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NASA Earth

NASA's Plan To Stop A Supervolcano from Destroying The Earth's Climate (news.com.au) 153

Long-time walterbyrd shared a new article about NASA's contingency plan for "vast quantities of searing magma and clouds of fumes" erupting from a Wyoming supervolcano and slowly "burying much of the United States under a thick coat of ash and lava...enough to change the climate of the world for several centuries." NASA believes the Yellowstone supervolcano is a greater threat to life on Earth than any asteroid. So it's come up with a plan to defuse its explosive potential... NASA scientists propose, a 10km [6.2 miles] deep hole into the hydrothermal water below and to the sides of the magma chamber. These fluids, which form Yellowstone's famous heat pools and geysers, already drain some 60-70 per cent of the heat from the magma chamber below. NASA proposes that, in an emergency, this enormous body of heated water can be injected with cooler water, extracting yet more heat. This could prevent the super volcano's magma from reaching the temperature at which it would erupt.
A member of NASA's Advisory Council on Planetary Defense told the BBC he'd concluded "the super volcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat."
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NASA's Plan To Stop A Supervolcano from Destroying The Earth's Climate

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  • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @06:47PM (#55106509) Homepage
    NASA's proposed solution may very well trigger the damned thing.
    • by irving47 ( 73147 )

      Name the movie "Volcanic Park"

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        movie "Volcanic Park"

        It would almost certainly have the phrase, "Probably just a routine tremor, no need to tell the boss about our little shortcut."

        • You misunderstand the strategic significance of this asset. We can station nukes around and in it. If anyone doesn't do what we say, we threaten to blow up the whole world...

          First we need some kind of plausible lunatic to be oit leader to make the threat credible. Preferably an old one with a short life expectancy anyway, maybe with a tenuous grasp on reality, power, or both...

          • You misunderstand the strategic significance of this asset. We can station nukes around and in it. If anyone doesn't do what we say, we threaten to blow up the whole world...

            First we need some kind of plausible lunatic to be oit leader to make the threat credible. Preferably an old one with a short life expectancy anyway, maybe with a tenuous grasp on reality, power, or both...

            Damn. If only Hillary had won last year, we'd have just the lunatic you're looking for.

            • I got modded down twice?

              Damn, you libs are still so butthurt. Vent your frustration on me. I don't mind. It's better than if you were to go out to the park and beat up strangers.

            • It was pretty much a given that we'd get one. We haven't elected someone other than The Lesser of Two Evils in over a century, with no end in sight.

              Well, not "we". Those other voters. I haven't voted for a TLotE candidate in decades.

          • .ulz ... where would you find that , i mean that hardly seems like mister president from the movies i know material ?
    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @06:55PM (#55106561)

      NASA's proposed solution may very well trigger the damned thing.

      That could only happen if they broke through a pressure barrier. The geology of the Yellowstone magma dome is well understood, and this drilling proposal has no chance of triggering a premature eruption.

      If they are going to drill, they could make the project self funding by bleeding out steam for electricity generation. Yellowstone has enough heat to generate 100% of America's power needs for centuries.

      • by h33t l4x0r ( 4107715 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @07:15PM (#55106661)

        this drilling proposal has no chance of triggering a premature eruption

        That's what she said.

        • this drilling proposal has no chance of triggering a premature eruption

          That's what she said.

          For the first time ever, I think that should be, "That's what he said."

      • by torkus ( 1133985 )

        According to the article, yellowstone 'leaks' about 6GWT. While significant, it's not even close to the total US power needs.

        Now, if you can tap the larger heat reserve as a whole, I expect you'd get a lot more out. 250 billion cubic km of molten rock has to have some kinetic energy hiding in there.

        To be honest, I'm curious why someone hasn't already looked into tapping underground magma pools for power sources. If practical, it seems like a low-impact method to get a large amount of power.

        • To be honest, I'm curious why someone hasn't already looked into tapping underground magma pools for power sources.

          They do. Iceland gets about 25% of their electricity from geothermal. The rest is from hydropower (dams). California, China, Italy, and many other places also tap power from hot rocks.

        • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @07:30PM (#55106741)

          It could be a terawatt-scale version of Hellisheiði:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
          AS a bonus, it could supply hot water for the entire northern tier of states. No more mortgaging your soul for each winter's supply of heating oil in the Northeast.

          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            You hear about people getting triggered over the Keystone pipeline. Now just imagine what happens when you try shipping other liquids (or pipelines that could be converted into petroleum lines in a pinch) over similar distances and further. Shipping hot water anywhere beyond a few miles from the generating plant isn't worth the hassle.

            A terawatt scale generator plant would definitely produce a whole lot of useful energy for the region though.

            • Keystone = expansion of co2-emitting fossil fuel infrastructure = brain-dead (or clinically insane, hard to tell which) policy in the 21st century.

              Deep geothermal power = avoided fossil fuel consumption and emissions. So most fossil-fuel expansion protesters will be fine with it.

              These people who get "triggered" by fossil fuel capacity expansion projects are mostly triggered by the overwhelming stupidity and willful destructiveness of the projects. The maniacs (those continuing to scale up fossil fuel infra

            • All thermal generating plants require a heat sink to extract the most power from the difference between the hot water loop circulating through the volcano and the temperature of the 'spent' secondary (steam-making) water condensed from the output of the turbine. At the small plant I cited, the hot loop circulates at 300C, three times boiling, and the spent water at 85C is piped across the Arctic tundra all the way to Reykjavík for district home heating with a loss of only two degrees on the journey. Th

          • It could be a terawatt-scale version of Hellisheiði: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] AS a bonus, it could supply hot water for the entire northern tier of states. No more mortgaging your soul for each winter's supply of heating oil in the Northeast.

            I wonder why this hasn't been done before? Besides being a national park, are there any logistical concerns people haven't mentioned?

            • Although geothermal is one of the only baseload renewable sources (no fluctuations of source to engineer around), it has been underused even in the relatively few suitable places it could go because geothermal provinces are usually preserves, and even in privately owned geothermal provinces like Waimangu, nobody wants to disturb the natural geysers and other features. Yellowstone is an obvious place where we wouldn't want to drill next to Old Faithful in hopes of tapping a small amount of power from it.

              But

            • One of the other concerns is that it could cause the geothermal features at Yellowstone to go dormant if you siphon the heat away that powers them. This has happened in other areas where geothermal plants have been built in areas close to geysers and hot springs.

              It would be a shame to lose these features in one of America's top national parks, but I suppose it's better than dying from starvation after the supervolcano blows.

            • "I wonder why this hasn't been done before? Besides being a national park, are there any logistical concerns people haven't mentioned?" It hasn't been done because the people who make their money from petroleum NEED to sell the gas and oil byproducts leftover from petrochemical production, or they'd be left with huge stockpiles of highly flammable, explosive chemicals we know as gasoline, jet fuel and heating oil. Plus, much of the infrastructure they've built over the last 100 years would become just so

        • To be honest, I'm curious why someone hasn't already looked into tapping underground magma pools for power sources. If practical, it seems like a low-impact method to get a large amount of power.

          Somewhere like Iceland, it makes sense. In Yellowstone, where you have practically no people or industry for many hundreds of miles around, it's more trouble than it's worth.

          • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

            Right because HVDC power lines that are economic up to 7500km which could cover the whole of the lower 48 states from Yellowstone don't exist.

            • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

              You would have to let heavy industry into our most well known natural park. The blow back from that would probably knock you out of your chair.

              • by Teancum ( 67324 )

                You would have to let heavy industry into our most well known natural park.

                How would a large scale industrial facility built 1000 miles from Yellowstone be different than existing heavy industries that are well within that same radius?

        • To be honest, I'm curious why someone hasn't already looked into tapping underground magma pools for power sources. If practical, it seems like a low-impact method to get a large amount of power.

          Lots of people have. Trouble is that geothermal isn't all that clean or easy. Unless it's a closed system, there are all sorts of minerals and other items that go into the water, corrode equipment, and brings toxic elements back to the surface.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @07:20PM (#55106697)

        The geology of the Yellowstone magma dome is well understood, and this drilling proposal has no chance of triggering a premature eruption.

        To elaborate on this: Yellowstone is a "bimodal" volcano. Magma comes in two types: mafic and felsic. Mafic lava is heavier and more fluid, and comes from deep in the earth. Felsic is lighter and "gooey" like honey or molten glass. Yellowstone has both. After a long quiescent period, it will erupt with felsic lava first, and then later erupt with mafic lava. This is because the felsic magma is lighter, so it floats on the heavier mafic lava.

        So even if the drilling breaks a pressure barrier, any magma that comes through will be felsic, and it will get higher in viscosity as it rises and cools, thus forming a plug that will block further flow. This self-plugging action is one reason that felsic volcanoes tend to explode violently once they finally blow. Mafic volcanoes, like Mauna Loa in Hawaii, tend to have lots of small eruptions that can flow for years or decades, rather than one big blowout.

        Felsic volcanoes are also called stratovolcanoes since they tend to be tall and narrow as the viscous lava doesn't flow far. The most common felsic rock is granite.

        Mafic volcanoes are also called shield volcanoes, because their wide base makes them look like a shield laying on the ground. The most common mafic rock is basalt.

        • This is a great comment! Thank you!

        • Two types of magma:

          (1) incidental, like Hawaii where evil is usually not in the open or in overwhelming doses and people usually live through that

          (2) Pompeii, where the city was especially known by its contemporaries and today by archecologiests for its philandry and everyone dies suddenly
      • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @07:26PM (#55106725)

        If they are going to drill, they could make the project self funding by bleeding out steam for electricity generation.

        Why bother with the electricity generation step . . . ? Surely, Elon Musk can build steam-powered cars for us. You can tank up your car with fresh Yellowstone Steam at one of a system of pipeline nationwide distribution stations: Fresh, hot steam. On tap! Always!

        Plus, when the steam-powered car extracts ("burns") the energy in the steam . . . only water comes out! It will solve global warming and droughts, as well. A system of IoT autonomous AI controlled pilots in the steam-powered cars with automatically alter the routes of cars to drive through drought affected areas, bringing much needed water there via the car exhaust pipes!

        And, along with the Yellowstone Steam, we can also . . .

        • Are you about to recommend a mono-rail?

      • Hubris
      • If they are going to drill, they could make the project self funding by bleeding out steam for electricity generation. Yellowstone has enough heat to generate 100% of America's power needs for centuries.

        While there certainly is enough heat, I'm concerned there isn't a large enough heat sink [wikipedia.org] to dissipate it all. You need both hot and cold to drive an engine. [wikipedia.org]

    • Well, it worked in this movie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      Kinda sorta . . .

      More or less . . .

      I don't think we need to worry about the world being destroyed by natural disasters . . . I think we need to worry about the world being destroyed by wacky overly ambitious geoengineering projects.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Either way, there should be a national vote on it before starting because of the potential bigly consequences. Otherwise, representatives with catch-phrases like "drill baby drill!" will make the decision for you.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      What could possibly go wrong?
        - Trigger it.
        - Delay the eruption and make it worse because the pressure build up will be higher.
        - Make the eruption even more powerful that it would be without the water.

      It's a bomb waiting to go off, it's not a matter of if, just when. And it may just take an unusually snowy winter or a larger quake in the area to set it off. The result would make the Tsar Bomba seem insignificant.

    • NASA's proposed solution may very well trigger the damned thing.

      Relax, they're not the ESA.

    • NASA has proposed no such solution. This story has gone viral, even though it's essentially fiction. This is all based on one article published by the BBC. An interview with Brian Wilcox, an advisor on NASA's Near-Earth Object Planetary Defense council. Which has nothing to do with volcano's. The BBC story link is below. I've been unable to locate any reference to this project on NASA sites. All news stories that cite a source end up coming back to this one story. Apparently fact-checking is passe. aHEMag
  • Hunter gatherers most likely to survive cataclysm @joerogan @Graham__Hancock @SacredGeoInt http://bit.ly/2vBecTZ [bit.ly]
  • then why not tap it for hydrothermal energy to generate electricity using the heat (steam powered) turbines to turn generators, because they need the electricity to run the water pumps, and extra electricity can be put in to the grid
    • then why not tap it for hydrothermal energy to generate electricity using the heat (steam powered) turbines to turn generators, because they need the electricity to run the water pumps, and extra electricity can be put in to the grid

      Geo-steam power is one of those things that looks pretty awesome, but can be tough to implement the steam produced is pretty dirty. Perhaps someone coming up with a closed cycle ststem where the water never touches the hot rocks might work.

      That being said, messing with YellowStone would have to be approached with great caution. As in old risk-taker me wouldn't touch it.

      • by radja ( 58949 )

        The problem of dirty steam has already been solved, many nuclear reactors separate the water used as a moderator (which will be slightly radioactive) from the water used to cool it.

      • That being said, messing with YellowStone would have to be approached with great caution. As in old risk-taker me wouldn't touch it.

        I think your risk analysis is faulty. It's certain that if we leave Yellowstone alone it will eventually erupt in an explosion that will kill much of the US outright and cause a global climate catastrophe of such scale that it poses a serious existential threat. When that will happen is unknown. We do know that the caldera floor has risen nearly 60 cm in the past 15 years, an order of magnitude more than it did in the preceding 80 years, and the temperature of Yellowstone lake has risen by about 7C. Whether

        • You say "not planning to prevent it would be foolhardy in the extreme".

          Prevention may simply be impossible or cost prohibitive. It may already be too late to draw off the heat driving an eruption. It could be the right thing to do to deal with the Yellowstone disaster is to manage world population, migrate people away from the danger site, set up shelters with food caches, and wait out the environmental damage to the point where it makes sense to emerge and reconstruct. That may well be the necessary app

          • You say "not planning to prevent it would be foolhardy in the extreme".

            Prevention may simply be impossible or cost prohibitive

            Which you can't know unless you study and plan.

    • There are two massive issues with geothermal in the context of Yellowstone:
      • Geothermal involves dropping water down a hole and letting it blow out as steam - this means lots of earthquakes which might set it off.
      • Cooling it enough to longer be a hotspot would involve cooling a substantial depth, and volume decreases much more quickly than radius on a sphere, meaning a substantial loss of thermal mass if it works, and the magnetic field holding in the atmosphere is dependent upon that thermal mass keeping t
  • "Nuclear Winter" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @07:03PM (#55106607) Homepage Journal

    <SARCASM>
    Let it blow, and have the nuclear winter effect cancel out global warming!
    </SARCASM>

    • by Anonymous Coward

      BTW you should include a NOSARCASM block for browsers that don't support sarcasm.

      • <SARCASM> Let it blow, and have the nuclear winter effect cancel out global warming! </SARCASM>

        BTW you should include a NOSARCASM block for browsers that don't support sarcasm.

        Don't worry. All browsers understand this. Users (and /. moderators) on the other hand ...

        • by sconeu ( 64226 )

          Tags were added to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Some people here are apparently sarcasm-impaired.

    • Make the red states red again?
  • No expert on volcanoes beyond building a model one in elementary class. But have to wonder if injecting cooler water could cause the magma chamber to shift location. Potentially to a weaker area of the crust leading to an eruption. Or alternatively, even if the cold water strategy works perfectly, it could be setting the stage for an even worse eruption at some point in the future.

    Surely, the scientists have consider these possibilities among numerous others, but still seems overly risky given the lousy tra

  • Wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Spy Handler ( 822350 )

    Yellowstone supervolcano is a greater threat to life on Earth than any asteroid

    Any asteroid? Regardless of size? How about Ceres, 500+ miles in diameter? I'll bet that wipes out all humans and every animal species larger than a rat.

    Yellowstone on the other hand has erupted before, most recently 640,000 years ago, and at least some of the primitive hunter-gathering humans were able to survive it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      "Any asteroid? Regardless of size? How about Ceres, 500+ miles in diameter? I'll bet that wipes out all humans and every animal species larger than a rat."

      Yeah, what about Ceres? How much of a threat of impact it supposes?

      You know, we have quite a grasp on newtonian mechanics. When did you say the 500+ miles of Ceres are going to be anywhere near to Earth?

      Jupiter is even bigger than Ceres, you know... how great a threat of impact do you think Jupiter poses?

      Right. I think you are starting to understand no

  • NASA's Mission? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mkoenecke ( 249261 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @07:38PM (#55106767) Homepage
    I am a little confused here (actually, have been for some time). By the way, this is totally apart from the argument of whether this is a good idea or not - I express no opinion there. But I was under the impression that NASA stood for the "National Aeronautics and Space Administration." So I find all this research and involvement in climate issues and trying to defuse volcanoes rather puzzling: how exactly does that help with aeronautics and space? How does that fit in with NASA's purpose? (Sure, if the Earth is destroyed you won't see any space exploration. You won't see any taxation, either, but unless I'm missing something I have not heard reports of the IRS's anti-pollution initiatives.)
    • Re:NASA's Mission? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ToTheStars ( 4807725 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @08:15PM (#55106943)

      (I'm assuming you're honestly curious, and not trolling.)

      NASA's science directorate includes a division devoted to Planetary Science. Earth is a planet [citation needed], and while NASA's missions to study non-Earth planets get lots of press (and deservedly so), Earth is a useful point of comparison (one that is much easier to reach than any other). Studying Earth informs our understanding of other planets, and of course understanding our planet is very valuable to us who live on it (NASA's motto: "For the Benefit of All"). Additionally, it is very convenient to study Earth from space-based platforms, so I wouldn't begrudge NASA a seat at the table.

      You are correct in that there is also an element of self-preservation involved. The Planetary Defense Coordination Office devotes most of its attention to understanding threats from asteroids and developing response contingencies, but many of the effects of asteroid impact are similar to the effects of a supervolcano eruption (or nuclear war, and in fact we get data on meteor and meteorite impacts from their impacts and flashes tripping our nuclear detection sensors and satellites), so there is definitely a good reason for them to be involved in studying this phenomenon.

      (As an aside, there is sometimes tension between NASA and other agencies, such as NSF and NOAA, about whether a particular satellite or instrument is studying "planetary science" [NASA/NSF], "climate" [NASA/NSF/NOAA], or "weather" [NOAA], because of course they're all looking at the same thing: Earth. It can sometimes turn into a delicate dance of nomenclature, principal investigatorship, data priority and custody, and funding.)

      • Fair enough. Yes, Earth certainly is a planet. Again, this is not a value judgment about the issue, nor am I (at least, not consicously) trolling. The question is not "is studying the Earth a good thing" or even "is studying the Earth a good thing for the government to spend money on?" The question to me is why *NASA* is doing it. It still seems to me that claiming planetary science and climate studies are within the ambit of aeronautics and space exploration is at best a bit of a stretch. Especially when
        • Because the Planetary Defense Coordination Office is part of NASA. Which makes sense.

          Strictly speaking, threats from Earth aren't their mission, but this particular threat looks a whole lot like other threats they study that are their mission. They are as well equipped to study it as anyone, and it's closely-related to threats that are their mission... so it makes sense that they would do it.

        • NASA's doing Earth science because NASA's always done Earth science, since Explorer 1 (well, the Army launched it, but JPL built it). They are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, so anything that is done in flight could be said to fall under their purview. Human space flight is a major part of their portfolio (and I share your disappointment that there have been no humans beyond LEO since Apollo...I mostly work on small satellites, but I've done a little work on studying human planetary exp

          • Technically, NASA does Earth science because Congress tells NASA to do Earth science -- for example, the 1976 NASA authorization bill specifically directed NASA "to conduct a comprehensive program of research, technology and monitoring of the phenomena of the upper atmosphere," including developing satellites for that purpose.

            Your logic: "X is Z. Congress directed NASA to study X. Y is Z. Therefore Congress directed NASA to study Y." Sorry, doesn't work.

            NASA's objectives are defined by the 1958 act establis

      • Earth is a planet, and while NASA's missions to study non-Earth planets get lots of press (and deservedly so), Earth is a useful point of comparison (one that is much easier to reach than any other)

        By that reasoning, NASA could justify anything and everything they want to do on Earth.

        It can sometimes turn into a delicate dance of nomenclature, principal investigatorship, data priority and custody, and funding.)

        Let's simplify that "delicate dance" by just making the NASA budget $0.

      • by Rolgar ( 556636 )

        Considering an explosion would have a significant impact on the atmosphere, and the first A of NASA is Aeronautics which has to do with Atmosphere (hence, NASA's involvement in climate research), it seem there is a tie in.

  • Theory: NASA is more likely to make it to Mars in 2017 than pull this off by 2117.

    250 Tm^3 of magma at ~1000C with a 35% delta (call it 350C and roughly 1.5kJ/kg*C) and magma at ~2600 kg/m^3

    250 Tm^3 * 2600 kg/m^3 = 650 quadrillion kg (650*10^18g) * 350C * 1.5J/G*C = ~.34*10^24 J (.34YJ)

    3.6 kJ = 1Wh so ~94 EWh (94,000 PWh) in thermal energy proposed being removed by NASA.

    The world total primary energy supply is 155 PWh (wiki TPES). Do the math. What NASA proposes is significantly beyond the abilities of h

    • by torkus ( 1133985 )

      Aww crap. I misconverted km^3 to 1,000 m^3 when it should be 1,000,000,000 m^3 (250 billion cubic km of molten rock from the article)

      250 billion km^3 is 250 billion billion m^3 (not 250 billion thousand) so my answer is off by a factor of a million.

      On the bright side, it makes NASA's idea even stupider.

      • I can't resist after all the crap NASA got about that polar lander.

      • Yellowstone is about 10000 km2 and the magma chamber is probably about 10km high, so the total volume is around 100000 km3 = 1e5 km3 or 1e14 m3 or 100 Tm3. So your original volume estimate is about right.

      • I thought that an earlier article said that the time frame on this whole thing was a THOUSAND years, pretty sure I read that. I think by that time they could do something much more interesting to prevent this whole thing... Besides, they will probably look back on us and think "what a bunch of stupid children, they didn't even begin to understand what they were f'ing with..."

      • Aww crap. I misconverted km^3 to 1,000 m^3 when it should be 1,000,000,000 m^3 (250 billion cubic km of molten rock from the article)

        Ya, the total volume of earth is a bit over 1 trillion cubic km (In fact Mars is only 163 billion cubic km.) The article is misleading; 250 billion cubic km is probably all the magma on earth, not just Yellowstone. From wikipedia :

        According to analysis of earthquake data in 2013, the magma chamber is 80 km (50 mi) long and 20 km (12 mi) wide. It also has 4,000 km3 (960 cu mi) underground mass, of which 6–8% is filled with molten rock. This is about 2.5 times bigger than scientists had previously imagined it to be; however, scientists believe that the proportion of molten rock in the chamber is much too low to allow another supereruption.

        Also, I think your formula assumes that they want to cool the magma to 0 degrees, which wouldn't be necessary.

    • Interesting estimate, but you're missing a key idea or two.

      How fast is energy coming in? You need to pull energy out at that rate or faster to keep temperature static or cooling. What's that power level? W, not Wh. You don't need to cool all that rock, you just have to keep it from heating it up more to the point where it blows.

      Well, and even this might be oversimplified. At issue might be where the heat is. If you cool enough at the surface so that the rock is strong enough to keep the stuff below co

      • Interesting estimate, but you're missing a key idea or two.

        How fast is energy coming in? You need to pull energy out at that rate or faster to keep temperature static or cooling. What's that power level? W, not Wh. You don't need to cool all that rock, you just have to keep it from heating it up more to the point where it blows.

        Well, and even this might be oversimplified. At issue might be where the heat is. If you cool enough at the surface so that the rock is strong enough to keep the stuff below contained, the artificially "cold cap" may keep the hotter stuff tamped indefinitely. It may be that the failure mechanism is that the surface eventually heats up and becomes weak, releasing what is below. If the surface rock is cooled artificially quickly, it may be much more effective at keeping the hot stuff below contained, and that heat may dissipate more broadly and non-destructively indefinitely.

        Or there may be some local feature in the crust or mantle that causes pressure to build up, and introducing an artificial cap causes that pressure to build up faster or higher. That might make for a bigger boom :)

        Maybe. So the actual scale of an effective project might be far lower than your numbers seem to indicate, I simply don't know, I doubt anyone knows right now.

        What's more, the cost equation may be more favorable than you think. Remember the power extracted has value, possibly justifying hundreds of billions or trillions of investment especially when balanced against worldwide destruction as a consequence. Again, not known.

        --PeterM

  • Band aid's can be good but why not think of something more productive like actually triggering an eruption in a controlled manor to relieve pressure. If you have a blister sometimes it's best to prick it with a needle to preserve the skin when you know it's going to keep getting bigger and then rupture.

    • How could we possibly be certain that we could control a Yellowstone eruption? The first attempt to "prick" Yellowstone could trigger a much larger eruption and wipe out human civilization. Even if you could test various methods on smaller volcanoes with (relative) safety, there's no guarantee that the same methods would work the same on Yellowstone's scale.

      I think it would be better to set up several large geo-thermal power stations surrounding it and export cheap electricity to other states. It would be l

  • by Drishmung ( 458368 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 @10:07PM (#55107395)
    As can be seen from this list [wikipedia.org], Yellowstone is only one of many, and has been relatively quiet, unlike Tambora [wikipedia.org] and Taupo [wikipedia.org] which have both gone up comparatively recently.
  • I thought 'supervolcano' was another term for 45...

  • Even though they're NASA and have nothing to do with geophysical stuff, the sad fact is that the population expects them to come up with the answers. Bruce Willis' conversation in Armageddon sums it up:

    Harry Stamper: What's your contingency plan?
    Truman: Contingency plan?
    Harry: Your backup plan. You gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?
    Truman: No, we don't have a back up plan, this is, uh...
    Harry: And this is the best that you-that the government, the US government could come up with? I mean, you're NA

  • There are about 20 known super volcanoes on Earth, NASA says. A major eruption occurs about once every 100,000 years. And these odds are much higher than a repeat of an Earth-changing comet impact of the type that wiped out the dinosaurs.

    If it happens every 100000 years, then logically it can't be a "greater threat to life on earth than any asteroid".

  • ...which will defuse the volcano....OR cause it to erupt.

    I'm not even sure where to begin with criticising this: is it that we're mucking around with forces we can barely understand, much less control? Or is it that the reason for this is ostensibly to protect the earth's climate - not the hundreds of millions of lives that might be lost in such a cataclysm?

    Please, "scientists" don't do this.

  • Finally, a good (helpful/positive) use for fracking technology.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (9) Dammit, little-endian systems *are* more consistent!

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