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Yellowstone Supervolcano Larger Than First Thought

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the even-superer dept.

Earth 451

drewtheman writes "New studies of the plumbing that feeds the Yellowstone supervolcano in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park shows the plume and the magma chamber under the volcano are larger than first thought and contradicts claims that only shallow hot rock exists. University of Utah research professor of geophysics Robert Smith led four separate studies that verify a plume of hot and molten rock at least 410 miles deep that rises at an angle from the northwest."

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451 comments

You think global warming is a problem? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30444910)

Wait until the global cooling due to the super volcano blowing!! Cool!!!

Re:You think global warming is a problem? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30444970)

Shut the fuck up you god damn nigger dick eater.

Re:You think global warming is a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30444980)

How about just the "fiery death of hundreds of millions of people"?

Of course, by the time this goes bang, the US will hopefully have developed a solar rejuvenator.. i mean volcanic

Re:You think global warming is a problem? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445038)

It is scientifically provable that global warming is a hoax.

Re:You think global warming is a problem? (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445664)

If that goes off, there are at least two reasons I won't be worrying about global warming anymore.

Multitalented! (2, Funny)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445028)

University of Utah research professor of geophysics Robert Smith led four separate studies

Abstract:

The first time I saw lightning strike, I saw it underground.

Re:Multitalented! (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445478)


Okay, what???

Re:Multitalented! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445636)

Robert Smith is the singer of The Cure, "The first time I saw lightning strike, I saw it underground." is a line in a Cure song ("Hot Hot Hot" I believe.)

Re:Multitalented! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445564)

I hear he loves cats too.

Re:Multitalented! (1)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445842)

I wonder if he fought Mecha-Barbara Streisand while he was doing those studies.

I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445042)

and probably seeing the sun.

If that goes off, waiting for a world killing asteroid won't be necessary.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (4, Insightful)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445120)

Yellowstone has gone off in the past and it didn't kill off all the large land animals, sure it screwed up North America for a whiel and lowered global temps several degrees, but it isn't the end of the world.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (2, Insightful)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445166)

Meh, doesn't have to kill off everything to doom the human race.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445186)

In what weird alternative reality is screwing up North America not the end of the world? You're either with us, or with the volcanoes.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (1)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445882)

Let's send all the volcanoes to secret prisons in eastern Europe. In fact, we'd better pick up the earthquake faults just to be sure. And ban nail clippers again.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445350)

People seem to feel that any major setback in our society means that the world and humanity are both done. Even if society totally collapsed, there would be enough information left over for people to rebuild eventually. Sure, things would be a mess for a while. Even if it took a few hundred years for us to bounce back, that would be a tiny blip on geological and historical time. We are social primates that gravitate toward organization, society would rebuild itself eventually as long as there are enough humans left alive to repopulate the Earth. With the amount of places we have to hide and how wily we apes are capable of being (particularly when it comes down to survival), it would take something quite a bit more catastrophic than this to wipe us out. In short, the supervolcano will really suck if it goes off, but it is far from a game ender for us (although it certainly would be curtains for the U.S., the global economy, and western civilization as we know it).

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (4, Insightful)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445574)

Even if society totally collapsed, there would be enough information left over for people to rebuild eventually.

The problem as I see it is that the Earth we've created isn't the Earth it was 100 years ago. Asssume for a moment that the population is reduced to 10% of what it is now. Would there be enough resources to keep all of our nuclear reactors, chemical plants, etc from leaking unprecidented amounts of poison into the environment. While the orignal volcano/virus/starvation/flood/PickYourCatastrophe probably wouldn't finish us off, perhaps the slow rotting of our own creations would.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445806)

So far I don't think we've done or created anything that comes near to the effect of natural disasters such as a volcano or meteor strike or tsuname or... If humans are gone, the nuclear reactors left won't have any significant effect on wildlife I think, other than a few fishes with 3 eyes.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (2, Informative)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445890)

From what I hear, life is doing BETTER around Chernobyl than in other comparable, non Nuclear Disaster areas. This is probably due to the lack of humans in the area, but it goes to show how resilient life is -- living things really, really, really want to keep living and will do whatever it takes.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445808)

The amount of poison that all of our chemical plants and reactors would be able to put into the atmosphere is absolutely nothing compared to the Earth's machinery for correcting such things.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (2, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445884)

If this went off and killed, say 65% of the North American population (I won't go 90% because not even an all out nuclear exchange with the USSR would have killed 90%). Yes, there would be enough resources to keep things in check.

Chemical plants aren't the issue, its the nuclear cooling ponds from what I've read and seen on TV. There isn't much around Yellowstone to be consumed by lava, its going to be the ash fall out that is the real killer here. I have faith, the big chemical, nuclear and power companies have alot of plans written up and I believe they'll secure things to their best ability.

Once the ash falls there will be record agricultural output for years without need of fertilizer, the collapse of the fishing industry will lead to resurgent ocean stocks.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445982)

if i had mod points, i would have modded you up. I've never thought about that. thanks for making me think.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445800)

Every time I played Sim Earth and dropped an asteroid/volcano/some other catastrophe on the primate population of my little earth, those damned Ducks rose and took over!

Man will decline and the Mallards will rule!

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (1)

Monsieur Canard (766354) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446090)

Eddie Izzard was right!

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445644)

Ok, I never heard that one before. How long exactly is a whiel?

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445816)

Definately will be the end of the world as we know it, and at a far much larger scale that it happens every second. If you thought that Katrina, 9/11, WWII, black plage or most (all?) events in the written history changed everything, just wait till this happens.

Re: I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446108)

sure it screwed up North America for a whiel and lowered global temps several degrees, but it isn't the end of the world.

In fact, it will actually help with the global warming problem!

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (1)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446130)

Well, it sure is good to know that not "all the large land animals" will necessarily be killed off. I think it's a good bet that such an eruption would mean at least the end of human civilisation (if not human extinction).

But no, the Earth would still keep orbiting the sun, if that comforts you ;-)

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445730)

My thoughts exactly. This thing will be taking half of American soil with it. I'm thinking America will look more like Europe afterwards.

Re:I'm gonna miss yellowstone.. (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446004)

You should stop getting your science facts from news outlets.
It won't destroy the world, or even come close to killing a significant percentage of people.
It might kill, maybe, 100 Million people with another 20 million as the results of disruption of service.
And that's worse case, OMG I can't believe we were this unlucky scenario.

Unless of course we are bombarded by magic neutrinos from the sun.

More evidence (3, Funny)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445044)

Save this before it is mysteriously "disapeared" from the Word Wide Web. Haven't I always warned that the Italians were planting Volcanic melten rock underneath our Homeland in order to spread their Italian islamo-communist terror campaign through seismic blackmail?

Is there any way to avoid disaster? (2, Interesting)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445072)

IF this thing will eventually blow (spewing movie credits all over the northern hemisphere, some might say), is there a way to stop it from happening? Can the volcano be "tapped" to allow the molten rock to ooze out and relieve some of the pressure? Can underground formations be "cracked" with explosives to, perhaps, add additional room underground for all this hot rock?

While we all go on about climate change, this is something that (from what I understand) could pretty much wipe out North America, and may go off without warning (any help here? I'm not a geologist).

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (5, Informative)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445136)

Nope. The energies are so large that we have NO way to tap it. It has more energy than every single power plant on the face of the planet.

Maybe in 400 to 500 years we will have developed the science. Right now, all we can do is pray.

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (5, Informative)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445308)

More info. "The Yellowstone Caldera was formed by a massive volcanic explosion some 640,000 years ago that was 2500 times the size of Mount St. Helens. That is about 875000 Megatons (of TNT). This would have caused a mass global die-off as well. " [statemaster.com]

A megaton (of TNT) is 4.184 × 1015 joules = 4.184 petajoules . You average Hydrogen bomb has about one megaton. The world has only about 70,000 nuclear bombs (rough estimate, USSR has about 16,000, the USA has about 33,000 - and most are much less powerful than an Hydrogen bomb). So the previous eruption was equal to more than 10 times ALL the existing nuclear bombs.

Goddamnit Nature! (1)

ZarathustraDK (1291688) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445874)

Why did you give America the worlds reset-button?!

What were you thinking?!?!

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (2, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446102)

The US has 9,000 and Russia about 13,000 and about 23,000 total warheads.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons [wikipedia.org]

Nearly all the US warheads are "hydrogen" bombs, fission-fusion. The most common yield for American bombs is 330-350kt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermonuclear_bomb#Hydrogen_bombs [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W78 [wikipedia.org]

Cruise missile warheads are lower, 10-150kt.

The US no longer has a 1mt warhead

Russian warheads are higher yield do to inaccurate missiles, most seem to be 500-600kt.

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (2, Informative)

Akaihiryuu (786040) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445508)

Besides, you know what happens if you try to tap a supervolcano! http://stargate.wikia.com/wiki/Inferno [wikia.com] We don't have an Ancient ship to save us from it either.

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445620)


Now if it were the case that you had to tap away all of that power, then perhaps it can't be done. But presumably, you only have to tap it away as fast as it is accumulating. We don't mind if it is only 100 Somethings away from blowing, if its only accumulating at 0.5 Somethings per day and we can let off that energy at 0.6 Somethings per day.

Disclaimer: I have no idea what the 'Something's are.

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445878)

Right now, all we can do is pray.

Tossing a few virgins into the caldera probably wouldn't hurt either.

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (1)

Aeros (668253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445262)

we will have to call in Tommy Lee Jones to stop it. He has experience with this type of natural disaster.

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (2)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445914)

If this blows, we should run instead. Taking a van with John Cusack as driver will be safe enough, even if we are in right in front of the supervolcano when it explodes.

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (2, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445436)

My understanding is that it's less likely to go boom than in previous explosions. This is because the hotspot now sits under a much thicker crust (the rocky mountains). But as I saw one geologist quoted, "I wouldn't bet on it either way".

Maybe there will just be additional pressure built up over more time, with a bigger explosion this time around...

Anyway, to get back to the idea of pressure being vented... this is currently happening to some extent as fumaroles vent, geysers erupt, hills rise and subside. The question is whether the release of energies is outpaced by the buildup of energy in the system... and the answer is probably no.

So how would we institute a controlled release of energy? Drill giant holes and pump air through to bleed off heat? If you tap the volcano, considering the pressures involved, you'd likely just precipitate an explosion.

My suggestion, considering the timescales involved, is to ignore it as anything other than a curiosity. If it blows, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye. Otherwise, just keep living life.

Re:Is there any way to avoid disaster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445744)

While we all go on about climate change, this is something that (from what I understand) could pretty much wipe out North America, and may go off without warning (any help here? I'm not a geologist).

But let's remember the timescale. This doesn't erupt once in every few decades. Or every few centuries. Or every few millenias. Or every few tens of thousands of years (as far as I've understood). There is extremely minimal chance that it would blow when us or our children live. After that... Who knows, maybe WW3 has killed us all off. If not, we might have the technology to handle the problem.

Sure, we shouldn't leave problems to future generations if we simply can avoid that. However, there is absolutely nothing we can do to this with modern technology. When combined with the fact that it is extremely unlikely to become an issue before technology has advanced well outside the scope of what we can now predict, it's pretty OK to just ignore it.

Controlled release? (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445074)

So is it even theoretically possible to, say, dig a big shaft into it to slowly release the pressure under controlled conditions over decades or centuries?

Re:Controlled release? (1)

Tlosk (761023) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445122)

Theoretically? Yes. Realistically? Not in our lifetime.

Re:Controlled release? (4, Insightful)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445134)

So is it even theoretically possible to, say, dig a big shaft into it to slowly release the pressure under controlled conditions over decades or centuries?

Likely, if you forget about Murphy...

Re:Controlled release? (3, Interesting)

JDeane (1402533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445154)

A better solution would be to install several large geothermal power generation plants...

But this would "ruin" the park.

Ahh well who wants to save the world and get nearly free electricity out of the deal.

Re:Controlled release? (5, Insightful)

Aeros (668253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445276)

wouldn't the volcano blowing kinda ruin the park as well? im just sayin..

Re:Controlled release? (1)

JDeane (1402533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445352)

wouldn't the volcano blowing kinda ruin the park as well? im just sayin..

Yeah I agree with that totally lol

Personally I think it would be great to stick as many huge geothermal power plants as would fit on the thing and suck as much juice from it as possible.

Re:Controlled release? (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446076)

Personally I think it would be great to stick as many huge geothermal power plants as would fit on the thing and suck as much juice from it as possible.

Which would only tap a tiny fraction of the energy theer anyway. Whilst an erruption would take out the power plants if it did errupt there probably wouldn't be much further need for them.

Re:Controlled release? (0, Redundant)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445392)

But this would "ruin" the park.

Right. Because the volcano wouldn't do that when it explodes.

Re:Controlled release? (4, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445242)

Probably not. Imagine this as being like a new oil well... A real gusher, stuff flies up hundreds of feet into the air.

Now imagine that oil is hot enough to melt the rock you're standing on, and the machinery you just used to dig the well.

Oh, and there's 800,000 cubic miles of it. (rounded from D x W x W (410*45*45) from article, not accurate).

Re:Controlled release? (4, Funny)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445542)

Ok, you've convinced me.

Where do we start the drilling?

Re:Controlled release? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445848)

Probably not. Imagine this as being like a new oil well... A real gusher, stuff flies up hundreds of feet into the air. Now imagine that oil is hot enough to melt the rock you're standing on, and the machinery you just used to dig the well. Oh, and there's 800,000 cubic miles of it. (rounded from D x W x W (410*45*45) from article, not accurate).

Drill baby drill.

S. Palin.

Re:Controlled release? (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445396)

Thank God, the US has developed a device that will penertrate rock, currently we can not reach a depth of 410 miles, but here is a good reason to try and the Russians and Chinese will no be able to bitch.

Dig? (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445416)

We can drill 12km down and that is a very small hole indeed, the distances involved here are a bit larger. And that is DRILL, not dig. If you drilled into lava/magma the drillbit would melt, get stuck and the hole be plugged with your drill. Even if could drill a hollow hole, the moment the magma flowed in it would cool and get stuck on its way up. It would be like trying to bleed to dead from a needle puncture. (which doesn't happen by the way, before I start a new internet scare)

Digging that deep, well there are mines that go down 1km and seems to be the limit for now.

So no, not really. There might be ways in the future, but for now we just have to hope that future has a change to happen.

Re:Dig? (4, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446006)

You don't have to drill till its hot enough for your drillbit to melt.

You just have to drill till it's hot enough to turn pressurized water into superheated steam. Then you have a source of energy.

The other option of course is to drill without a drillbit:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090912144809.htm [sciencedaily.com]

Pretty deep (4, Interesting)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445082)

That is pretty deep, it extends well below the earths crust which is about 30 miles thick below the continents, so it goes well into the mantle of the earth. This could be a similar hotspot feature to hawaii, however may manifest in a different way on the thicker continental crust compared to the oceanic crust beneath hawaii. Other similar features of this kind are the New England Hotspot which produces a series of volcanos in Quebec which have become series of hills including the one Montreal is named after. That hotspot is now inactive and off the coast of africa (the crust moved, not the hotspot).

Re:Pretty deep (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445756)

Interesting. Makes me wonder if Olympus Mons really is the biggest volcano. I mean, if you looked at it from the side and took into account how deep the source went, instead of just looking at the height measured from the air-exposed base.

Release Some Steam (1)

Entropy98 (1340659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445090)

Given that if this thing blows it could do some serious damage to the country, maybe we should start drilling some holes to release some of the pressure. The cheap geothermal energy would be a bonus.

Re:Release Some Steam (1)

geeper (883542) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445198)

Wouldn't that be like sticking a needle in a shaken up can of coke?

Re:Release Some Steam (1)

JDeane (1402533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445248)

Its not just our country that would be in ruins. There would be world wide famine and health issues to deal with, possibly plague and a small ice age.

I think the time line lines up with this thing blowing and the ice ages... (it has blown up several times in the past)

Very scary no matter where you are living.

Re:Release Some Steam (1)

robert899 (769631) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445288)

Given that if this thing blows it could do some serious damage to the country, maybe we should start drilling some holes to release some of the pressure. The cheap geothermal energy would be a bonus.

Environmentalists group A won't let you drill.
Environmentalists group B won't let you string power lines from the geothermal plant.
They'll keep it tied up in court until North America is buried 10m deep in ash.

Re:Release Some Steam (1)

JDeane (1402533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445530)

So very very true, its always a shame that sometimes we hurt the things we are trying to protect.

Re:Release Some Steam (1)

Caffinated (38013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445952)

Wow, that was quick. Blame "environmentalists" for foiling plans to "release the pressure"? The fact that we don't have anywhere near the technology to impact something of this scale and depth shouldn't matter apparently. Perhaps you need to stop listening to fox"news" so much.

Re:Release Some Steam (4, Interesting)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445372)

This thing goes down 410 miles. Geothermal wells go maybe a mile. Even the deepest well in the world is only about 20 miles. I doubt we're going to release any pressure with even our best efforts.

Re:Release Some Steam (1)

JDeane (1402533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445484)

No pressure released but the heat would be harvested and thus releasing pressure in that way,

No even if you built 100 power plants on the thing it would not drain it dry (there is a massive amount of energy there) but I think it might delay it a bit.

Just saying that a delay would be best until we can get off this rock and up our chances a bit lol

Re:Release Some Steam (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445470)

If this thing blows, it wouldn't do "serious" damage to the "country"; it would catastrophic damage to North America, pretty much wiping out some 400 million people within a few hours. The United States, Canada, and Mexico would no longer be going concerns. The resulting power vacuum in world affairs would have dire and impossible to predict results for the rest of the planet (keep in mind that much of the US military would still exist and various admirals and generals might have different ideas of how to proceed with their troops and the nuclear weapons they would now have sole control over). With the loss of New York as a financial center and the US dollar as the global reserve currency, the global economic system would collapse overnight. Oh, and any farmers in the Northern Hemisphere could forget about their crops for a few years, resulting in famine and resource wars in much of the remaining world. It would be pretty much all the bad parts of the bible.

In short, the Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans who died in the first wave would be the lucky ones.

Re:Release Some Steam (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445920)

With the loss of New York as a financial center and the US dollar as the global reserve currency, the global economic system would collapse overnight.

I got some news for you, dude...

Re:Release Some Steam (3, Funny)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446022)

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?

Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.

Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!

Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...

Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!

Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats
living together... mass hysteria!

So many extinction level events yet we linger (4, Insightful)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445138)

at the precipice of become spacefaring people. Mega volcano? Mega landslide in Hawaii? Defrosting Russian permafrost? Global warming? Comet? Meteor? Gamma ray burst? Solar flare?
Pick one and we're screwed. Sadly all we care about it the latest trinket to amuse our monkey brains while we imagine we are safe from all danger. somehow. maybe.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (1)

inKubus (199753) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445176)

Bacteria will survive and we'll be back again some other day. The wheel can be a ho, but the world keeps spinning around.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445978)

Except the earth has a shelf life, and the expiration date is approaching.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (1)

fmoc-86 (1279012) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446048)

Well, something could be back again some other day. But it's very unlikely it's us. That's not how it works: there's no point of convergence, and much less that point is us.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (3, Interesting)

agrif (960591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445302)

Yes.

People need to realize this right now. What are we still doing here? Doesn't it seem a little stupid to keep all this intelligence on one tiny, tiny planet? We're the only conscious things we know of, but any number of frequent, devastating events could end that forever. You'd think getting off this rock would be humanity's first priority.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (2, Insightful)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445412)

Well, to pick the most significant one from the OP's list, if there's a GRB that threatens Earth, I'd like to see the spaceship that's gonna take you far enough away to escape its effects.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (5, Insightful)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445592)

I don't know if you've noticed, but we have managed to get off this rock. The problem is finding another rock that we can survive on. So far, even the most catastrophic disaster short of the sun blowing up will still leave the earth more likely to support humans than any other planet (or moon) we've discovered.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (3, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445904)

In practically anthing shy of an extinction-level event, the biggest danger won't be the event - it'll be ourselves. No doubt enough heavy weapons will survive the event that the next round of major death will be the survivors duking it out. We won't be able to begin the business of survival, let along climbing back, until the heavy weapons are spent, or at least until the long-distance delivery mechanisms are.

The other thing to realize is that we've used up the easy resources building our civilization. If we destroy our technological base, it'll still be easy getting basics like iron and aluminum, but the only easy petrochemicals will be those in storage tanks. Even peak-oil deniers would agree that the oil that is left requires higher technology than Jed Clampett had, in order to reach it. Climbing back would be a tough process.

As for other rocks, they may not be as inherently survivable as Earth, even considering a disaster, but presumably the survivor-violence would be removed. The real problem is building a local technology base sufficient to sustain life in a hostile environment, absent help from Earth.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446084)

Probably terraforming another rock will be harder, and will take far more time and resources, than building a self-sustained IIS. Not all needed technology is done yet, but odds that it happens should be bigger.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30446046)

Doesn't it seem a little stupid to keep all this intelligence on one tiny, tiny planet?
You've answered your own question.

And what should we do? (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445468)

If we had been scared we would still be in our tree screaming "the ground is lava!"

There are two kinds of monkeys, those that cower and those that say "here kitty kitty" to the tiger... oh and the third is the one who runs the fastest once the tiger pounces. The heroes are the first to land on Omaha, the ones who had sons were in the second wave.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (4, Insightful)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445550)

To be fair, most of the things you mentioned would not be extinction level events -- it would take quite a bit to fully extinguish humanity from this planet -- we have more knowledge and technology to help us survive than any other species in history. We can build underground bunkers powered by nuclear reactors and grow plants by the soft glow of UV lamps, for instance. For humans to become extinct, something will have to hit us really hard and really fast. I do agree with your main thesis though -- we need to get our asses into space while we still have the chance. In any of these cases, we would, at best lose hundreds to thousands of years of potential progress. If we had kept up the momentum we had in the 1960's, 2001 would have been a pretty accurate depiction of the year in question, methinks. It's a pity, really.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (1)

blind_abraxas (446151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445834)

at the precipice of become spacefaring people. Mega volcano? Mega landslide in Hawaii? Defrosting Russian permafrost? Global warming? Comet? Meteor? Gamma ray burst? Solar flare?

Pick one and we're screwed. Sadly all we care about it the latest trinket to amuse our monkey brains while we imagine we are safe from all danger. somehow. maybe.

Space stations are shiny.

Re:So many extinction level events yet we linger (1)

mlawrence (1094477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446082)

This is probably a good reason we have never encountered any alien civilizations. The probability of being wiped out is very high. If the meteor hadn't hit 65M years ago. dinosaurs would already have colonized a good part of our galaxy.

Pressure Release = Bad? (2, Insightful)

realsilly (186931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445256)

Several have suggested that we try to come up with a way to release pressure from the Super Volcano, but I can't see that helpful. The life of this planet depends upon this changes in the mantel and the crust, and trying to divert what happens in nature may cause larger problems for our population on this planet later. It amazes me that we think as a people that our lives on this planet are somehow more significant than other life forms. Yes we are evolved, and that would lead many to argue this point, but the reality is we are like ant to this planet. We've infested it with our population growths. The planet will do what the planet will do, and we're really just along for the ride.

I'm not a volcano expert nor am I any renound scientist, I'm an average person looking at the possiblity of life as I know it ceasing to exist. I don't look forward to a massive kill-off of the many life-forms on this planet. I don't, but I do feel that by messing with nature we will cause more problems than if we don't. But hey, this is only my take on the situation described. Meh!

Re:Pressure Release = Bad? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445310)

I'm not a volcano expert nor am I any renound scientist,

Nor can you spell. But you do feel the need to make your thoughts known about things that you admit not understanding.

Re:Pressure Release = Bad? (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445510)

It amazes me that we think as a people that our lives on this planet are somehow more significant than other life forms. Yes we are evolved, and that would lead many to argue this point, but the reality is we are like ant to this planet.

Thats a bit of an underestimate of our impact on the planet. We've spread across and drastically altered much of its surface far quicker than any other lifeform I can think of. The original oxygen-producing bacteria, mosses, trees, and grass may all have had more significant effects than we have, but we've been rushing to catch up pretty well so far.

but I do feel that by messing with nature we will cause more problems than if we don't. But hey, this is only my take on the situation described. Meh!

Well, in the face of extinction, its usually ok (as far as I'm concerned) to mess with stuff you don't understand in the hope of avoiding it. If said extinction is reasonably certain.

Re:Pressure Release = Bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445844)

So you really think that this mister "nature" has some great project with the world and humans have no parts in it?
There's any greater hubris sin than thinking the human race is somehow outside the rules, so when something get done by an animal or by simply chance its nature, if it's done by an human it become unnatural?

Re:Pressure Release = Bad? (2, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445928)

It amazes me that we think as a people that our lives on this planet are somehow more significant than other life forms.

How is that amazing? It's perfectly natural for any species to act that way, for one simple reason: those which don't have such trait, don't survive long.

Re:Pressure Release = Bad? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446112)

Are you actually suggesting that given the choice between an explosion 10 times larger than all the worlds nuclear arsenal combined or the possibility that maybe defusing it would cause a problem thousands or millions of years down the road, you would actually choose the civilization ending explosion? Ok, maybe not civilization ending, but it's surely going to kill a good half billion people almost instantly, and another 4 billion on top of that due to food shortages, tidal waves, and warfare (limited resources will always lead to fighting). So yeah, lets worry about soil quality a few million years from now and light it up. By this logic, we should just kill all humans right away, since our negative impact is almost definately greater than a super volcanoes positive one.

2012 (-1, Offtopic)

psergiu (67614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445366)

Is the movie 2012 a documentary ?

Re:2012 (0, Offtopic)

j_166 (1178463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445876)

"Is the movie 2012 a documentary ?"

Yeah, its a depiction of what happens when Palin/Beck win the upcoming election.

When's it going to blow? (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445382)

Not if, but when is it going to blow? That's what matters most. Are we any closer to understanding that?

Re:When's it going to blow? (2, Informative)

dk90406 (797452) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445680)

That is not pridictable with current knowledge and tech. Perhaps next year or perhaps in 100,000 years. Given the periodicity of previous eruptions, I would not expect it to wait 500,000 years. IIRC correctly it is already 100.000 years overdue.

But it is entirely possible that it won't be a super eruption, but just a smaller blow. These have happened some times within the last 100.000 years.

Re:When's it going to blow? (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445736)

Maybe.

There's correlation between deep solar minima and volcanic activity/earthquakes:

http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/full/2003ESASP.535..393S [harvard.edu]

We're currently in the deepest solar minima for a century or two, maybe longer:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulhudson/2009/12/could-the-sun-cast-a-shadow-on.shtml [bbc.co.uk]

Luckily, I live very very far away from Yellowstone myself. You? ;)

Re:When's it going to blow? (4, Interesting)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 4 years ago | (#30446104)

No one lives far away enough from Yellowstone if there is a supervolcano eruption.

Permian Mass Extinction.... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445402)

Well, that's great. We'll get the CO2 balanced and spend the trillions to do that, deal with overpopulation, and then the Earth will open up a Siberian traps style lava flow and kill 90% of all life on the planet.

No need for elevated alarm... (5, Informative)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445426)

I did my undergrad approximately an hour from Yellowstone...the big buzz in 2003 was a 100 foot tall "bulge" under Yellowstone Lake. This was dismissed as a not-issue since it was geothermal activity, not volcanic activity. While this finding is volcanic in nature, it hardly makes much of a difference as far as the public safety is concerned. As the article points out, the real mystery lies in the region between 10 and 50 miles below the surface...this has yet to be modeled.

This just in... (1)

Mr_Miagi (1648543) | more than 4 years ago | (#30445770)

A crazed DJ looking like Woody Harrelson has just confirmed that these findings are fabrications created by the government, man!

In other news.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30445932)

...Cheney quietly moves his home away from home...

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