If our climate catastrophists want to twiddle the dials and stop climate change, they need to play God and change radiation in the galaxy, the Sun, the Earth’s orbit, tidal cycles and plate tectonics. Once they have mastered volcanoes, then we can let them loose on climate change. Read more here.
Larry Fields says
The article reinforces my impression that Ian Plimer is an outstanding writer. Having said that, I’d like to address the title of the thread directly.
There are several supervolcanoes on our cozy little planet. The biggest is Toba. In Toba’s eruptive heyday more than 70 thousand years ago, it’s thought that massive ejection of ash and sulfur oxides into the atmosphere caused the rapid onset of an ice age that wiped out most of the human race. It could happen again.
The best-known supervolcano in the US is sitting beneath Yellowstone National Park. Suppose that the science of volcanology becomes considerably more advanced in the near future. Suppose further that volcanologists could state with 95% confidence that Jellystone was going to blow its top again in 5 years, give or take 1 day. What should we do about it?
At the national level, most politicians would probably be inclined tell the Great Unwashed that there was nothing to worry about, as they arranged tragic ‘accidents’ for most of the leading volcanologists, stocked their bunkers, and quietly replaced all of their male staffers with young women. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Strangelove allusion.)
Our senior policy-makers would probably do something similar if they really believed that a run-away Greenhouse Effect was going to render most of the planet uninhabitable in 5 years.
But what’s the wisest course of action? If I were prezzie, I’d drill a hole as deeply as possible in the center of the Jellystone caldera, erect some scaffolding directly above it, evacuate the drilling crew and everyone else within a 100-mile radius, then drop a 2-megaton nuclear warhead down the hole.
Why? To relieve the pressure. Yes, there’d be a huge eruption. But with luck, it’d be quite a bit smaller than the super-eruption in the laissez-faire scenario. Yes, it’d take a lot of chutzpah to preemptively nuke a world-class national park. And yes, thousands of square miles of surrounding forests and farmland would probably be devastated. Better that than an instant next ice age.
Louis Hissink says
My personal view of the Yellowstone hotspot is that it’s a remnant of a large impact event and what we are misinterpreting is that it’s building up now, to explode in the future. Rather we are observing the tail end of a recent thermal event that formed the Yellowstone hotspot, much like other mantle hotspots which are the locations of previous thermal impacts.
Given the assumed association of volcanic activity with subduction zones, Yellowstone is a bit far away from such a zone, so that explanation is a non-starter.
Given that fact, what then is supplying the focussed energy assumed to causing the buildup under Yellowstone? We know of no natural source of energy that could do that. Radioactive decay is a non-starter since we have zilch evidence for any accumulation of heat generating nuclides in sufficient concentration to mimic a runaway nuclear fission action to produce a focussed heat source away from known tectonic plate interactions. It’s the same problem for kimberlite generation in cold cratonic areas – in terms of existing mainstream theory, very problematical.
So what else could be generating the heat interpreted to be causing the surface phenomena at Yellowstone?
The problem with your take is the evidence in the ash beds attributed to multiple Yellowstone events over many years. Also, the presence of a big magma chamber below Yellowstone, and evidence that the hot spot is stationary, relative to the moving tectonic plate above it. There are remnants of past calderas on a track leading away from the present Yellowstone, dragged there over the megayears as the continental plate inches away from the hotspot.
“Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Louis Hissink says
The many ash beds don’t contradict my interpretation that it’s essentially an historical event – the impact would have formed the magma chamber and the eruption of many ash beds. So the presence of a magma chamber is also not contradictory – and plate tectonics has been rejected as physically impossible in any case.
So will Yellowstone explode? And how and what is the energy source. The big problem with mantle hotspots is the focussed energy source – notice that no one has observed one starting up – they have only been observed as having occurred.
And look, SJT enters the fray with another soliloquy.
I am not aware that an asteroid event would do anything like what you seem to claim.
This is an instance where the existence of igneous rock, a trackable series of eroded, older calderas, leading away from Yellowstone, and the geophysical data, all make the Yellowstone caldera explanation reasonable, testable, and supported by multi-lines of converging evidence.
I missed your part about plate tectonics.
I fear you are in a distinct and awkward minority on that one, Louis.
I am in touch with a large number of academic and professional geophysical and geological people.
None of them, including ones that do freelance work risking their own capital, think there is a better explanation of large scale Earth geology than plate tectonics.
If you have one, please share it.
Tectonics, unlike the topic that draws here to this site, is testable, exists in data from outside sources, has been used to explain numerous events and processes, can be back tested successfully, and can be used to make useful predictions.
That is a steep hill to falsify.
“If you have one, please share it.”
Just don’t ask about Velikovsky.
Louis Hissink says
I never mentioned asteroid – I said impact.
As for plate tectonics, it lacks a viable mechanism – and there are quite a few geologists who don’t accept it – most of the science is published under the New Concepts in Global Tectonics Newsletter – http://www.ncgt.org where most save the last two are freely downloadable.
Plate Tectonics is what AGW might be in time – a well entrenched dogma not founded on scientific fact – and some serious problems exist for geology in Derek Ager’s third edition of “the Nature of the Stratigraphical Record”, published by Wiley, in which he shows that many of the Earth’s sedimentary strata are so laterally consistent in rock type and composition that they are actually impossible to have accumulated in the manner proposed. It’s considered heresy by the Lyellians.
Tectonics isn’t testable – I am an experienced exploration geologist and while on a local scale structures are predictable, that fact does not explain how those structures were formed.
Plate Tectonics suffers from one fundamental flaw – there is no known physical process to drive it. Mantle convection is unworkable – and even a simple comparison of linear length of “spreading ridges” with the linear length of subduction zones shows enormous flaws. Recent work on ocean floors has shown they are comprised of continental crust as well.
The real problem is that the mindset driving AGW is the same that drives the Plate Tectonics dogma – and the critics of Plate Tectonics are the industry geologists, not the academics. Except that in geology we were knobbled 2 centuries ago by the Lyellians. Only now have we started to loosen the intellectual shackles binding us.
My opposition to Plate Tectonics started during the 1970’s – following from the work of E.S.T O’Driscoll, Carey and others, as well as the data we exploration people generate. My are of specialisation is Kimberlites and diamonds, and plate tectonics is totally incapable of explaining those volcanic rocks.
But the NCGT Newsletters is a good place to learn about the geological heresies some of us are guilty of.
Louis Hissink says
Hannes Aflven once mentioned that sometimes an idea is too early to be put to one’s peers – and my editorial in the latest AIG News (www.aig.org.au Issue 97) makes a brief comment on scientific paradigms and whether some science is better described as pseudoscience than science.
Note that Plate Tectonics is not a testable hypothesis – we have no means of examining the mantle to determine whether convection occurs in it, and what energy source drives that process. The usual visual example is to draw a hypothetical cross section across an oceanic ridge and show how the upwelling basalts move away from the ridges – but as convection cells have spherical symmetry, a longitudinal cross section of an oceanic ridge immediately causes problems.
Plate Tectonics is an excellent example of science by consensus, and that makes it unscientific.
Louis Hissink says
Thirdly, Plate Tectonics was a geophysical hypothesis, not a geological one. Why so many geologists embraced it collectively in such a short time would make an excellent PHd thesis for some budding psychology post grad student on the herd instinct. Very easy to accept ideas that are not easily tested by physical experiment but which seem to be rhetorically plausible – hence my previous point that it’s the same mindset driving Plate Tectonic as AGW.
We will simply have to agree to disagree irt plate tectonics.
The Hawaiian islands, Yellowstone, the mid-ocean ridges and trenches speak very clearly to me about plate tectonics. As does Venus (as a negative example), and Europa.
I do not think we are comparing to apples to apples at all between AGW and tectonics.
Louis, Do you agree with the theory that the continents were once joined together? ( It seems to me that the evidence of this is very strong), how do you propose that the continents have “drifted” apart if not for the actions of plate tectonics? please note you may be right and the movement wasnt / is not caused by plate tectonics…but like hunter suggests there is a lot of evidence to support the theory.
Louis Hissink says
The disgreement is rhetorical – my position is that there is no plausible mechanism for plate tectonics, an opinion held by quite a few other geologists.
You miss the point comparing AGW and plate tectonics – both ideas were derived from untested assumptions – and are thus pseudoscientific. Science builds on previously empirically verified facts. AGW and PT are not based on proven facts but assumptions based on consensus.
Louis Hissink says
A competing theory is earth expansion theory and James Maxlow has the best summary of it on the web.
I do not necessarily accept that theory either since it too has problems that the PT’s people like pointing to.
There is a third line of approach which might be considered, but it’s a fairly drastic one and would probably cause too much cognitive dissonance at present, but the clues are there, in the published peer reviewed literature.
One fact is the empirical observation made by Ollier that considering the amount of land mass eroded by the existing drainages on the world’s continents, then there is a serious absence of that eroded materical downstream on the continental shelves – a mass balance problem you could say.