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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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  • Re:2012-12-21 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FalcDot ( 1224920 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @09:26AM (#37854664)

    Because disasters that have passed are no longer newsworthy, and disasters scheduled for a hundred years from now aren't newsworthy yet.

    In other words, if it isn't about "more or less now", noone would care and you wouldn't hear anything about it.

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

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday October 27, 2011 @09:35AM (#37854736)

    Anyway, I always wonder if it wouldn't be possible to drill a hole in the volcano and let off some pressure or something.

    While this would be a very good source of geothermal power for us puny humans, I doubt that we could drill a hole wide enough to accommodate 1 cubic meter per second, which according to TFA, is the rate at which the magma chamber is growing. That, and you are left with the problem of what to do with the 86,400 cubic meters of magma per day (about 170,000 tonnes' worth), every day. Where do you plan on parking it?

    While we humans pride ourselves on our technology and our ability to move things around and build things, a supervolcano is simply on too big of a scale for us. It would be like a mite imagining it had the power to tell an elephant where to go. Geology (vulcanism, earthquakes) and meteorology (hurricanes, tornadoes) is going to happen to us whether we like it or not. Hopefully one day we'll be smart enough to just get out of the way in time when it does happen.

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

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @09:46AM (#37854860)

    I don't think you know how bad supervolcanoes are.

    Think Mt. St. Helens.

    Then multiply it by 1000. At once. Just for this guy. It would be bad. A lot of people on different continents would die from lack of food because the growing season would be nonexistent for many people. For years.

    If the Siberian Traps go, we're all fucked. That's called an extinction event.


  • Re:silver lining (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @10:04AM (#37855050) Homepage Journal

    Wow really? I mean this has got to be about the dumbest thing I have ever read on slashdot.
    "No, the largest eruption on record only gave like a year of cooled weather, and while these are likely to be substantially larger eruptions, an eruption large enough to produce a climate change mooting atmospheric change would probably go a long ways towards ending life as we know it.
    Duhhh A super volcano would be at least an order of magnitude worse then Krakatoa. I decided to spend a little time and look it up and it seems that the VEI 8 eruptions of "Yellowstone was one" have a Dense Rock Equivalent (DRE) of ejecta of over 1000km^3. Several including some of the Yellowstone ones reached well over 25,000km^3 So multiply that by two and see what you get? BTW Krakatoa was only 25km^3.
    If you had two 25,000km^3 events it would be mind numbingly bad. Yes we are talking end of the world wipe the slate almost clean bad.
    The Toba super eruption was 70,000 years ago and was at the small end of the VEI scale killed 70% of the human population of the earth.
    Really are you such a climate change zealot that you must mindlessly dismiss any statement that you feel undermines it?
    Wow I am not a doubter of climate change and support reduced CO2 but this is making it into a religion that must defended by the faithful at all times.
    So NO YOU ARE AS WRONG AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY BE! Even a single VEI 8 Event much less two would make the current climate change a none issue because there is a good chance that the majority of the human race would be dead.

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

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Thursday October 27, 2011 @10:29AM (#37855330)

    Anyway, I always wonder if it wouldn't be possible to drill a hole in the volcano and let off some pressure or something.

    A device that releases pressure from a volcano is called "a volcano."

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

    by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @12:08PM (#37857028) Homepage

    Careful. There's enough pressure to lift the rock on top by 1cm per year, right? The issue with magma is that it CAN have dissolved gasses in it under tremendous pressure; when you drill that hole, if you don't maintain that same pressure, the magma starts to fizz. Fizzy magma doesn't weigh as much, so it gets pushed up, reducing the pressure, making it fizzier and less dense, etc. It just goes and goes faster and faster until all the pressure is relieved, and if it happens to erode a larger hole with the jet of superheated rock, well, that's another way to erupt faster. Think geyser (which accumulates superheated water under pressure until it finally starts to boil, then it all blows at once). Think Macondo blow out in the Gulf of Mexico.

    There are some things where you're better off not poking them with sticks to see what happens. I think this might be one of them.

    Contrariwise, if you thought you knew what you were doing (note the use of the contrary-to-fact subjunctive :-) you might be able to drill pressure relief wells around the edges, to get smaller "controllable" eruptions.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard