Yellowstone’s supervolcano – worse than we thought

Yellowstone’s supervolcano – worse than we thought“. This is how Anthony Watts smears a paper-thin crust of science on his blog: he pastes in a random general science press release. In this case, a University of Utah study has provided a more detailed geophysical image of the volcanic hotspot beneath Yellowstone National Park, which seems bigger and potentially more deadly than previously thought.

Quoth the press release:

University of Utah geophysicists made 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 image suggests the plume is even bigger than it appears in earlier images made with earthquake waves.

The Yellowstone volcanic plume. New image on the left. Photo Credit: The University of Utah.

Hey, science! At the moment it’s effectively quiescent, but the theoretical consequences are no further away than a Discovery Channel dramatization. To further quote the University of Utah:

The hotspot finally reached Yellowstone about 2 million years ago, yielding three huge caldera eruptions about 2 million, 1.3 million and 642,000 years ago. Two of the eruptions blanketed half of North America with volcanic ash, producing 2,500 times and 1,000 times more ash, respectively, than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state. Smaller eruptions occurred at Yellowstone in between the big blasts and as recently as 70,000 years ago.

This particular copy-and-paste implicitly stokes the denialist meme that humans are too puny to have any impact on our climate. If that volcano goes off then switching to wind power will have been a meaningless effort. All that fussing would seem pretty foolish if something like that happened, so why bother?

Just don’t consider the curious fact that the regular and ongoing impact humanity is having on our environment is probably on the same scale as these kinds of improbable freak catastrophes denialists tell us we should really be worrying about.

Google Earth leads to spectacular meteor crater find

Google Earth leads to spectacular meteor crater find. Random science news from Anthony Watts. See? He runs a science blog, not an anti-science blog! This story makes a pretty good fig-leaf though.

The Kamil crater in the Egyptian desert was first spotted in 2008 by mineralogist Vincenzo De Michele in Google Earth imagery. From a European Space Agency press release:

One day within the last several thousand years, a rare metallic meteorite travelling over 12 000 km/hour smashed into Earth’s surface near what is today the trackless border region between Egypt, Sudan and Libya. The impact of the 1.3 m, 10-tonne chunk of iron generated a fireball and plume that would have been visible over 1000 km away, and drilled a hole 16 m deep and 45 m wide into the rocky terrain.

Storm elves and sprites recorded on video

Storm elves and sprites recorded on video“. Charles Rotter copies and pastes “Storm elves and sprites recorded on video“, a random science news release from Eureka Alert. More lazy generic science posts to prove that Anthony Watts’ blog isn’t strictly about denying climate change.

Elves, sprites and blue jets associated with electrical storms. Credit: Danish National Space Center

Spanish researchers have recorded fleeting and luminous electric phenomena, called elves and sprites, produced in storms the upper layers of the atmosphere. Their analysis of these observations, made with high-speed equipment, has been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Zooming In on an Infant Solar System

Zooming In on an Infant Solar System“. Steven Mosher dumps in an off-topic copy and paste of a University of Arizona press release,  Zooming In on an Infant Solar System. Anthony likes to see these posts occasionally because they can be pointed to as proof that his denialist website isn’t completely anti-science.

A protoplanetary disk visualization. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The UA scientists combined light from two Keck telescopes and further boosted the resolution using spectro-astrometry to observe a protoplanetary disk 500 light years from Earth. Matter accretes to a star in two possible ways; as it falls directly onto star, or following tangential paths constrained by magnetic fields that result in super-heated and ionized gas impacting the star at high speeds. After observing 15 protoplanetary disks, most seem to follow the latter pattern.

Iceland, soon to be Ashland

Iceland, soon to be Ashland“. Anthony Watts pastes a disappointingly non-alarmist NASA Picture of the Day post about the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland, which is continuing to erupt. The real environmental impact of volcanic eruptions occurs when sulfur dioxide reaches the stratosphere, which is not happening in this instance.

The Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland ash cloud from space.

Sulfur dioxide turns into tiny droplets of sulfuric acid. These light-colored droplets cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight back to space. Because it doesn’t rain in the stratosphere, the droplets can linger for months or years. Massive eruptions can cool the global average surface temperature by several degrees for several years.

In most cases, though, high-latitude eruptions have little influence on global climate even when they are explosive enough to inject sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere; the reflective particles rarely have a chance to spread around the globe. Stratospheric air generally rises above tropical latitudes, spreads toward the poles, and then sinks back toward the lower atmosphere at high latitudes.

The article references a 2006 post on RealClimate.org by Anthony’s ‘nemesis’, the actual climatologist Gavin Schmidt. So I guess he’s off the lying commie world gubmint conspirators list. Or is this one of those posts that are intended to ‘prove’ that he doesn’t always attack climatologists?

I’m trying to imagine Anthony explaining something is a way that Gavin would consider accurate and unbiased and link to…