Friday, 13 October 2017

09:21 – Friday the 13th falls on a Friday this month.

It was 55.5F (13C) when I took Colin out at 0625, overcast and drizzling. Barbara is heading for the gym and supermarket.

Until June of this year, news articles about the Yellowstone Supervolcano were pretty much background noise other than on some alt-right sites. Then came the news of a big cluster of small to medium earthquakes in the vicinity, which geologists reassured us were nothing to worry about. Then NASA announced that they planned to drill holes to allow them to cool the magma and reduce the probability of a catastrophic eruption. Or increase it, depending on who you listen to. Then came the news that some scientists are now saying they believe a catastrophic eruption is imminent, not just in geological terms, but on a human timescale. They’re saying an eruption may occur today, or perhaps 50 or 100 years from now. They’ve discovered that processes that precede an eruption and were formerly thought to occur over a period of centuries in fact occur over a period of only years to decades.

I’m starting to see MSM articles like this one on Fox News: Yellowstone supervolcano could blow faster than thought, destroy all of mankind

Leaving aside the hyperbole common to all headline writers, it’s pretty clear that a lot of people in and out of government are getting concerned. I’m not, simply because there’s nothing I can do about it. Depending on the scale and duration of an eruption and the amount of ejecta, such an eruption could range from catastrophic for the continental US and extremely serious for the rest of the Northern Hemisphere to an extinction-level event.

Even a modest eruption–if you can use the word modest in relation to a supervolcano eruption–could cover most of the continental US west of the Mississippi with anything from half an inch to three or four feet of volcanic ash. (Even here in Sparta, we could expect 1 to 3 mm.) The Northern Hemisphere would see another Year Without a Summer, if we were lucky. It could easily be a decade, a century, or more without a summer. The planet’s albedo would increase dramatically, and that would probably trigger the next Ice Age. Even if it didn’t, the grainbowls of the central US and Canada would be out of production for years to decades. Scores of millions of people would die from the immediate effects of the eruption, and the follow-on effects would kill hundreds of millions and possibly billions more.

And that’s assuming a moderate eruption, call it VEI 7.5. One on that scale occurred about 70,000 years ago and resulted in a bottleneck in the human population of the planet. By some estimates, we were down to less than 1,000 individuals remaining alive.

But Yellowstone has the potential to produce a VEI 8+ eruption. Call it 1,000+ cubic kilometers of ejecta. That would be a true extinction-level event, and there’s nothing that can be done to prepare for it. Other than relocating off-planet.