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Earth Science

In Bolivia, a Supervolcano Is Rising 469

Posted by timothy
from the going-for-volcano-of-the-year dept.
dutchwhizzman writes "Uturuncu is a Bolivian supervolcano. Research suggests that it has an eruption frequency of roughly 300,000 years and the last eruption was, give or take a few years, 300,000 years ago. Research suggests that it started rising in a 70 km diameter by 1 to 2 centimeters per year, making it the fastest-growing volcano on the planet. Break out the tin foil hats, and store plenty of canned beans, because it may just erupt before Yellowstone pops its cork."
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In Bolivia, a Supervolcano Is Rising

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  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @09:13AM (#37854572) Journal

    I am coming at this from an uneducated viewpoint, but would appreciate an answer from someone a bit more educated...

    If we were to drill into this forming volcano, use geothermal energy to create electricity, could you delay, decrease or prevent the volcano from erupting? It seems like a really good win/win situation where you get almost free energy and prevent a small country from getting obliterated.

  • Re:silver lining (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tnk1 (899206) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @10:06AM (#37855072)

    A supervolcano is *significantly* larger than the largest recorded volcanic eruption, on the order of ten times or more. The last one, Lake Toba, was 70,000 years ago, or so. And according to what I have read, mitochondrial DNA shows a genetic bottleneck around that time where something reduced the human population down to a few tens of thousands across the entire world. And this is back when humans were a lot better at moving around and hunting and gathering getting their own food.

    It would make the current level of human climate change look like a joke in particularly bad taste.

    The largest volcanic eruption in historic times, in 1815 at Mount Tambora, ejected the equivalent of around 100 km3 (24 cu mi) of dense rock and made 1816 the "Year Without a Summer" in the whole northern hemisphere. The Lake Toba explosion ejected 2,800 km3 (670 cu mi) and probably created volcanic equivalent of a Nuclear winter for years, not to mention the acidic rain and other fun volcanic stuff.

    You can read most of this at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory [wikipedia.org]

    So yeah, we are talking about an apocalyptic scenario if this thing, or one of the other ones goes off any time soon. Billions would die, absolutely guaranteed.

  • Re:silver lining (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Arlet (29997) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @10:35AM (#37855406)

    NO YOU ARE AS WRONG AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY BE

    Not really. The poster was explaining that volcanic eruptions have a relatively short time effect on the climate. The first year after the eruption, the effect is big, and then exponentially decays with each passing year.

    This means that a volcano is not going to give any kind of relief. A small eruption only means a few cool years before the global warming resumes on the old trend. A large eruption would cause a longer cooling period, but would kill most life in the first year. Either way, we're hosed.

    There are no 'goldilocks eruptions' that would bring relief from global warming for a few decades, without causing substantial harm themselves.

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