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Just In: Yellowstone Is Big(ger)

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the when-montana-and-wyoming-indicate-scale dept.

Earth 109

jd writes "Really big. By using electrical conductivity tests rather than seismic waves, geologists have remapped the Yellowstone caldera. Whilst seismic waves indicate differences in the reflectivity of different materials, it doesn't show everything and contrast isn't always great. By looking at the electrical conductivity instead, different characteristics of molten and semi-molten rock can be measured and observed. The result — the caldera is far larger than had previously been suspected. This doesn't alter the chances of an eruption, and it's not even clear it would change the scale (prior eruptions are very easy to study, as they're on the surface) but it certainly changes the dynamics and our understanding of this fierce supervolcano."

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109 comments

And Leon's getting LARGER! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802336)

Airplane! quotes are always suitable

Potentially an extinction level event? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802348)

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802500)

Thats neet. I'll be in my bunker.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802522)

*pinkie to lip corner*
burning in MAG----MA!

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35803120)

Thats neet. I'll be in my bunker.

Great, you'll live long enough to choke and starve.

Even if you live in Michigan which is disconnected enough not to be tossed in the atmosphere, you're still there when the lakes "slosh" from earthquakes, and it's the first landing zone when the park starts coming down.. Expect every living thing under ash, no Sun for a decade. The event will cut WORLD food supplies so there is simply no where to go could you travel because in the next years nobody will have food, or timber, or oil, natural gas....

Should Yellowstone go boom, in the USA the best possible outcome would be to go right along with it.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35803514)

So, can we as americans sue europe for false advertising when they sent us over here?

We better pressure them before it happens.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (1)

syousef (465911) | about 3 years ago | (#35804012)

Should Yellowstone go boom, in the USA the best possible outcome would be to go right along with it.

Go right ahead. More food for the rest of us. If everyone were so defeatist, the human race would have gone extinct long before we developed tools.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 3 years ago | (#35806446)

Even if you live in Michigan [...] Expect every living thing under ash, no Sun for a decade.

So what's new?

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 3 years ago | (#35811238)

Even if you live in Michigan [...] Expect every living thing under ash, no Sun for a decade.

So what's new?

Ash, instead of snow. So it'll be gray instead of white, outside of the roads where the slush was already gray.

I welcome this change of pace!

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802564)

May 21st!

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (1)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about 3 years ago | (#35805410)

Firstly, you guys and the mayan eotw crowd need to get together and hammer out a compromise. The world can't end twice.

Secondly, 21st may is only a month away, it is bad business to predict the apocalypse so soon. It is going to take you at least that long just to put out a manuscript. Ideally you want to leave yourself six months for a really polished book ready, then a couple more months for negotiation with publishers and the actual printing process. Then ideally you want 2-3 years for the sales to peak properly, and for talkshow interviews and guest appearances. This way when the predicted date rolls around and your predictions are shown to be totally bogus, you have a nice pile of cash to retire with.

Thirdly, does it bother anyone else that the country with the highest per capita belief in an impending apocalypse, the USA, also happens to be the country with the largest nuclear arsenal and a rapidly deteriorating political and economic system? I sometimes get this terrible feeling that whatever nutcase is currently in the whitehouse is just sitting with his finger on a big red button waiting for a sign from god.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802590)

The Yellowstone eruption [wikimedia.org] was a little smaller than Toba (2500 km^3 as opposed to 2800 km^3) but you probably don't notice after the first thousand cubic kilometers of ash have landed. There are four other supervolcanos known [wikimedia.org]. Certainly these are extinction-level events - the Year Without A Summer was caused by a tiny volcano in comparison, altering global temperatures a mere 0.4'C, but the levels of famine and disease that resulted were staggering. Scale it up a hundredfold and throw in a continent's worth of ash and you're talking major problems for anything on the surface.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (1)

Sinn3d (1594333) | about 3 years ago | (#35805534)

...and you're talking major problems for anything on the surface.

Good thing most of us are in a basement.

Better ask mom to bring down some extra sandwiches & dr peppers, ya know. Just in case.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35805768)

If the thing blows, you're gonna want to load tomatoes in those hydro cells in the basement rather than their current contents. I know, it's a sacrifice you need to make.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 3 years ago | (#35813812)

Actually hemp oil and milled hemp seeds are very nutritious and are less perishable than fresh tomatoes. Just sayin'.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35809410)

Aren't these mini-ice-ages preceded by warmer than average climates? Maybe it's just the Earth's way of maintaining equilibrium - when it gets too hot the stuff under the surface is more insulated in relation to the fact that the smaller temperature difference allows for slower cooling of the stuff below the crust - which allows phase changes to occur resulting in pressure buildup - we know its right on the brink of that critical difference due to the fact there are still active volcanoes at all (all things seeking equilibrium, they would cool to a stop over time if the inside of the Earth were doing so on a scale that allowed for it). I don't believe global warming is entirely based on Human activity (there is certainly something to be said for increased methane from animal populations increasing since the last mass extinction, the solar cycle, aforementioned venting, etc) - even if we are speeding up the natural cycle a bit.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802598)

618 days left. Just saying.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802790)

Considering I live a couple hundred miles from it I'm a gonner in the first wave

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (2)

sortius_nod (1080919) | about 3 years ago | (#35802982)

You probably wouldn't know about it seeing as you'd more than likely die from the eruption itself rather than the ash. It's people on the other side of the globe that will die slowly from famine and disease. Consider yourself lucky.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (2)

RobertM1968 (951074) | about 3 years ago | (#35803338)

Considering I live a couple hundred miles from it I'm a gonner in the first wave

Yes, and believe it or not, you're the lucky one. At only a couple hundred miles, you'll be incinerated in just a few minutes as the wave of heat and ejected particles & rocks reaches you at over the speed of sound. Much better than the suffering others will go through who survive. Lucky bastard!

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (1)

airdweller (1816958) | about 3 years ago | (#35811732)

I'll take long suffering over quick death any time. But I guess I'm just a weirdo who wants to live.

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (1)

magarity (164372) | about 3 years ago | (#35803472)

Considering I live a couple hundred miles from it I'm a gonner in the first wave

Yeah; a friend of mine in southern Japan was moaning about the earthquake problems the northern part was having lately and I said, 'That's nothing; here in Denver we'll show you a *real* natural calamity just as soon as Yellowstone blows."

Re:Potentially an extinction level event? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35805270)

We survived supervolcanoes and an ice age before, back in the stupid ages.
I'm pretty sure we could handle one now.

If push goes to shove, there'd be builders all around the world reinforcing and/or building shelters for humans and animals, and filters for air would be distributed. Also, UV sales would skyrocket for farming.
Of course, yes, there will be quite a few deaths all around the world, more so in poorer countries, or countries that depend entirely on imported food.
But Yellowstone has been weakening over every eruption it has created. The debris around it shrunk consistently each time.
This isn't to say that it could still break that consistency next time, however.

At this moment in time, I am more worried about the activity around Japan. Those were some serious Earthquakes. And lava certainly never resisted the chance to explode out that volcano there.
An in-depth survey needs to be done on that area to see what the hell is going on.

is the DHS on top of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802352)

Yellowstone is terrorizing all of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana!

Re:is the DHS on top of this? (5, Funny)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35802380)

is the DHS on top of this?

Well, we hope they are when the thing blows.. takes care of one problem

Re:is the DHS on top of this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802504)

Dude ...

Best comment in YEARS.

Ok, so I'm only an Anonymous Coward, but if I could I'd buy you a beer.

Re:is the DHS on top of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802746)

is the DHS on top of this?

Well, we hope they are when the thing blows.. takes care of one problem

More likely Big Sis will plug the thing...

Re:is the DHS on top of this? (1)

SeNtM (965176) | about 3 years ago | (#35803758)

Shouldn't the house and senate be planning a trip to yellowstone soon??? I am sick and tired about hearing how hard it is getting by on $175k a year.

Not directly, but pretty close (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 3 years ago | (#35802394)

They probably don't have an office much closer than Boise, so they're not right on top, but they've always been a bit over the edge.

solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802432)

Bury it in water, it seems like it's the popular method of solving problems these days.

New scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802528)

Lightly dead

Somewhat dead

Fairly dead

Dead

More than a bit dead

Very dead

Seriously dead

Extremely dead

Betamax dead

Re:New scale (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | about 3 years ago | (#35802644)

What about Duke Nukem Forever Dead? Where does that go on the scale?

----------
Standing by for apk assault.

Re:New scale (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35803688)

Reincarnated aka undead.

Re:New scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35809016)

Why are you so stupid?

Re:New scale (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | about 3 years ago | (#35809036)

Hiya, apk. You don't disappoint.

Re:New scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35811200)

You didn't answer my question. Why are you so stupid?

Re:New scale (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | about 3 years ago | (#35811554)

I was trusting in your vast intellect to figure it out and tell me. After all, I don't have a doctorate degree in neurology like you do. I probably can't be trusted with a formidable question such as the one you pose.

Re:New scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35813052)

You aren't answering the question: Why are you so stupid?

Re:New scale (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 3 years ago | (#35802738)

Do you have alert color codes to go with that? I get a bit confused with the words sometimes.

Re:New scale (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | about 3 years ago | (#35803292)

Sorry, color codes are simply too difficult for us to understand, especially when it never changes. The new system has two levels:

1. Fucked

and

2. Place your head firmly between you legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.

Re:New scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35804756)

You forgot "dead as disco".

Re:New scale (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 3 years ago | (#35813842)

The "Hollywood" episode of Happy Days played on TV here in Houston today. Both parts (it was a two-parter).

Yes, that's the one where Fonzie jumps the (now proverbial) shark.

Miles/km (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802574)

Does any one else find it kind of cute how they label the axes in miles, in increments of 50km?

Silly United States, miles are for kids!

Re:Miles/km (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | about 3 years ago | (#35802650)

Does any one else find it kind of cute how they label the axes in miles, in increments of 50km?

The scientists probably did all of their work in kms, but then changed the numbers to miles so that the average American had a clue to it. It may have been difficult (for some unknown reason) to change the labels to increments of 50 miles...

More evidence... (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | about 3 years ago | (#35802664)

...that the Earth has been sent from the past to kill us.

Re:More evidence... (3, Funny)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 3 years ago | (#35802750)

Which is why we need to kill it first.

Re:More evidence... (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#35803012)

Which is why we need to kill it first.

Hey, give us a break! We're working on it.

Avariciously yours, Dick Cheney & Co.

Re:More evidence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35810306)

I hear you'll be inviting it on a hunting trip.

Re:More evidence... (1)

ShiftyOne (1594705) | about 3 years ago | (#35802896)

Is that the plot to Terminator 4? I have a feeling Arnold could stop this.

Re:More evidence... (1)

ruiner13 (527499) | about 3 years ago | (#35803608)

Is that the plot to Terminator 4?

You mean this: Terminator Salvation (T4) [imdb.com]?

No, you didn't miss anything...

Re:More evidence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35806098)

I rented that without too much hope. Then I turned it off when I was supposed to believe the robots were building themselves with USB ports. Might have been the first scene.

Right under Idaho National Lab? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802694)

See above

Whilst? 1750 called, they want their word back. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802798)

From TFS:

remapped the Yellowstone caldera. Whilst seismic waves indicate

Whilst? Really? Maybe throw in a saith for emphasis next time, and you will shew me how e-reet your language skills are?

Seriously, the word "While" would have been a much better choice.

Re:Whilst? 1750 called, they want their word back. (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 3 years ago | (#35803478)

Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun

Re:Whilst? 1750 called, they want their word back. (1)

samjam (256347) | about 3 years ago | (#35805174)

me-thinkerish perfectous cromulatory expressionator

Re:Whilst? 1750 called, they want their word back. (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 3 years ago | (#35805844)

It's a quote written in 1387 from the prologue to Canterbury Tales and just about everybody here will be able to understand all six words (I used to be an engineer not a literary type). It just shows how much the above poster is whining about something not fitting in a 600 word doubleplusgood dictionary.

Re:Whilst? 1750 called, they want their word back. (1)

ThePromenader (878501) | about 3 years ago | (#35803902)

Whence the vitriol? Whither your goal? Nitpicking natter is worth but a lump of coal.

Re:Whilst? 1750 called, they want their word back. (1)

Rysc (136391) | about 3 years ago | (#35806590)

You're out of line. Whilst is not nearly as archaic as your other examples and is still often found used for artistic or stylistic purposes, especially in formal contexts.

Great! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 years ago | (#35802858)

Lets tap it for geo-thermal. The issue with a previous attempt is that they simply pulled the steam from it. Instead, it should be a recycling generator in which it re-injects the water back into the ground.

Re:Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35802876)

Or we can make it a giant landfill that automatically recycles garbage into raw materials

Re:Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35803400)

Not a bad idea! This way, future generations may yet be able to avoid the Garbage Avalanche of 2505.

Re:Great! (1)

jd (1658) | about 3 years ago | (#35804680)

If they ever get a commercial fusion reactor, the "waste" heat would be more than sufficient for you to recycle garbage into ultra-pure reservoirs of the elements within it. The radiation might alter a few of them in the process (you can turn platinum into gold even in fission reactors, it's just kinda pointless).

Re:Great! (1)

frecky (1095067) | about 3 years ago | (#35802934)

Isn't this what we do already ? Inject water in hydraulic fracturing for Shale gas ?

Re:Great! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 years ago | (#35811132)

Nope. Totally different things. In your example, you use pretty wicked chemicals under extreme pressure to force open cracks. With what I am talking about, you pull water out as steam which drops the pressure a bit, but then re-inject the water back into it, which slowly raises the pressure back up to what it was.

Re:Great! (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 3 years ago | (#35804308)

Lets tap it for geo-thermal. The issue with a previous attempt is that they simply pulled the steam from it. Instead, it should be a recycling generator in which it re-injects the water back into the ground.

Boom, Baby, Boom.

Re:Great! (1)

jd (1658) | about 3 years ago | (#35804644)

It's an interesting idea and there should be a way to make it work, but previous attempts at injecting water into geothermally active areas have tended to cause mini earthquakes. It would take some doing to get it right and I'm not sure I'm inclined to trust the companies capable of the drilling necessary.

Re:Great! (1)

confused one (671304) | about 3 years ago | (#35806748)

The formation is hot enough that you could use a closed loop, cycling pressurized water in through loop of pipe acting as a heat exchanger.

Two different concepts (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 years ago | (#35811122)

What you are talking about is EGS. It is about drilling DEEP and then injecting below the bedrock. Minor tremors would be expected, but nothing major. As confused one speaks about, you want a closed loop in shallow well. THat is not a big deal. The reason why the only small one was shot down, is that they were not injecting back. As such, they were depleting the water out of the system. That would destroy geysers all over. And few want to see old faithful gone.

News flash! (0)

pclminion (145572) | about 3 years ago | (#35802874)

Alert! When you change the definition of "size" so that size is measured differently that before, the size of things changes! More on this in a future broadcast.

Re:News flash! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35803076)

Your comment doesn't make any sense. They didn't change the definition of "size", or anything else for that matter. They used a different technique to measure it and discovered that it is bigger than the other technique had revealed.

Caldera is not what got bigger (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35803164)

The caldera is not any bigger, just the arear of hot rock or melt under the area. The caldera (collapse feature) is still exactly the same size

I expect Sony will have their lawyers to it soon.. (3, Funny)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 3 years ago | (#35803166)

... as this clearly seems like an even bigger example of "geohot".

Complete this series (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35803534)

2,000,000
1,300,000
      640,000
                          X

What is your best guess at X? ..... yielding three huge caldera eruptions about 2 million, 1.3 million and 642,000 years ago.
X is about when we expect the next one.

Re:Complete this series (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 3 years ago | (#35803678)

without getting all fancy, 700k to 660k to 620k (time between events)

I think it happened 20k years ago and we're all safe.

Re:Complete this series (1)

mkiwi (585287) | about 3 years ago | (#35803776)

Just to be sure, we better nuke the volcano. From the moon.

Re:Complete this series (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 3 years ago | (#35804818)

Just to be sure, we better nuke the volcano. From the moon.

Just to be realistic, nuke the moon. From the volcano.

I've seen this movie before. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35803804)

It is just a matter of time before Godzilla comes to the United States. I for one think we should pull our troops back from the middle east, and keep the in reserve for the inevitable unholy onslaught. While they are there the can enforce the border. In the mean time any scientists that are not working on the Godzilla project should be focused on the problem of getting off of the planet. Humanity might escape the menace of Godzilla this time, but what about the time after that, and the time after that. Only foolish doomed race stupidly stands by, while it's major cities and attacked and destroyed by Godzilla. We need a giant space ship, and we need it now.

Let's find a new planet that isn't already inhabited by demon spawn atomic lizards. Let's find one that is only inhabited fluffy bunnies.

Thailand, Hatti, Japan, we are next.

Yellowstone is Bigger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35803812)

By like what, four inches? I mean, if it answered one of those grow-your-penis adverts and it worked like they say it should...

tap that sh*t (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35805622)

as much (relatively) free energy as you want

Lets do some grade school math! (1)

DontBlameCanada (1325547) | about 3 years ago | (#35806870)

2Million->1.3Mill->642,000 years ago. Let's following the series!

2M->1.3M = 700,000
1.3M->642,000=658,000
642,000->??

Interval of ~670,000 years +/- 21,000.

Next eruption: 642,000 - 670,000 = 28000 +/- 21000 = essentially any time, ouch.

Geothermal energy question (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 3 years ago | (#35810728)

I have a serious (and perhaps stupid) question related to the topic. Given the interest in alternative energy, the size of the Yellowstone caldera, and its proximity to the surface, is it a completely silly idea to exploit it as an energy source? Are there already geothermal power plants in the Yellowstone area?

Re:Geothermal energy question (1)

spike hay (534165) | about 3 years ago | (#35811720)

I don't know about Yellowstone in particular, but there are some tentative plans to exploit Newberry Crater (another shield volcano caldera, but much smaller). Interestingly, the same types of magnetotelluric techniques are being used to map promising sites for geothermal plants.

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