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Earth Caldera United States Science

Just In: Yellowstone Is Big(ger) 109

jd writes "Really big. By using electrical conductivity tests rather than seismic waves, geologists have remapped the Yellowstone caldera. Whilst seismic waves indicate differences in the reflectivity of different materials, it doesn't show everything and contrast isn't always great. By looking at the electrical conductivity instead, different characteristics of molten and semi-molten rock can be measured and observed. The result — the caldera is far larger than had previously been suspected. This doesn't alter the chances of an eruption, and it's not even clear it would change the scale (prior eruptions are very easy to study, as they're on the surface) but it certainly changes the dynamics and our understanding of this fierce supervolcano."
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Just In: Yellowstone Is Big(ger)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:10PM (#35802348)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:42PM (#35802590)

      The Yellowstone eruption [] was a little smaller than Toba (2500 km^3 as opposed to 2800 km^3) but you probably don't notice after the first thousand cubic kilometers of ash have landed. There are four other supervolcanos known []. Certainly these are extinction-level events - the Year Without A Summer was caused by a tiny volcano in comparison, altering global temperatures a mere 0.4'C, but the levels of famine and disease that resulted were staggering. Scale it up a hundredfold and throw in a continent's worth of ash and you're talking major problems for anything on the surface.

      • by Sinn3d ( 1594333 )

        ...and you're talking major problems for anything on the surface.

        Good thing most of us are in a basement.

        Better ask mom to bring down some extra sandwiches & dr peppers, ya know. Just in case.

  • ...that the Earth has been sent from the past to kill us.
  • Lets tap it for geo-thermal. The issue with a previous attempt is that they simply pulled the steam from it. Instead, it should be a recycling generator in which it re-injects the water back into the ground.
    • by frecky ( 1095067 )

      Isn't this what we do already ? Inject water in hydraulic fracturing for Shale gas ?

      • Nope. Totally different things. In your example, you use pretty wicked chemicals under extreme pressure to force open cracks. With what I am talking about, you pull water out as steam which drops the pressure a bit, but then re-inject the water back into it, which slowly raises the pressure back up to what it was.
    • Lets tap it for geo-thermal. The issue with a previous attempt is that they simply pulled the steam from it. Instead, it should be a recycling generator in which it re-injects the water back into the ground.

      Boom, Baby, Boom.

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      It's an interesting idea and there should be a way to make it work, but previous attempts at injecting water into geothermally active areas have tended to cause mini earthquakes. It would take some doing to get it right and I'm not sure I'm inclined to trust the companies capable of the drilling necessary.

      • The formation is hot enough that you could use a closed loop, cycling pressurized water in through loop of pipe acting as a heat exchanger.
      • What you are talking about is EGS. It is about drilling DEEP and then injecting below the bedrock. Minor tremors would be expected, but nothing major. As confused one speaks about, you want a closed loop in shallow well. THat is not a big deal. The reason why the only small one was shot down, is that they were not injecting back. As such, they were depleting the water out of the system. That would destroy geysers all over. And few want to see old faithful gone.
  • Alert! When you change the definition of "size" so that size is measured differently that before, the size of things changes! More on this in a future broadcast.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The caldera is not any bigger, just the arear of hot rock or melt under the area. The caldera (collapse feature) is still exactly the same size

  • ... as this clearly seems like an even bigger example of "geohot".
    • He was only prevented from messing with the PlayStation series of consoles, not volcanic features of national parks.

      • The joke: >>---------------->


        You: :(
        • um, no.

          Straight man ----> .....

          people who take a second to get that the straight man is also making a joke .....

          people like you who point out that the straight man's joke missed the joke .....

          humor for pond scum

  • It's not small, no no

  • Better Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Scorch_Mechanic ( 1879132 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @02:27AM (#35804506) Journal

    The one in the summary is fine, but the original (better) article is here: []
    It talks more in depth about how they actually did the imaging. It's actually quite interesting.

  • 2Million->1.3Mill->642,000 years ago. Let's following the series!

    2M->1.3M = 700,000

    Interval of ~670,000 years +/- 21,000.

    Next eruption: 642,000 - 670,000 = 28000 +/- 21000 = essentially any time, ouch.

    • But this isn't grade school math. It's probabilitiesI've seen this in a lot of places, and the Quaking Fear and Apocalypse channel uses it to good effect. (History Channel)

      The eruption interval gives some idea of what might be expected, but there is no such thing as being "due" for an eruption. There would be nothing to stop an eruption next year, then another one a hundred years form now. or 5 million years later. Likewise, with the hot spot staying more or less in one place, and the land moving over to

  • I have a serious (and perhaps stupid) question related to the topic. Given the interest in alternative energy, the size of the Yellowstone caldera, and its proximity to the surface, is it a completely silly idea to exploit it as an energy source? Are there already geothermal power plants in the Yellowstone area?

    • I don't know about Yellowstone in particular, but there are some tentative plans to exploit Newberry Crater (another shield volcano caldera, but much smaller). Interestingly, the same types of magnetotelluric techniques are being used to map promising sites for geothermal plants.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.