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Earth Science

In Bolivia, a Supervolcano Is Rising 469

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 Zouden ( 232738 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @09:05AM (#37854502)

    I thought tinfoil hats are to protect you from government mind-rays, not lava. Though tinfoil is pretty amazing stuff.

  • by ComaVN ( 325750 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @09:08AM (#37854528)

    That's 70km across, not circumference.

  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @09:32AM (#37854714) Journal

    I found some facts to help me wrap my brain around the magnitude of the problem. If any of my facts are incorrect, please let me know!

    Human's Energy Consumption (annual) = 4.74 * 10^20 J
    1 ton of TNT = 4.184 * 10^9 J
    St. Helen's volcano = 2.4 * 10^7 tons of TNT = roughly 1 * 10^17 J

    I have a hard time believing that St. Helen's toal energy is only about 1/5,0000 of our total annual energy consumption. If it is true, however, it seems like venting and using the power is feasible.

  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @09:33AM (#37854720)

    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.

    70km across (35,000m radius, about 4 billion square meters)... you were planning on extracting energy using maybe 30cm diameter pipes? Say, generously, these pipes can pull heat energy from lava up to 30m away from themselves (3000 square meters), To drain heat energy from just 1% of the surface of the dome, you'd need 13,000 pipes - how deep are you planning to sink them to have an effect? Even if you solidify the cap to a depth of 5km, I'm not sure that the forces underneath would be contained, they'd probably just divert to somewhere nearby, and likely explode with even greater force from a smaller area.

    It would be a big project - if you put all the oil drillers in the western hemisphere on the job, you might make an ineffective cooling "cap" a few km deep within a few hundred years - all that heat being dumped into the ocean (unless you have a preferable heat sink?) would have a devastating effect on thousands of square km of sea life, and sure, there'd be "free" geothermal energy until the volcano blew, but only as far as you could transmit it.

  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @10:18AM (#37855200) Homepage Journal

    The estimated volume of Yellowstone eruption was 1000km^3 while Krakatoa eruption was 25km^3. If one consider that energy ~ volume, then Yellowstone is estimated to be 1Gigaton of TNT

    For comparison, in circa October 2008 [] operational stockpile of US "contains the explosive equivalent of more than 91,500 Hiroshima-sized bombs" x 15kT ~ 1.5 Gigaton of TNT.

    It was said many times that existing stockpile of nuclear weapon is enough to cause a Nuclear Winter. According to one of the recent models []:

    A global average surface cooling of –7C to –8C persists for years, and after a decade the cooling is still –4C (Fig. 2). Considering that the global average cooling at the depth of the last ice age 18,000 yr ago was about –5C, this would be a climate change unprecedented in speed and amplitude in the history of the human race. The temperature changes are largest over land ... Cooling of more than –20C occurs over large areas of North America and of more than –30C over much of Eurasia, including all agricultural regions.

  • Re:2012-12-21 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Arlet ( 29997 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @10:46AM (#37855582)

    No, I don't think oil is the same as magma, obviously, I was just comparing the numbers for reference.

    I didn't intend on lining the bore hole. Just drill deep enough, and let the lava flow out. If the flow is big enough, the supply of additional heat should keep the hole open. If not, there's probably not enough pressure to worry about an eruption.

  • Re:2012-12-21 (Score:5, Informative)

    by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @12:01PM (#37856946) Homepage
    I know you were making a joke (and for the record, it was kind of funny), but FWIW, the Mayans didn't die out. I was in Guatemala hanging out with a bunch of Mayans [] not quite two years ago (who, incidentally, were asking me what was with the "Mayan" 2012 thing they had been hearing about, lol). They've largely been incorporated into the culture of the countries in which they now live, but they still keep their ancestral lineage and speak their various Mayan dialects (Tzutachiel, IIRC, was the dialect spoken by the group I was with) as well Spanish.
  • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:09PM (#37858024)

    You probably Googled for "War on drugs costs" to get that figure. It's correct - the federal government claims to have spent about 15 Billion in 2010 on it's own website.
    Maybe you missed the paragraph just below it saying "State and local governments spent at least another 25 billion dollars." As you put it, "assuming constant dollars..." We're up to "at least" 40 Billion per year currently and about 28 years to total a Trillion, and a War On Drugs over nearly twice that time, making Trillions closer to reasonable. Just adding in that state and local component puts us nearly at multiple Trillions.
    Beyond that, it's common for parts of the costs of fighting the war on drugs to be hidden elsewhere. Building Prisons often isn't shown as a WOD cost, even though a lot of it has been just that. The US typically, almost invariably, builds prisons because of overcrowding in older facilities rather than because they are wearing out. Then there's the staffing of those prisons - guards, wardens, and related cost money. That 15 Billion you quoted includes some prison costs, but the way the government calculates them assumes that a lot of prisons would be wearing out from age and so considerably understates how much of the prison building and staffing is WOD related.
    Then there's foreign aid, a LOT of which is really drug enforcement when you're talking about Central America. (I don't want to suggest a lot of foreign aid in total is WOD related, as when we're talking "foreign aid in total" it's essentially an Israel/Mideast security related issue, but foreign aid to Central and South America and the Caribbean runs way above aid to, say, Africa over the long haul). When we supply, say, Columbia, with assault helicopters to track down Cocaine plantations, that's often carried in the foreign aid budget, and if we have to supply any of Colombia's neighbors, that don't provide so much raw Cocaine, with weapons (to balance the political situation we are destabilizing by giving one regional power all the neat toys), that's always carried in the foreign aid column.
    Multiple full squadrons of assault helicopters, training and basing for them, attack helicopters to protect the assault helicopters when the plantations started deploying shoulder mounted rocket launchers, high grade crypto and commo that we don't export elsewhere (because the plantation owners can afford to hack and eavesdrop on older commo), and maintenance for all that - it isn't cheap. Then we have to let someone else in the region have a foreign aid grant to buy, say, destroyer escorts from US approved firms, so that the regional balance of power is maintained. Then our conservative politicians tell their base how foreign aid is all driven by liberals.
    You can find funding that's really WOD related in quite a few areas beyond prisons and foreign aid. Part of the Dept of the Interior budget is for keeping people from growing dope in national parks, giving rangers better armament and more practice time. We use Dept. of the Interior personnel to search for tunnels along isolated parts of the US/Canadian border, and even sometimes the Mexican border. There's a line in the overall Homeland Security budget that's about 1/3rd of the FBI total budget. It's for the FBI to run ranges to train all the other security agencies like BATF or Treasury in firearms use. The DEA's weapon's training is thus not carried as a DEA cost any more, since the USA PATRIOT act consolidated that cost. Then the CIA and NSA lend some of their high tech support to the WOD, and it isn't always carried openly in that '15 Billion for 2010" figure either, but its impossible to tell just how much is hidden when you're talking about agencies whose whole budget is basically a black box item. Try adding in such things, and we could make a pretty good case for over 3 Trillion. For all we can be sure of, there's WOD funding shifted to Dept. of Energy, Educ

  • Re:2012-12-21 (Score:5, Informative)

    by pluther ( 647209 ) <pluther@us a . net> on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:54PM (#37858772) Homepage
    In Uxmal, there's a marker that plaque that explains both the fact that the Maya built the pyramids themselves - they did not have the help of any aliens, and points out "Nor did the Maya disappear. We are still here. One of us wrote this plaque!"

    Also, point of correction: The term for the people is the "Maya". The languages are "Mayan". "Mayans" is an obsolete term that is not correct in any context.

    (Also, they don't generally refer to *themselves* as Maya, but rather as "Tzotzil", "Winik atel", "Yucatec", and so forth. (Or, occasionally, "Indios", which I've never been able to figure out whether it translates as "Indians" or "Indigenous" - they call the North American Native Americans "Indios" as well.))

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito