Super Volcanoes — Nature’s Tipping Point

Last week ABC News and the UK’s Daily Mail ran stories about a new scientific study showing that super volcanoes can form much more rapidly than previously thought.   My local paper did not cover the story….but had space to talk about the looming catastrophe that was 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (my last post).

A little perspective, please.

One (global warming) might slowly change the world, making it warmer, which might lead to disaster, if the theory is right.  The other (a super volcano eruption) will kill millions instantly, when it happens and it will happen.

Scientists, could be wrong about super volcanoes, but there is lots of physical evidence (Yellowstone National Park for one) to support their view.  Climate doom Sayers are relying on computer models and the output of those models are less consistent than their advocates would have you believe.

Which boogie man scares you more?   Yup, when I think about ecological boogie men, I think about Yellowstone blowing it’s top.    It probably happened 640,000 years ago…and it has erupted 3 times in the last 2 million years.

I have trouble imaging what the world was like 74,000 years ago, but it must have been awful.  The 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption times 2200.  Imagine if you can, 640 cubic  miles of material being ejected into the atmosphere in an instant.    Many scientists think that is exactly what happened 74,000 years ago when a super volcano erupted in Indonesia.  It was the biggest super volcano eruption in recent geologic history.

The Indonesia eruption was estimated to be almost three times the size of the last Yellowstone eruption, which ejected some 240 cubic miles of material.  The Yellowstone eruption  (according to a BBC article) was like having 1000 Atom bombs going off every second.

Now consider this, the day before the volcano erupted, the world was in the middle of an ice age cool cycle.  Thousands of feet of ice blanketed upstate New York.  The world survived the event, healed itself and became the world we have today.

When I hear Al Gore or James Hansen talk gloomily about a tipping point with carbon dioxide, I have doubts.  If the world can survive super volcanoes, and all the crap (including huge amounts of carbon dioxide) they put into the atmosphere,  maybe Mr. Gore is wrong.  Maybe the world can adjust to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

I suspect Mr. Gore and Dr. Hansen underestimate Mother Nature, and overestimate man’s ability to mess things up. When I think of a tipping point, I think of nature’s tipping point, Super Volcano eruptions.

Imagine if you can, so much ash in the air that there was no summer until it subsided.  Throw in acid rain and a sudden increase in carbon dioxide levels too.  If the Earth survived all the ash and carbon dioxide and sulfur that was the Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia Super Volcano eruption 74,000 years ago, maybe 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ain’t so bad.


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