Friday, April 08, 2005

Shades of "The War of the Worlds"

My husband was telling me about a promo he saw for an upcoming movie on the Discovery channel and how it was based on someone's new research and could happen any time. He had some other things to say, but seemed concerned about this latest threat and wondered why someone wasn't "doing something". He mentioned how thousands of years ago something smaller than Yellowstone's area erupted and reduced humankind drastically.

I cautiously brought out my inner geek who knows a tiny bit or two about geology (a role -[geek, know a little, figure out a lot]- I am very cautious about playing, but is also sometimes solicited, as in this case), and explained a little of what I know about hot spots, calderas, Yellowstone and the like- sort of the  "Cliffs Notes"  version. I didn't say so directly, but suggested that I had a hard time believing that there was an immediate threat (yeah, I was eggwalking).

I also mentioned that though it would be horribly devastating in the modern world, we do have energy sources independent of the sun, and the ability to grow food without sunlight. Our whole focus would be on survival and finding new ways to do things (as an optimist, perhaps that world would pull together?). Who knows, we might even be able to figure out how to do some cleaning of the ash in the atmosphere and or speed up the natural cleansing process, if it were a real priority. Then again, I have no real feel for what that amount of ash might look like and what we would do with it, even if we could figure out how to get it to the ground without choking on it; maybe we wouldn't have any way to handle that (geek know a little, not a lot ;-) ).

The trouble with promos for a movie on the Discovery channel is that there are a lot of folks who might miss the fact that it is based on potential, not an actual immediate threat. With words like "based on the latest predictions of leading scientists" it is a little bit misleading. Then again, when did folks start considering movies as factual sources of information?

In their factual write-up about supervolcanoes and Yellowstone they say:
Though Yellowstone could erupt again someday, there is no evidence that the caldera is readying for another massive blast, says Smith. That outlook is shared by Jake Lowenstern, the U.S. Geological Survey's lead geologist at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.

Volcanologists with the U.S. Geological Survey believe that supervolcanoes are likely to give decades — even centuries — of warning signs before they erupt. The scientists think those signs would include lots of earthquakes, massive bulging of the land, an increase in small eruptions, "swarms" of earthquakes in specific areas, changes in the chemical composition of lavas from smaller eruptions, changes in gasses escaping the ground and, possibly, large-scale cracking of the land.

None of those indicators are present at Yellowstone, says Smith.
I haven't mentioned that to my husband yet, but Monday morning when he gets to work, he will find a link to the article in his email. The movie may still be exciting fare, though.

Supervolcano :  Discovery Channel promo and linked factual articles

"The War of the Worlds" 1937 Radio Broadcast Hoax

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