Study: Yellowstone magma much bigger than thought (Update)

Dec 16, 2013 by Matt Volz
This graphic provided by University of Utah geophysicists shows the first large-scale picture of the electrical conductivity of the gigantic underground plume of hot and partly molten rock that feeds the Yellowstone supervolcano. The plume of molten rock feeding the supervolcano under the surface of Yellowstone National Park is much larger than previously thought, according to University of Utah geophysicists whose findings will be published in Geophysical Research Letters. (AP Photo/University of Utah, File)

The hot molten rock beneath Yellowstone National Park is 2 ½ times larger than previously estimated, meaning the park's supervolcano has the potential to erupt with a force about 2,000 times the size of Mount St. Helens, according to a new study.

By measuring seismic waves from earthquakes, scientists were able to map the magma chamber underneath the Yellowstone caldera as 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) long, lead author Jamie Farrell of the University of Utah said Monday.

The chamber is 18 miles (29 kilometers) wide and runs at depths from 3 to 9 miles (5 to 14 1/2 kilometers) below the earth, he added.

That means there is enough volcanic material below the surface to match the largest of the supervolcano's three eruptions over the last 2.1 million years, Farrell said.

The largest blast—the volcano's first—was 2,000 times the size of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state. A similar one would spew large amounts of volcanic material in the atmosphere, where it would circle the earth, he said.

"It would be a global event," Farrell said. "There would be a lot of destruction and a lot of impacts around the globe."

The last Yellowstone eruption happened 640,000 years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. For years, observers tracking earthquake swarms under Yellowstone have warned the caldera is overdue to erupt.

In this Friday, Aug. 15, 1997 file photo, an unidentified pair of visitors to the Yellowstone National Park photograph the Old Faithful geyser as it rockets 100-feet skyward in Wyoming. Hundreds of small earthquakes at Yellowstone National Park in recent weeks have been an unsettling reminder for some people that underneath the park's famous geysers and majestic scenery lurks one of the world's biggest volcanoes. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)

Farrell dismissed that notion, saying there isn't enough data to estimate the timing of the next eruption.

"We do believe there will be another eruption, we just don't know when," he said.

There are enough instruments monitoring the seismic activity of Yellowstone that scientists would likely know well ahead of time if there was unusual activity happening and magma was moving to the surface, Farrell said.

The USGS' Yellowstone Volcano Observatory listed the park's volcano alert level as "normal" for December.

Yellowstone attracts millions of visitors with its geothermal features of geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pots. The park just opened its gates on Sunday for its winter season.

Park officials did not immediately return a call for comment.

A large earthquake at Yellowstone is much more likely than a volcano eruption, Farrell said.

The 7.5-magnitude Hebgen Lake earthquake killed 28 people there in 1959.

Farrell presented his findings last week to the American Geophysical Union. He said he is submitting it to a scholarly journal for peer review and publication.

Brigham Young University geology professor Eric Christiansen said the study by Farrell and University of Utah Professor Bob Smith is very important to understanding the evolution of large volcanos such as Yellowstone's.

"It helps us understand the active system," Christiansen said. "It's not at the point where we need to worry about an imminent eruption, but every piece of information we have will prepare us for that eventuality."

Explore further: Yellowstone's Steamboat geyser sees rare eruption

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Deadbolt
2.5 / 5 (8) Dec 16, 2013
With a FORCE 2000 times greater than Mount St. Helens? You can calculate force from the size of the magma chamber? They know how much mass it has, but how do they know by how much it will be accelerated by? Have they done tests on the viscosity and so explosiveness?
ECOnservative
2 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2013
Since the magma chamber is at a relatively shallow depth, would pressure relief wells (100-1000's of them) possibly affect an impending eruption? Is this depth within the range of plausible drilling technique?
Zephir_fan
Dec 16, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
whitefang
5 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2013
@Zephir_fan: see URL http://mms.nps.go...yontour/ or if the link is blocked google 'Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone'
Zephir_fan
Dec 16, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
PhotonX
5 / 5 (4) Dec 16, 2013
Since the magma chamber is at a relatively shallow depth, would pressure relief wells (100-1000's of them) possibly affect an impending eruption? Is this depth within the range of plausible drilling technique?
I'm not a geologist, so...is that even possible? How would drilling a hole into a volcano to let pressure out differ from an actual eruption? Would there be a risk that the magma would erode and widen the well? It sounds like a good thing to consider, until it sounds like a bad thing to consider. Intuitively it just doesn't seem like a good thing to drill a hole into a pool of molten pressurized rock. If there were a way to only drill to vent out gasses, though, maybe it's worth a look. I just don't want to be saying "Wow. I really, really wish we hadn't done that."
Humpty
1 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2013
A bang 2000 times the size of Mt Helen....

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm whine.....

I wish I could just bury my head under the blankets, click the heels of my ruby red slippers three times, and say, "Lets go home to Kansas Toto" and it would all magically go away.....

While actually I think that drilling out a bore hole to vent some of the gasses and magma, is way better than it blowing the crust off...

Trouble is that it's a fucking HUGE volcano....

"The end of life as we know it" type of HUGE volcano.

I can see many good reasons to make an open cut kind of a mine - a BIG one filled with water, that goes near to the magma, and to use that as a geothermal energy source, as well as venting gasses and all that, from several other similar big mines in near by areas

http://en.wikiped...eruption

http://en.wikiped...ake_Nyos

http://en.wikiped...ake_Kivu

Shakescene21
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 17, 2013
The Yellowstone supervolcano could provide an incredible amount of geothermal electricity if we developed it intelligently. This could also "defuse" the supervolcano by draining off the excess energy that is building up underground.
Modernmystic
2.8 / 5 (9) Dec 17, 2013
The Yellowstone supervolcano could provide an incredible amount of geothermal electricity if we developed it intelligently. This could also "defuse" the supervolcano by draining off the excess energy that is building up underground.


I completely agree, but I laughed out loud for about two minutes after reading this....

Just TRY to do anything in the park like that and you'll have 120,029,023.2 friends of the court briefs filed within 24 hours. You can't even SNOWMOBILE in the park in the winter anymore without a bureaucratically certified guide.
bearly
1.6 / 5 (14) Dec 17, 2013
An eruption could not do any more harm to America than what Obuma is doing.
Maggnus
4.3 / 5 (11) Dec 17, 2013
Fer crying out loud bearly, take your US politics and keep them in the US.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 17, 2013
Just TRY to do anything in the park like that and you'll have 120,029,023.2 friends of the court briefs filed within 24 hours.
WHY IS IT that otto only bothers to look stuff up? THIS is the INTERNET. Jesus.

"Legislative restrictions on geothermal development around Yellowstone, such as the Old Faithful Protection Act introduced in 1992, have failed to pass Congressional approval. In 1994, the NPS and the state of Montana agreed to monitor and control the use of hot, warm, and cold groundwater in areas just north of the park. Proponents of water use must show that proposed geothermal development will not adversely affect park features. This Water Rights Compact could serve as a model for agreements between the park and other states to ensure the continued flow of heat and water to Yellowstone's famous geysers and hot springs."
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 17, 2013
And no,
This could also "defuse" the supervolcano
no amount of human intervention could ever affect a mass of molten rock that is '55 miles (88.5 kilometers) long, 18 miles (29 kilometers) wide and runs at depths from 3 to 9 miles (5 to 14 1/2 kilometers)" in the slightest.
would pressure relief wells (100-1000's of them) possibly affect an impending eruption?
NO. When this thing blows you will have 1000 natural 'pressure relief wells' the size of mt st helens, ringing the caldera which will be erupting continuously for a few weeks.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 17, 2013
'2,000 times the size of Mount St. Helens'
http://www.youtub...dreOI8gI
Shakescene21
2 / 5 (4) Dec 18, 2013
@Otto--- Actually, the amount of energy that would be needed to "defuse" the supervolcano is far less than you think. It is not necessary to drain all the energy out of the molten rock -- all that is needed is to drain energy faster than it is receiving energy from below. The mass of molten rock is huge, but it takes more than 600,000 years to recharge between eruptions.

With a little luck, sales of electricity should pay for the cost of "defusing" the supervolcano.
Shakescene21
2.4 / 5 (5) Dec 18, 2013
@Modernmystic -- Yes, I have mentioned my idea of defusing the supervolcano, and people are horrified that it might interfere with the Old Faithful geyser. Most visitors to the park have no idea that Yellowstone is an existential threat to the US and a severe threat globally. Or that an eruption would kill hundreds of millions of people and billions of animals. And Old Faithful would be blown away, too.
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (10) Dec 18, 2013
Most visitors to the park have no idea that Yellowstone is an existential threat to the US and a severe threat globally..


Oh, I agree. Preaching to the choir here, and that includes most residents that live near the park. I haven't done any official polling but I'd say 70% or more would have no problem with drilling, or with geothermal electricity in the park. Most people don't realize that visitors to the park never even see 99% of it....I'll say that again, you visit Yellowstone you don't see 99% of it. Anything that isn't near a road you aren't going to notice. That park is immense. There's plenty of room for a geothermal power station or 20 that wouldn't bother the humans or the animals.

You just have to convince the rabid environmentalists in the EASTERN United States who love to tell us how to manage the resources in our state when they've totally wrecked the ecology of theirs....

The irony isn't lost on us in the West.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (5) Dec 18, 2013
@Otto--- The mass of molten rock is huge, but it takes more than 600,000 years to recharge between eruptions.

With a little luck, sales of electricity should pay for the cost of "defusing" the supervolcano.
Do you know the difference between pretending to know what you are talking about and actually knowing?

NOTHING that humans could do would ever affect the amount of energy needed to keep cubic miles of rock molten.
@Modernmystic -- Yes, I have mentioned my idea of defusing the supervolcano, and people are horrified that it might interfere with the Old Faithful geyser
Disrupting groundwater activity with geothermal projects per the excerpt I posted, has nothing to do with affecting cubic miles of magma. You're a fucking moron. Only a few people here are fucking morons of your caliber and they all happen to be the same person.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2013
Oh, I agree. Preaching to the choir here, and that includes most residents that live near the park. I haven't done any official polling but I'd say 70% or more would have no problem with drilling
-Nor did you bother to look to see if someone hasn't actually done this already.

"Legislative restrictions on geothermal development around Yellowstone, such as the Old Faithful Protection Act introduced in 1992, have failed to pass Congressional approval. In 1994, the NPS and the state of Montana agreed to monitor and control the use of hot, warm, and cold groundwater in areas just north of the park. Proponents of water use must show that proposed geothermal development will not adversely affect park features. This Water Rights Compact could serve as a model for agreements between the park and other states to ensure the continued flow of heat and water to Yellowstone's famous geysers and hot springs."

-I'll keep posting this until you read it.
Modernmystic
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 18, 2013


-I'll keep posting this until you read it.


I read it the first time. I'm talking about in the park, your source is talking about outside the park. Apples meet oranges.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2013
I read it the first time. I'm talking about in the park
By posting sources I try to encourage others to do their own research before offering opinions which often turn out to be worthless and embarrassing.

"Geothermal Energy Development
Regulatory Overview
"Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, as amended
in 1988, 30 U.S.C. §1000 et seq.:
Authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to
issue both competitive and noncompetitive
leases for geothermal resources on federal
lands. Certain lands, including lands within
units of the National Park System, are CLOSED TO FEDERAL GEOTHERMAL LEASING..."
http://www2.natur...regs.pdf

-which linked to the federal regs.
Shakescene21
2 / 5 (4) Dec 18, 2013
Otto -- Since you claim to know so much about the energy that is in the molten rock under Yellowstone, please tell me :

#1- How much excess energy is in this magma formation?
#2- How much is it increasing per year? I can probably estimate this if you can estimate #1.

With a ballpark estimate for #2, I can estimate how much geothermal electricity would need to be generated to defuse the Supervolcano.
Please put up or shut up. The more data and calculations, the better.
Modernmystic
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 18, 2013
I read it the first time. I'm talking about in the park
By posting sources I try to encourage others to do their own research before offering opinions which often turn out to be worthless and embarrassing.

"Geothermal Energy Development
Regulatory Overview
"Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, as amended
in 1988, 30 U.S.C. §1000 et seq.:
Authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to
issue both competitive and noncompetitive
leases for geothermal resources on federal
lands. Certain lands, including lands within
units of the National Park System, are CLOSED TO FEDERAL GEOTHERMAL LEASING..."
http://www2.natur...regs.pdf

-which linked to the federal regs.


Otto, I know good and well it's basically illegal to chew gum in the park much less build power plants. My point is I think this is stupid.

Yes I see your link. Yes I know it's a federal reg. Yes I think its a stupid reg. Now what exactly is your point?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2013
Yes I see your link. Yes I know it's a federal reg. Yes I think its a stupid reg. Now what exactly is your point?
Holy jesus. You said
I'd say 70% or more would have no problem with drilling, or with geothermal electricity in the park
...So youre saying that 70% of the people you ask would have no problem breaking federal law?? And cut the shit, you had no idea there were laws against this or you wouldnt have even proposed it.
#1- How much excess energy is in this magma formation?
What do you mean 'excess' energy'??
#2- How much is it increasing per year? I can probably estimate this if you can estimate #1.... With a ballpark estimate for #2, I can estimate how much geothermal electricity would need to be generated to defuse the Supervolcano.
Please put up or shut up
Uh no you proposed this nonsense so you are going to have to do a little work to justify it.

I suggest some field work. Go piss in Kīlauea and see what happens.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Dec 18, 2013
Heres a volcanologist who also thinks youre an idiot.

"So are there any scientists actively working to stop volcanoes?

"That's pure fiction. It would just be unthinkable, really, to be honest. The way to stop it would be to slowly release the pressure. The only conceivable way is to drill down to release pressure but that would be, practically speaking, impossible. It'd be a tiny pin prick in a massive magma chamber. The scale of these things makes it inconceivable."

-And he was responding to a question about a normal volcano, not something 2000 TIMES as BIG. You fucking moron.
Modernmystic
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 18, 2013
...So youre saying that 70% of the people you ask would have no problem breaking federal law??


I'm saying 70% of the people I ask think that federal law is stupid. Just like 90% of the people I ask think the NSA is violating the constitution with their data collection methods.

And cut the shit, you had no idea there were laws against this or you wouldnt have even proposed it.


I didn't PROPOSE anything. Re-read the thread.

I'll bet YOU didn't know you can't even drive a snowmobile in the park without a federally certified hand holder before I posted it here. Now do you really think that if they won't let people snowmobile in the park they'll let them do something like build power plants. Uh yeah, sorry, I knew that....
Zephir_fan
Dec 18, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Shakescene21
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 18, 2013
@Otto-- I knew all along that you were an asshole, but I had hoped you might know something. But you're a moron. All you can do is assert that there is too much energy in the Yellowstone magma, but you don't know shit.
You and your mindless foul-mouth rantings don't belong on this site.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2013
I didn't PROPOSE anything. Re-read the thread.
Sure you did.You proposed the idea of locating power plants in yellowstone. And you agreed with the dimwit who equated the loss of old faithful with the deaths of 100s of millions of people.
Or that an eruption would kill hundreds of millions of people and billions of animals. And Old Faithful would be blown away, too
-Gosh. That would be just about everybody wouldnt it?

"The current U.S.A. population is over 311 million people (311,800,000 in mid-2011)"

-And one really cool geyser.
http://www.nps.go...cams.htm
@Otto-- I knew all along that you were an asshole
You posted something unbelievably ignorant. How would you expect people to respond to this?
you don't know shit
But I posted the incredulous opinion of a volcanologist who was amazed that anyone could ask such a question about a REGULAR volcano. And YOU want to stop yellowstone. You fucking moron.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2013
@Otto-- You asserted that there was far too much excess energy in the molten rock for humans to be able to defuse the Supervolcano. I asked you what was the quantitative basis for your foul-mouthed assertion, and the truth is you don't know. No matter how vile you say it, you are nothing but hot air.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2013
I tell you what - a thought experiment just occurred to me. Consider how much geothermal energy you might need to run an iron foundry. A lot right?

Then consider how much it would take to melt not just a mountain but an entire mountain RANGE. Think you can do that?

That is the amount of magma on the move under yellowstone.
and the truth is you don't know.
Well using this logic I can claim that it is possible to move the moon with lasers and when sane people laugh I can rightfully claim that theyre nothing but hot air.
What Otto was trying to explain to you is that there is such a humongous amount of energy and pressures built up in a magma pool the size of most of Rhode Island
This harkens back to the time when obamasucks was trying to assert that a geyser could melt an antarctic ice shelf. Remember that? Pretty suspicious I tell you.
Zephir_fan
Dec 18, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2013
Another thought experiment - currently the magma chamber is capped by a caldera full of solid rock measuring about 34 by 45 miles by 10 miles thick. But this plug is not stopping the magma.

The magma influx is moving this PLUS a column of magma 210 miles deep upwards at 8 inches per year. If a plug of solid rock some 15,300 cubic MILES cannot stop the magma, what do you think some cooling pipes could do?
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2013
@Otto--- At this stage, the magma influx is not pushing the solid rock upwards. Rather, it is melting the solid rock as the excess heat rises. Eventually the later of solid rock will become so thin that the pressurized liquids and gasses will push it upward and it will soon erupt.

The trick is to remove heat from the rock layer faster than excess heat can rise into the rock layer. Geothermal electricity is an ideal way to do this, because the sale of electricity would pay for the cost of the project. I was hoping that you might know how much heat we are talking about, since you are so cocksure that it is too much to use. One relevant statistic is that in 2011 the US consumed 97 quadrillion BTUs of energy, of which 39 quadrillion were for electric power generation. So how does Yellowstone compare to 97 quadrillion BTU?
Shakescene21
2 / 5 (4) Dec 18, 2013
@Zephir--In science it is usually critical to have some data, because the numbers usually make the difference between a good idea and a bad idea. For example, your statement:

"It would be like emptying Lake Meade with a soda straw. It would build back up faster than you can let it out."

What are the numbers? Would it be like emptying Lake Meade with a straw, or with a culvert pipe? Specifically, how much do we need to take out to keep it from backing up?

Shakescene21
1 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2013
In comparing Yellowstone and St.Helen's, it's significant that Yellowstone erupts every 600,000 years or so, while St. Helen's erupts every 200 years or so. Thus, even though Yellowstone may erupt with 2,000 times the force, the total amount of excess energy that is erupted by these volcanoes is probably not too different. The annual inflow of excess heat under these volcanoes is probably in the same order of magnitude, and Yellowstone might even be the smaller of the two by this measure. This annual inflow of excess heat is the number that I would like to know more about, since that is the amount that would need to be removed by geothermal electricity.
katesisco
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 19, 2013
I wonder if the description of a cap of solid rock is correct?
In as much as the magma chamber is actually to the west of the of the volcanic lip, the large and apparently growing larger pool of magma is and always has been under the layers of surface rock since the island arc containing this volcano was overridden by the continent of North America, the actual volcanic mouth is where it has always been.

Modernmystic
2 / 5 (6) Dec 19, 2013
Sure you did.You proposed the idea of locating power plants in yellowstone. And you agreed with the dimwit who equated the loss of old faithful with the deaths of 100s of millions of people.


No I didn't. I agreed with the proposal that locating power plants in one of the best geothermal spots in the world for such plants was a good idea. The feds are idiots not to.

I didn't agree with is equivocation, I agreed that I believe most people don't understand that Yellowstone is a global threat.

To be honest Otto, half the time I don't even think you read what other people post, or when you do you read your own paranoia, bigotry, zealous anti-religious fanaticism, and agendas into it so you can cast nets or pick fights. Go ahead and shadow box if you want to the rest of this thread, but I'm quite finished with the ridiculous participation in telling you what I did or didn't say or did or didn't think. Simply learn to read, comprehend, and drop the delusion you can read minds.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2013
@Katesisco -- That's a good point, and a professional geologist would probably use a different term to describe the miles of surface rock that are over the Yellowstone supervolcano. I don't know if the difference would make it easier or harder to "defuse" the volcano.
Shakescene21
3 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2013
"And you agreed with the dimwit who equated the loss of old faithful with the deaths of 100s of millions of people. "

@Otto-- Didn't you realize my statement was sarcastic? Anyone with average intelligence would have known that my statement about losing Old Faithful when the volcano erupts was sarcastic:

"Yes, I have mentioned my idea of defusing the supervolcano, and people are horrified that it might interfere with the Old Faithful geyser. Most visitors to the park have no idea that Yellowstone is an existential threat to the US and a severe threat globally. Or that an eruption would kill hundreds of millions of people and billions of animals. And Old Faithful would be blown away, too."

I'll be charitable and assume that your problem is not the lack of average intelligence, but rather the shortcomings that Modernmystic describes.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2013
@Otto--- At this stage, the magma influx is not pushing the solid rock upwards. Rather, it is melting the solid rock as the excess heat rises
You know, it appalls me how people like you think their imagination is as good as facts.

"the creation of a ductile halo of rock around the magma chamber allows the pressure to build over tens of thousands of years, resulting in extensive uplifting in the roof above the magma chamber. Eventually, faults from above trigger a collapse of the caldera and subsequent eruption.

"You can compare it to cracks forming on the top of baking bread as it expands," said Gregg, a researcher in OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. "As the magma chamber pressurizes at depth, cracks form at the surface to accommodate the doming and expansion. Eventually, the cracks grow in size and propagate downward toward the magma chamber."

-If you cant understand that, here is a nice movie for you. @1:19
http://www.youtub...8fv5VCwk
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.5 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2013
I was hoping that you might know how much heat we are talking about
I told you how much heat. Enough to melt a mountain range. Enough energy to lift 15,300 cubic MILES of solid ROCK.

The magma begins 10 miles below the surface and covers an area of 34 by 45 miles. And as sane people know, you cant run pipes through magma.

MY GOD youre stupid.
No I didn't. I agreed with the proposal that locating power plants in one of the best geothermal spots in the world for such plants was a good idea
Oh I see. You didnt propose something you just endorsed a proposal of something.
The feds are idiots not to.
-And how could you know this? How do you know its not better to locate these plants outside the park? How do you know if carving out large swaths of forest and running high tension power lines through the most beloved park in the US, is something that 70% of the people you ask would approve of??
Shakescene21
2.2 / 5 (5) Dec 19, 2013
@Otto- I am sick of wasting time with your dumb comments. I am only posting this reply for the benefit of anyone else who is reading this thread.
As I said:
"At this stage, the magma influx is not pushing the solid rock upwards. Rather, it is melting the solid rock as the excess heat rises "

The Yellowstone supervolcano is erupting every 600,000 to 700,000 years. During the longest stage of the cycle, the stage we are in now, the magma is slowly melting the rock above it (at a rate of maybe 6 inches per year.). This rock is a massive sheet of the tectonic plate which is slowly moving over the volcanic "hot spot". Currently the massive rock sheet is not bulging much because it is so massive. Over hundreds of thousands of years the rock layer becomes so thin that the growing magma mass can push up the rock layer into a dome which fails and results in an eruption.
The events that Otto's source describes will take maybe 1,000 years (maybe less) of the supervolcano's 600,000 year
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2013
"At this stage, the magma influx is not pushing the solid rock upwards. Rather, it is melting the solid rock as the excess heat rises "
-And I PROVED to you that its NOT you FUCKING imbecile.
Shakescene21
2.5 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2013


"You just have to convince the rabid environmentalists in the EASTERN United States who love to tell us how to manage the resources in our state..."

@Modernmystic -- I'm an Easterner myself (Washington,DC) and I should be trying to convince environmentalists and others that Geothermal electric plants would be good for the environment. Obviously, if we could prevent the eruption of the supervolcano we could prevent a horrific environmental disaster, but that threat seems to be too vague. So I have tried to point out the enormous Global Warming benefits from the vast amounts of electricity this could generate.
Geothermal electricity is among the most valuable "green" energy sources in that it is available 24/7 and can be slowed down when demand drops. If geothermal electric plants in Yellowstone could provide most of the electricity for the Western US, it could drastically reduce CO2 emmissions by replacing coal-fired plants. And power all those electric cars!
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 19, 2013
I'm an Easterner myself (Washington,DC)
Chances are that you are another iteration of the lying dimwit obama_socks. Your intellects are identical.
and I should be trying to convince environmentalists and others that Geothermal electric plants would be good for the environment
If you truly believe in the cause then you ought to keep your mouth shut and stay away from it.
Shakescene21
1.7 / 5 (3) Dec 20, 2013
Just to ensure that no one reading this thread has been misled by Otto regarding the heat collecting tunnels... There would NOT be pipes inserted into magma. Instead, shafts would be drilled vertically into the rock covering the magma to a depth where the rock is very hot but not molten. Then, using oil-drilling technology, tunnels would be drilled horizontally in a pattern radiating out from the vertical shafts. Water would be pumped into the shafts and steam would emerge, which would turn a turbine to generate electricity. This process would remove heat from the rock, and slow the upward movement of magma -- if there was enough cooling the rock layer could actually be thickened and the volcano would be "defused".
Zephir_fan
Dec 20, 2013
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TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 20, 2013
shafts would be drilled vertically into the rock covering the magma to a depth where the rock is very hot but not molten. Then, using oil-drilling technology, tunnels would
Thats enough pussytard. As usual you've proven to be either uncommonly stupid or an uncommonly elaborate hoax. Either way you're still a waste aren't you?

Pussytard wants to stop a magma pool with a surface area of 1500 square miles by installing cooling pipes 10 mi below the surface. This is magnitudes more ignorant than your idea of quenching a meltdown with dry ice in the vicinity.

Vandal or cretin - you're a sick joke.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2013
@ModernMystic -- The more I think about it the more clear it becomes that it would be necessary to drill shafts in the Yellowstone Park itself, as you suggested. Because so much of the heat is rising directly underneath the park, plants located outside of the park probably wouldn't be able to extract heat from the most dangerous areas. There might be some decent sites for geothermal electric plants outside of the park, and they could be a good source of green energy, but they would not help much in cooling the rock directly under the crater.

Obviously, any drilling inside the park is impossible under current law. As a Washinton "Beltway Insider" I can confidently say that drilling in the park won't be allowed in my lifetime. However, horizontal drilling under the park might be allowed if an overwhelming case can be made. Currently, horizontal drilling technology is not able to drill 25-mile tunnels at depths of 3 miles, but it is improving rapidly.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2013
Obviously, any drilling inside the park is impossible under current law. As a Washinton "Beltway Insider" I can confidently say
-As a compulsive LIAR you can say anything you want pussytard, and no one will take you seriously. Are you too dim to realize this?
Washinton "Beltway Insider"
-Nobody tries as hard as you do to create separate identities. Pretty obvious. Pretty embarrassing eh?
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2013
The more I think about it the more clear it becomes
How would you know? You're no engineer. Are you?
There might be some decent sites for geothermal electric plants outside of the park, and they could be a good source of green energy, but they would not help much in cooling the rock directly under the crater
Hey pussytard why don't you try this?

Get the biggest pot - or cauldron - you can think of, put it on the biggest stove you can get, and then fill it full of water. Turn the stove on and keep it on.

When it's finally roiling and boiling, take a teeny tiny sliver of ice and set it a few inches away. What happens? Does the pot stop boiling pussytard? Go ahead try it.
Zephir_fan
Dec 20, 2013
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Shakescene21
3 / 5 (4) Dec 20, 2013
@Zephir -- You are almost as crazy as Otto...This is probably the last time I'll respond to your dumb comments.

I have been on Physorg for at least 4 years and have never voted. Not even once...
I don't know how many other Shakescenes there are -- I picked 21 for the 21st Century.

The fact that I live in the DC area doesn't make me an "Obama-man". I voted for Obama in 2008 but against him in 2012.
Zephir_fan
Dec 20, 2013
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TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2013
That's the same sort of switch and bait comment you try when you are Obama-man and Estevania. (Speaking of, it's about time for the tough guy puppet, you think?) If it was too stupid to work using then, do you think the same tired trick will work this time?
Ahaahaaa 4 years and she wants us to believe that she never saw the obama_socks flood network? The obama_socks dumfuk who has loads of nothing good to say about everything?

Pussytard youre too stupid to lie and get away with it. Youve been outed once again.

Hey zf notice how shes pumped this one up to 3.1? That would be unrealistic for someone who thinks pissing on kilauea would freeze it solid.
Zephir_fan
Dec 20, 2013
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bearly
1 / 5 (2) Dec 21, 2013
Fer crying out loud bearly, take your US politics and keep them in the US.

You mean the same place as the volcano ? If you're not in America what the hell do you care ?
goracle
4 / 5 (1) Dec 21, 2013
Fer crying out loud bearly, take your US politics and keep them in the US.

You mean the same place as the volcano ? If you're not in America what the hell do you care ?

That you think an eruption on that scale is only a concern for the USA shows your profound ignorance.
adam_russell_9615
3 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2013
Well at least that would put an end to global warming.
Protoplasmix
5 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2013
@Shakescene21—internal heat content of the Earth is 10^31 joules (3x10^15 TW hr), thermal energy flows to the surface by conduction at a rate of 44.2 TW but it's replenished at a rate of 30 TW by radioactive decay. The thermal gradient is 25-30 °C per kilometer of depth. Average conductive heat flux is 0.1 MW/km^2. Values are higher near plate boundaries where crust is thinner.

@Ghost, your suggestion of field work was hilarious. However, regarding geothermal sustainability:
"Over the course of decades, individual wells draw down local temperatures and water levels until a new equilibrium is reached with natural flows. The three oldest sites, at Larderello, Wairakei, and the Geysers have experienced reduced output because of local depletion. Heat and water, in uncertain proportions, were extracted faster than they were replenished." See http://en.wikiped...l_energy

@Zeph—may the Google be with you. And also the Wikipedia.
PS3
1 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2013
Why not develop some super heat sinks and suck the heat away for energy and making the upper layer more rock solid
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2013
@Protoplasmix -- Thank you for the data. If I understand it correctly, the total flow of geothermal energy to the surface of the Earth is 44 trillion watts (MTW). This is an enormous amount of energy, totalling 385,000 MTWH per year. In comparison, global electricity consumption was about 20,000 MTWH (net) in 2008. Of course most of this geothermal energy emmission was very diffuse accross the globe, and relatively little of it was available in concentrated areas.
This is great global information, but for purposes of "defusing" the Yellowstone supervolcano, the question is: how much of the 44 MTW is going into the Yellowstone heat buildup, which is the amount that would need to be drained off?
Zephir_fan
Dec 22, 2013
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TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 22, 2013
Enough to melt a mountain range. At a minimum depth of 10 (ten) miles. Over a 5200 square MILE area. That's a LOT of pipe pussytard. Why don't you calculate how much pipe you will need to install to cover 5200 square miles?

I know it must be very hard to accept that you are a compulsive idiot. How many times a day do you wash your hands? Comb your hair? Clean your glasses? Is your door locked? Are you sure??
Drained off and put where
Perhaps she could run a pipe to the Pacific Ocean. A BIG pipe. Or melt a nearby mountain range.

Oh but that would defeat the whole agw thing. Never mind .
Shakescene21
3 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2013
"Why not develop some super heat sinks and suck the heat away for energy and making the upper layer more rock solid"

@PS3 -- Exactly. Using the excess energy to generate Geothermal electricity for the Western US and Canada. Generating electricity moves much of the heat away from Yellowstone to industrial and population centers, and sales of electricity finance the megaproject. This will happen within 100 to 200 years, if the volcano doesn't blow first.
Zephir_fan
Dec 22, 2013
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TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 22, 2013
the heat away from Yellowstone to industrial and population centers
Hey pussytard how's them pipe calculationisms comin'? I thought of another way you might possibly get your tiny mind wrapped around this huge absurdity of yours.

Take a look at the pic above. Can you see the 'o' in yellowstone? The inside of that 'o' is perhaps 50 square miles. You would be able to fill about 1/50th - that's one-fiftieth - of that area with your pipe grid.

Compare that little 'o' with the big red splotch that is melted rock. Thousands and thousands of cubic MILES of it. More and more is being pushed up from below. None of it will ever be affected by anything anyone could ever do.

But none of this logic is having any effect on your opinion whatsoever, is it pussytard? Because your opinion comes from a very sick place.

Look at the picture, look at the little 'o', look at the big big red blotch, and ponder for a second or 2 why the world never made any sense to you.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2013
Sorry zf hit the wrong star. Remember 'Space 1999'? A nuclear waste dump exploded and sent the moon and Martin landau off into deep space at relativistic speeds. Maybe volcano power COULD move the moon who knows?
Zephir_fan
Dec 22, 2013
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Zephir_fan
Dec 22, 2013
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Skepticus_Rex
3 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2013
For those suggesting drilling for the purposes of geothermal energy, consider the following:

http://www.eurone...thquake/

You sure you even want to think about drilling into the top of a magma chamber this size?

Thickening the cap on the magma chamber also is a very bad idea. Making it thicker only would increase the amount of pressure and potential energy that could build up in the magma chamber.

Of course, this all is assuming we even could make even the smallest dent in the energy levels building up in that magma chamber. Using water to cool the rock will not remove the kind of energy that would need to be removed to make something like that workable. The Mantle is the supply of this potential energy, both heat and pressure. The Mantle of this planet is pretty large and the supply of magma virtually endless. There really is little that we could do that could stop this. And, what little we could do would be ineffective.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (2) Jan 02, 2014
@skepticus -- Yes there are risks and uncertainties in trying to "defuse" the supervolcano, but if nothing is done then it will surely erupt and destroy most of North America and hundreds of millions of people. Also, the supervolcano could become a vast source of green energy to stop Global Warming while boosting the US economy.

It appears that the amount of energy building up annually in the Yellowstone magma chamber is less than the US energy consumption in 2012, which was 97 quadrillion BTUs including 39 quadrillion BTUs for generating electricity.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (3) Jan 02, 2014
@Skepticus -- Regarding your concern about thickening the rock "cap" over the supervolcano, I think that thickening the cap might buy lots of time, probably hundreds of thousands of years and maybe millions of years. During that time humans and robots and artificial intelligence will probably develop the technology needed to reduce the pressure building up in the magma chamber.
For the next few thousand years the threat is not from pressure building up, but rather from rising energy melting the layer of rock that is atop the magma chamber. When this layer of rock becomes too thin, the pressure will push it upward into a cone until it erupts. Thus the first priority should be to cool the rock layer by extracting energy via geothermal electricity.
Budding Geologist
5 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2014
Even if they did find some way to pipe water for geothermal energy all the way down to the yellowstone caldera in order to accelerate the cooling, this would make the eruption sooner, not prevent it from occurring. As has been seen in several other articles in from this site, the current idea is that supervolcano eruptions are triggered by denser elements crystallizing out of the magma chamber as it cools, leave an increasingly buoyant silica rich melt behind, which eventually is less dense than the surrounding crustal material, allowing it to break through to the surface. Therefore even if we could tap enough geothermal energy to cool the chamber noticeably, we would just accelerate the crystallization of denser minerals, and make an eruption come sooner. I'm a senior in my geology program, so also not talking out of my ass.
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (2) Jan 19, 2014
Shakescene21, you need to get some geology education. Some good Physics courses wouldn't hurt. Listen to Budding Geologist, even if you listen to no one else. S/he is correct.

And, thickening the "cap" is a very, very bad idea. The pressure continues to build in the chamber regardless of the circumstances. Try thinking about this a different way. You make a small bomb from a two-liter bottle. You make another from a steel pipe. Which one is more likely going to rip off an appendage and/or kill you and others? Why?

Now, thickening the cap is like making the bomb made with the steel pipe. Understand now why this is a very bad idea? You cannot extract kinetic energy by making geothermal energy from steam and trying to cool such a large magma chamber as this. If you do not set it off sooner (right now, if it went off it would be very bad as it is) you will make a future eruption much, much worse.

We simply do not have the technology to do as you propose at the present time.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2014
@Budding Geologist -- Your point reflects the very latest scientific research and is well taken. However, I am not advocating piping water into the caldera, but rather drilling geothermal collection tubes into the hot-but-solid rock above the caldera. A mile or two deep would probably be sufficient at first. This energy extraction would strenghten the rock that is holding the magma down and also slow the flow of melting tectonic plate rock into the magma chamber.

Geothermal electric extraction would slow the process by which the solid rock from above is gradually melting and liquifying to become part of the magma in the expanding chamber. This liquified rock then becomes fresh magma which differentiates into heavy and lighter fractions, which expands the bouyant force pushing upward. (This is in addition to magma which is trying to enter the Yellowstone magma chamber from below.) Thus, cooling the hot rock layer above the magma chamber delays the eruption in two ways

Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2014
Doing anything that could weaken the structural integrity of the "cap" also is a very bad idea. Extracting of steam to produce geothermal energy will do nothing to cool the below magma chamber at current levels of technology. You still have to deal with the building kinetic energy in the magma chamber. The only way to effectively deal with that is to find a way to seal off the entry point of the magma into the chamber. This also is an impossible feat at current levels of technology.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2014
@Skepticus-- Your concern about the structural integrity of the "cap" is extremely valid. For that reason the first geothermal tubes would surely be steel pipe rather than unlined shafts in the rock. R&D is needed, but horizontal steel pipes would probably reinforce the rock in the same manner that steel rebar reinforces cement slabs. And cool rock is stronger than hot rock, so after geothermal energy extraction begins the rock itself will be stronger. Keeping the rock "cap" as cool and thick as possible will delay the eruption and buy time for new technology. (And in the meanwhile provide vast quantities of green electricity.)

And you are correct that cooling the cap will not prevent the buildup of kinetic energy in the magma chamber. Current technology cannot deal with that problem, but in 500 to 1000 years the level of human technology will astound us and probably will be able to seal off the entry point and/or intercept the energy before it reaches the entry point.
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2014
It isn't going to work. Steel pipe will not function like rebar. In order for something like this to absorb energy to attempt to cool the rock and prevent further melting--something not possible with current levels of technology--you would have to place the pipe horizontally in a region very close to the magma itself, between 3 and 9 miles deep and hundreds of miles long by 18 miles wide.

That is absolutely impossible for today's technology. All that would occur even if it could be done is that the pipes would weaken from heat stress and every single place where pipe was inserted would become a weak point when the pressure built up enough to shatter the entire apparatus. It is much more likely to set the whole thing off much sooner than later.

And, you do not want to thicken the "cap." If you are going to attempt anything, it will have to be to find a way to close off the flow of magma to the chamber. This is way beyond anything we are capable of doing at present.
Whydening Gyre
1 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2014
And, you do not want to thicken the "cap." If you are going to attempt anything, it will have to be to find a way to close off the flow of magma to the chamber. This is way beyond anything we are capable of doing at present.

A relief of pressure BEFORE it builds up to eruption capacity is the way to go. Pick the spot where you want a new mountain and drill baby, drill...
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (3) Jan 22, 2014
A relief of pressure BEFORE it builds up to eruption capacity is the way to go. Pick the spot where you want a new mountain and drill baby, drill...


This kind of drilling already has been attempted. It failed. The viscosity and the temperatures of the rock at the depth required made the rock more like plastic than solid rock. The Kola Superdeep Borehole drilling failed for that reason. And that only went down 12.29 km (~7.64 miles). A lot of the magma chamber is at a depth of 9 miles. Even if you managed to reach a point where it is only 4.83 km (~3 miles), you still have to contend with viscosity issues as you near the rock just above the magma chamber. We just aren't there yet with current levels of technology.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2014
A relief of pressure BEFORE it builds up to eruption capacity is the way to go. Pick the spot where you want a new mountain and drill baby, drill...


This kind of drilling already has been attempted. It failed. The viscosity and the temperatures of the rock at the depth required made the rock more like plastic than solid rock. The Kola Superdeep Borehole drilling failed for that reason. And that only went down 12.29 km (~7.64 miles). A lot of the magma chamber is at a depth of 9 miles. Even if you managed to reach a point where it is only 4.83 km (~3 miles), you still have to contend with viscosity issues as you near the rock just above the magma chamber. We just aren't there yet with current levels of technology.

Dang...Guess I'm not the first person to check that idea out of the cosmic library...
all in all, tho, still probly best way to go at this point in the game...
dtxx
5 / 5 (4) Jan 22, 2014
Nothing in the scope of our current technology could even come close to affecting this. The very best we could hope for by messing with it is to cause a terrible event now instead of waiting for it to happen.

I think our salvation is the fact that statistically we probably have at least a few thousand years before it will pop. It could pop tomorrow, sure, and we would be so globally fucked... but this is something that needs to be dealt with by technology we haven't even conceived of yet.

Tryinig to alter this chamber, drain energy, whatever... that would be like a 90 pound guy slapping Mike Tyson in the face and calling him a bitch. Sure you could try it, but I sure as fuck don't recommend it and don't want to by nearby when it happen.s
Whydening Gyre
1 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2014
Nothing in the scope of our current technology could even come close to affecting this. The very best we could hope for by messing with it is to cause a terrible event now instead of waiting for it to happen.

I think our salvation is the fact that statistically we probably have at least a few thousand years before it will pop. It could pop tomorrow, sure, and we would be so globally fucked... but this is something that needs to be dealt with by technology we haven't even conceived of yet.

Tryinig to alter this chamber, drain energy, whatever... that would be like a 90 pound guy slapping Mike Tyson in the face and calling him a bitch. Sure you could try it, but I sure as fuck don't recommend it and don't want to by nearby when it happen.s

My bad. I should have said - pick the spot where you want a new mountain RANGE... I still think relieving pressure BEFORE it gets to the pop point is better than waiting...
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (2) Jan 23, 2014
You would have to drill more than a single location into the chamber, even if you could get past the viscosity issues as you near the boundaries of the rock adjacent to the magma chamber. Weaken any portion of the current "cap" covering the magma chamber and you could potentially set the whole thing off. It is not worth the risk or costs at current levels of technology.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Jan 23, 2014
You would have to drill more than a single location into the chamber, even if you could get past the viscosity issues as you near the boundaries of the rock adjacent to the magma chamber. Weaken any portion of the current "cap" covering the magma chamber and you could potentially set the whole thing off. It is not worth the risk or costs at current levels of technology.

Dang... sounds like a job for Reed Richards and the gang....
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Jan 24, 2014
@Skepticus -- You have made some good points, but in every case you are making the most pessimistic assumptions, and overall your assessment is too negative. I'll admit I'm probably too optimistic, but the course of technological progress will eventually make me look too conservative someday.

It is sad that very little is being spent on researching volcanoes, and even less is spent on trying to harness this destructive energy.
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (2) Jan 24, 2014
No, I am speaking from knowledge regarding materials sciences as well as some geology and physics knowledge. We do not have the tech now. That is not to say that we might not be able to develop it in future but for right now doing what you desire is not feasible, or even necessarily safe. We aren't there yet but who knows where we will be in 500 years? Provided we do not make ourselves extinct and/or stop our evolution by what we do we may yet see great strides in technological advances. But, we are not there yet. Nothing we have can do what you seek at the present time.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2014
@Skepticus...
"We aren't there yet but who knows where we will be in 500 years?"

500 YEARS? I was thinking about 50 years, 100 at the most. If the project isn't underway in 2064 then I'll eat crow :-)
Skepticus_Rex
5 / 5 (2) Jan 27, 2014
There won't be much crow left to eat if somebody starts working on such a project before technology reaches the point where it needs to be before they even start. Of course, I won't be worrying about it because I likely won't be alive at that time. :-)