went, we might expect "some 2,000 million tons of sulphuric acid were ejected into the atmosphere to block out sunlight over much of the planet causing global temperatures to plummet by between 10C and 20C." from here. [nucnews.net]

    WMD's in Jackson's Hole: who would ever have thought? (Cue the Taco Bell jokes...)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 15, 2007 @03:55PM (#18366773)
    This is obviously due to human activities. Probably the weight of all the SUV's people are driving there on vacation is compressing the magma resulting in increased volcanic activity. There's no way this is natural.
  • The volcano god is angry! Quickly, we must sacrifice all virgins to appease it!
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The volcano god is angry! Quickly, we must sacrifice all virgins to appease it!

      Unicorns aren't mythical - virgins are.

  • Awesome. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by teamhasnoi (554944) <.teamhasnoi. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @04:28PM (#18367281) Homepage Journal
    If it blows, there's a good chance the park won't be so crowded that year. I could finally go!
  • The full journal article is available here [usgs.gov].
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @04:40PM (#18367463) Journal
    If the volcano is coming alive, perhaps, we can dump some of the heat off by simply doing a lot more geothermal power plants. So far, the ones that they have set up there are wet ones that waste the water there. But if they build it so that it recycles or simply is treated as a dry plant, then we can use it to create giga watts of energy AND escape the heat from below.

Luck, that's when preparation and opportunity meet. -- P.E. Trudeau

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