geology, physics

Handling Yellowstone

As everybody knows, a magma chamber, 1000 cubic kilometers large, is formed under Yellowstone every good half a million years. The explosion is then imminent and it devastates the whole of North America and pretty much screws the whole Earth for years. Nuclear winter, unhealthy dust and such, all over the world.

It’s Mother Nature’s regular fireworks due every 640 000 years, and she has no intention to quit this habit, any time soon.

There is nothing we can do about it, those forces are beyond our power and control. We currently have no way to stop the next eruption, already a bit overdue. Maybe it will be a piece of cake for some future technology, but at the moment we can do nothing.

Hogwash! The magma chamber before every major eruption contains 2*10^21 J of energy. Which is a lot, but remember that it builds up during the 2*10^13 seconds since the previous one. In other words, 100 MW of power, which is equivalent to a modest power plant. 10 liters of gasoline burnt per second, give the same power.

In all that geological time a magma ball 1000 cubic kilometers in volume, accumulates.

As a matter of fact, this fire deep down is much bigger. Maybe as much as a ton or even more gasoline that would have been incinerated every second. Still less than one percent of what we are burning in our internal combustion machines. The thing is, that the vast majority, 99 percent or more heat that originated from the Earth’s interior under the Yellowstone national park is lost by cooling into the atmosphere. Geysers, rivers and cold winter winds are taking away 99 or more percent of the heat coming from the deep.

Had those factors been taking heat away a bit faster, there would be no volcano there at all. Just as there are none, almost anywhere else.

Another swamp, a square mile big, with some deep connections to the rocks bellow, would tip the balance. Yellowstone would cool down.

We are talking a small difference here. Only a bit more “natural” cooling is needed; or maybe even none at all. It’s possible that we have some additional cooling  already. For this same reason, the eruption is late.

Add some more cooling surfaces to Yellowstone and the awaited explosion is postponed indefinitely.


One thought on “Handling Yellowstone

  1. Saladin says:

    I stopped by to congratulate you on a really great and interesting blog (that i should visit more often) and to ask for a scientific link to such a proposal.

    Because it just seems… too simple.

    My concern is that the mayority of heat is not transported away by surface cooling, but is being accumulated in the surroundind rocks and in ever increasing heat and pressure in the magma chamber.

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