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BBC: Yellowstone Volcano’s Size Underestimated


For a change of pace, here’s something beautiful, fascinating, and, of course, a bit scary.  That’s Mother Nature for you!   After you ogle the photos, the writeup is pretty interesting.  (Excerpts below.)


Yellowstone supervolcano ‘even more colossal’

By Rebecca Morelle

10 December 2013      Last updated at 20:36 ET

Yellowstone hot spring Hot springs are surface evidence of the huge magma chamber that sits beneath Yellowstone

The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in the US is far larger than was previously thought, scientists report.

A study shows that the magma chamber is about 2.5 times bigger than earlier estimates suggested.

A team found the cavern stretches for more than 90km (55 miles) and contains 200-600 cubic km of molten rock.

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If the Yellowstone supervolcano were to blow today, the consequences would be catastrophic.

The last major eruption, which occurred 640,000 years ago, sent ash across the whole of North America, affecting the planet’s climate.

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Yellowstone ash plume It is unclear when the Yellowstone supervolcano will erupt again


The team found that the magma chamber was colossal. Reaching depths of between 2km and 15km (1 to 9 miles), the cavern was about 90km (55 miles) long and 30km (20 miles) wide.

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  1. John Galt says:

    What many people don’t seem to understand is that when the Yellowstone supervolcano does erupt it is likely to cause major disruption through ashfall over the entire North American continent, have a global effect that will make Mount Pinatubo look like a fart.

    It is also unclear how long such an event would go on for.

    In all probability we will be long dead before anything happens.

  2. I watched an old BBC “Horizon” science show on this matter (back in the day when the BBC had serious science shows).

    There was also a programme (British spelling) predicting what would happen if a storm surge hit New Orleans – and a couple of years later it happened.

    Where to be in the Continental United States case of the Super Volcano goes up – well South Carolina is protected by distance and the mountains, but it will get cold even in Key West at the extreme end of Florida.

    Of course, as usual, the mass of the interior Australia will be unaffected – indeed a colder climate (if there is more rain as well – a big “if”) would benefit the Outback.

    The interior of Australia – where nothing geological has happened for many millions of years. Geologically speaking the most boring (in the sense of lack of events – there are lots of interesting ancient rocks) area inhabited by humans.

    People sitting in Alice Springs – telling stories about a place called “America” in much the same way that the Greeks told stories about lost Atlantis.

    Well it would mean that I was wasting my time worrying about the Welfare State and the Credit Bubble financial system.

    The great cosmic joke upon us all.

    “So Paul you thought you were going to be eaten by cannibals after the financial collapse – you did not guess that you would freeze to death as the weather in Britain suddenly turned to that of northern Norway”.

    There is no good way to die – but going to bed and freezing to death in one’s sleep is one of the least bad ways.

  3. Lynne says:

    I have a fascination with volcanoes as many of us do. However, I’m not overly eager to see this particular one go up. Of course there is a super volcano (caldera) almost on our own doorstep, the Phlegraean Fields in Italy. Not as big as Yellowstone perhaps but certainly more of a direct threat to us because Europe is more densely populated. There has been ground deformation over the last few decades, not as much as Yellowstone but enough to have locals worried. I think I’d be worried too if I lived on top of that or anywhere within 500 miles of it..

  4. Alice Springs Australia for you then Lynne.

    “What are volcanoes?”

    “What are earthquakes?”

    “What is cold?”

    But the place must be such a bore…..

  5. Silly me – being in a desert (a thousand miles from the sea) Alice will have cold nights.

  6. John Galt says:

    “…Alice will have cold nights.”

    Not if Bruce has anything to do about it she won’t. :-)

    Annual Temp range for Alice Spring

    Actually it does look a tad chilly during the Winter nights. We don’t get that here in Penang.

  7. Lynne says:

    You forgot an important question, Paul.

    What is rain?

    I’m not keen on eating sand or excessive heat. I’ll take my chances with good old rain sodden Blighty. :D

  8. Mr Ed says:

    So this supervolcano is the greatest extant ‘threat’ to Obamacare, I take it?

    When they come to demand the national debt is repaid, and they find that they repossessing magma and ash, there will be great disappointment, with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Let us all remember to laugh at the pretences of Princes, Prime Ministers, Presidents and their panjandrums.

  9. NickM says:

    So tops about 40mm a month rain. The bludgers (I’m sure that is the term) ought to try living between Manchester and the Peak District as I do. It has many things to recommend it and looks lovely when it isn’t pissing down. Alas it is pissing down most of the time. Oh, and those Bertrams at BT Opensource can’t be arsed to stick us on fibre. Or Virgin. Cu all the way baby! Sky, my provider (telly, phone, internet), told me they could reduce the bill if I was on fibre but that was out of their hands – it is. And get this. Not only would it cost less but it would be much quicker. I fucking hate BT with a passion. Utter gits. It’s not even as if I live a long way from an exchange and it’s not even as if they have to dig the fucking road up. The Cu comes in on overhead wires anyway. Utter cunts of the first water sitting smugly on a pseudo-monopoly of dirt. When I briefly worked for them I got this in training, “People like BT… people are reassured by BT… they want to use BT… that is your job”. One of my fellow inductees piped up, “So just market inertia then?” Trust me it was. I guess it still is.

    And many of the customers were comsomething. I’d get calls like, “I’ve dropped my ‘phone in the blender can you send an engineer round?”. When I told them that for under GBP10 they could just buy a phone from Curry’s etc. they were amazed. That is the extent to which the nationalised BT mindset lingered both within BT and it’s customers. Folks were amazed when I imparted the arcane knowledge that telephones could be bought from shops and just plugged in.

    And as to the rest of the training… Me and another fellow inductee almost dissolved into hysterics over an attempt at describing analogue v digital. It was beyond risible.

  10. John Galt says:

    I’ll take that challenge Nick

    Analogue is like banging round rocks together and digital is like banging square rocks together.

    Excellent analogy though I say so myself… :-)

  11. Mr Ed says:

    Nick, I nominate your post for gratuitous dig of the month, I would doubt that even Mr Marks would thrown in a dig at the Economist in such a tangential manner.

    If it is any comfort, I had a run-in with BT a few years ago, who insisted (from a call centre somewhere south of the Hindu Kush) that my phone was working, when it wasn’t and I pointed out that I was phoning them from my village phone box as a consequence. I then went without a landline for 2 years as a protest.

    My conversations with BT were not entirely unlike this Downfall parody.

    And I recall the days, as a child, when we had to share a phone line with our boozy neighbours down the street under BT’s monopoly. It made for some hilarious listening in though.

    I don’t think that there is any supervolcano lurking under BT.

  12. RAB says:

    Nick, in the early 70′s I was much younger and less worldly wise than I am now. I was talking to a guy I knew from school in a pub, who I hadn’t seen for quite a while. I asked him… “so what are you doing these days?”… He said “Telephone Sales”. I said “really? odd thing to do, I thought you got one free from BT?” He gave me a funny look.

  13. RAB says:

    Oh yes, and back on topic… When Yellowstone blows it’s going to make Santorini look like popping a zit. Hasn’t Big Al Gore and his climate scientist experts devised a a way to bleed off some of the magma to lessen the pressure yet? Other than taxation that is? And what of the poor wildlife? What will happen to Yogi and Boo Boo?

  14. John Galt says:

    @RAB, you’re thinking of a different park. That’s Jellystone, which is a little further North and home of the lesser spotted pickernickbasquet.

    I seem to recall that the British Telecom’s predecessor, the GPO was so incompetent that they could only manage billing quarterly, all phones had to be rented from them and it took 9-months to get a phone line installed.

    Now that was what I would call Marxism.

  15. Mr Ed says:

    The Federal Ark, that’s what RAB, with Spotted Owls but no lumberjacks, naturally. A bit like the Golgafrinchams in the Hitchhikers Guide, load the entire useless third of your population onto a ship and land them somewhere else at a safe distance, but Europe has already tried that :-)

    I would suggest Argentina as a fun destination, more government than a Fed could shake a stick at.

  16. Julie near Chicago says:

    Mr. Ed, please don’t say things like that while I’m trying to drink hot coffee! :>))))!!!!

  17. Lynne says:

    Nick I can’t get fibre either. It took several years of campaigning just to get broadband. BT promised we’d get fibred up twelve months after Infinity launched. They lied. What a surprise…

  18. NickM says:

    Back on track…

  19. Julie near Chicago says:

    Nick and Lynne, please let me know which of you gets fibre first. Lucy and I are in the midst of packing and will be ready to go as soon we get the word. A life without plenty of rain and reliable high-speed Internet is no life at all. (Lucy will bring biscuits as a hostess gift for Ruby, if we go to live with Lynne. Nick, should we end up with you and your Missus, you will have to give us a hint as to what Timmy would like.)

    Moving on, do you realize that Mr. Lehrer refers in his gay and uplifting song to “the 3 billion of us”? And that would have been only 55 or 60 years ago. Bweeding wike wabbits, we is. Or were. (The latest prediction I read was that population is going to peak at 8 billion. I wonder how they know.) Of course our Mr. Gates has some sort of ambition or plan to decrease the global population by some 90%, which he thinks will solve some sort of problem. I’m sure the decreased will have been happy to have contributed to increasing the health of the planet.

    I’d sort of like to see the idea tried out first on the Pigeons in the Park, as per Mr. L.’s advice, though. If G-d had wanted pigeons in cities, He wouldn’t have invented, well, um, you know….

  20. NickM says:

    Before I stuck this up the 3bn figure had struck me. Really did. It seems tops is a totally sustainable (despite what the Greens say…) peak at 10bn-ish around mid century. I like people. More people, more stuff done! Good. Oddly enough population stats seem very reliable. Even more oddly enough they are from the UN.

    But more people is good. Obviously I’m talking about me, you, RAB and Scarlett Johansson’s bottom and such and not Idi Amin but… more folks I like. I like people, mainly.

  21. NickM says:

    Julie, God didn’t invent the BB-gun. She (my wife) seems OK with me having a bow or sword but not a gun to nix squirrels. I want both a blunderbuss (for cheap maiming) and an F-16 though a T-38 would pass mustard. I’m not allowed the first (for shame! by my missus) and the second is about $2.5m which is a bit out of my price-range but if loving readers are prepared and with Crimble upon us then…

  22. RAB says:

    You want an F-16 to nix squirrels? In a village like yours? “Oh Mr Waldo, think what the neighbours will say? Think of the neighbours!” DT. UMW.

    As to the Mathusian Green fantasy… How come the world population keeps increasing while we are supposedly running out of stuff to sustain us? Surely the cull they earnestly desire will be brought about by famine soon enough, all they have to do is wait, but it just never seems to happen, does it?

    It is well known that the rich Western world is declining in population. Family size stabilises when you don’t have to have 7 sons and daughters to help eke out a subsistance existence, you can afford machines. So instead of subsidising the Third World and giving them free stuff, we should make them rich by trading with them. Simples.

  23. John Galt says:

    “It is well known that the rich Western world is declining in population.”

    Although there is a correlation, it is not wealth that leads to population decline (although it helps), but education and especially education of women. This is why the Taliban have such a hard line against education of women.

    It comes down to the old proletarian argument again, if you are a 3rd world farmer, then you need to breed yourself a nice little workforce that can provide for you in retirement. Once you get past the point of subsistence agriculture, this becomes unnecessary and to a certain extent counter-productive.

    It is also one of the issues with welfare in the west, since dole bludgers get paid by the nipper and housing allocated by family size, then we are effectively subsidizing the breeding of more welfare based nippers. If anything is a perverse incentive, that certainly is, which is why welfare should be based upon a maximum of 2-nippers and all the rest you have to pay for yourself (but access to family planning obviously)

    That would see the rates of childbirth in the west plummet as well as acting as a disincentive for economic migration.

  24. Julie near Chicago says:

    Well then, with Health Fraud now GUARANTEED fully in place and not-working, I expect our population to commence rising instanter.

  25. John Galt says:

    Health fraud is only accelerating the collapse; the combined deficit and debt levels have guaranteed that for decades. It’s just a matter of time which western country actually explodes first.

    I’m guessing it probably won’t be the US, but either France or Italy.

    In that respect I am a committed Marksist (of the Paul variety).

  26. Julie near Chicago says:

    That’s what I mean, JG. As soon as Health Fraud really kicks in we will all be destitute, so we can start having babies again.

    I am not really knowledgeable as to who is really in the worst shape, so I defer to all Marksists on board.

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