NASA's Secret Plan to Save Earth From Super-Volcanoes… Seriously?

Guest post by David Middleton

I didn’t realize this was “Apocalypse Week”….

Nasa’s ambitious plan to save Earth from a supervolcano

 With an eruption brewing, it may be the only way to prevent the extinction of the human race.

  • By David Cox

17 August 2017

Lying beneath the tranquil settings of Yellowstone National Park in the US lies an enormous magma chamber. It’s responsible for the geysers and hot springs that define the area, but for scientists at Nasa, it’s also one of the greatest natural threats to human civilisation as we know it: a potential supervolcano.

Following an article we published about supervolcanoes last month, a group of Nasa researchers got in touch to share a report previously unseen outside the space agency about the threat – and what could be done about it.

“I was a member of the Nasa Advisory Council on Planetary Defense which studied ways for Nasa to defend the planet from asteroids and comets,” explains Brian Wilcox of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology. “I came to the conclusion during that study that the supervolcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat.”


The Beeb

Notes to the Beeb:

  1. It’s NASA, not Nasa.
  2. Civilization has a “z” in it.
  3. Yellowstone is a supervolcano, not a potential supervolcano.

If “the supervolcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat,” does this mean we can stop fretting about Gorebal Warming and the Sixth Mass Extinction?  Is NASA really moving on to actual threats to the planet?  Well, not threats to the planet… The planet has handled supervolcanoes, asteroids and comets quite well over its 4.5 billion year lifespan.

I’ll rephrase the question: Is NASA actually taking on genuine threats to humanity?  Or at least threats to these United States?  Let’s return to the article and find out…


There are around 20 known supervolcanoes on Earth, with major eruptions occurring on average once every 100,000 years. One of the greatest threats an eruption may pose is thought to be starvation, with a prolonged volcanic winter potentially prohibiting civilisation from having enough food for the current population. In 2012, the United Nations estimated that food reserves worldwide would last 74 days.


That’s “funny.”  One of the “solutions” proposed for Gorebal Warming is geoengineering a volcanic winter by pumping sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere.  Maybe we just need to ramp up GHG emissions now, so that when Yellowstone does pop off another Ultra-Plinian eruption, Earth will be warm enough to handle a volcanic winter.  A more pertinent concern is how we’ll handle having much of our nation covered with volcanic ash…


Figure 1. Modeled tephra fall thickness, Figure 6 from Mastin et al., 2014: “Simulated tephra fall thickness resulting from a month-long Yellowstone eruption of 330 km3 using 2001 wind fields for (a) January, (b) April, (c) July, and (d) October. In (a), the bold red line delineates the extent of the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff Bed (HR); the brown line delineates the extent of Lava Creek B Tuff (LCB) [Sarna-Wojcicki, 2000].”

What?  You don’t like models?


Figure 2. Outlines of tephra deposits from historical Yellowstone eruptions. (USGS)

As bad as the eruption and lava flows would be, the tephra deposition would be even worse.

From Mastin et al., 2014: “Table 3. Average, Maximum, and Minimum Deposit Thicknesses at Selected Cities, From Simulations Illustrated in Figures 6-8a

City Distance km Longitude Latitude Thickness (mm)
Average Minimum Maximum
  1. a“Distance” is the distance in km from Yellowstone. Longitude is given in degrees east, latitude in degrees north.
Albuquerque 1091 −106.61 35.111 24.9 4.1 73.9
Atlanta 2556 −84.387 33.748 3.1 0.5 6.5
Austin 1942 −97.743 30.267 2 0.1 4.2
Billings 227 −108.501 45.783 1429.5 1028.7 1785.6
Boise 452 −116.215 43.619 144.8 26.9 347.9
Calgary 777 −114.058 51.045 32.8 1.8 68.2
Casper 391 −106.313 42.867 516.9 325.9 844.3
Cheyenne 600 −104.82 41.14 152.9 96.3 274.4
Chicago 1887 −87.63 41.877 14.9 5.5 29.4
Denver 700 −104.985 39.737 98.1 63.6 131.9
Des Moines 1420 −93.609 41.601 40 19.9 59.6
Fargo 1111 −96.789 46.877 57.7 22.9 78.6
Flagstaff 1028 −111.639 35.201 16.3 0 50.6
Kansas City 1454 −94.621 39.114 31.7 7 57.2
Knoxville 2455 −83.92 35.96 4.3 1.2 10.5
Lincoln 1211 −96.682 40.807 52.9 22.6 88.5
Little Rock 1905 −92.289 34.746 8.4 1.6 25.2
Los Angeles 1323 −118.244 34.052 5.2 0 27
Miami 3453 −80.226 25.788 0.5 0 1.7
Minneapolis 1374 −93.267 44.983 39.2 23.2 53.5
Missoula 375 −114.019 46.86 240.6 48 474.4
Mobile 2508 −88.043 30.694 1.8 0.1 3.9
New York 3025 −74.004 40.714 2.5 1.4 3.7
Portland 950 −122.676 45.523 8.3 0 30.6
Raleigh 2884 −78.639 35.772 2.7 0.8 4.5
Rapid City 593 −103.231 44.08 208.3 168.2 330.2
St. Louis 1819 −90.199 38.627 15.3 3 32.5
Salt Lake City 419 −111.891 40.761 247.9 124.9 408.3
San Francisco 1229 −122.419 37.775 8.5 0 44.7
Seattle 966 −122.332 47.606 9.2 0 41.2
Toronto 2498 −79.383 43.653 3.7 2 6.2
Washington DC 2855 −77.036 38.907 2.9 1.3 4.4
Winnipeg 1188 −97.137 49.899 37.9 14.3 59.1

A Plinian or Ultra-Plinian eruption of Yellowstone would be really bad.


Volcanic Explosivity Index Source: Climate S.W.A.G.

So… How does NASA plan to save us from this?  Back to the Beeb:

When Nasa scientists came to consider the problem, they found that the most logical solution could simply be to cool a supervolcano down. A volcano the size of Yellowstone is essentially a gigantic heat generator, equivalent to six industrial power plants. Yellowstone currently leaks about 60-70% of the heat coming up from below into the atmosphere, via water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks. The remainder builds up inside the magma, enabling it to dissolve more and more volatile gases and surrounding rocks. Once this heat reaches a certain threshold, then an explosive eruption is inevitable.

But if more of the heat could be extracted, then the supervolcano would never erupt. Nasa estimates that if a 35% increase in heat transfer could be achieved from its magma chamber, Yellowstone would no longer pose a threat. The only question is how?


Instead Nasa have conceived a very different plan. They believe the most viable solution could be to drill up to 10km down into the supervolcano, and pump down water at high pressure. The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 350C (662F), thus slowly day by day extracting heat from the volcano. And while such a project would come at an estimated cost of around $3.46bn (£2.69bn), it comes with an enticing catch which could convince politicians to make the investment.

“Yellowstone currently leaks around 6GW in heat,” Wilcox says. “Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh. You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would, but you would pay back your initial investment, and get electricity which can power the surrounding area for a period of potentially tens of thousands of years. And the long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.”


The Beeb

Sounds like a win-win!  Save humanity from both Yellowstone and from solar power!

So… What’s the catch?

But drilling into a supervolcano does not come without certain risks. Namely triggering the eruption you’re intending to prevent.

“The most important thing with this is to do no harm,” Wilcox says. “If you drill into the top of the magma chamber and try and cool it from there, this would be very risky. This could make the cap over the magma chamber more brittle and prone to fracture. And you might trigger the release of harmful volatile gases in the magma at the top of the chamber which would otherwise not be released.”

The Beeb

So… NASA proposes to drill these geothermal wells under the magma chamber and extract the heat from below.  Sounds like they need to hire the world’s best “deep core drillers”… Again…

Instead, the idea is to drill in from the supervolcano from the lower sides, starting outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, and extracting the heat from the underside of the magma chamber. “This way you’re preventing the heat coming up from below from ever reaching the top of the chamber which is where the real threat arises,” Wilcox says.

However those who instigate such a project will never see it to completion, or even have an idea whether it might be successful within their lifetime. Cooling Yellowstone in this manner would happen at a rate of one metre a year, taking of the order of tens of thousands of years until just cold rock was left. Although Yellowstone’s magma chamber would not need to be frozen solid to reach the point where it no longer posed a threat, there would be no guarantee that the endeavour would ultimately be successful for at least hundreds and possibly thousands of years.


Such a plan could be potentially applied to every active supervolcano on the planet, and Nasa’s scientists are hoping that their blueprints will encourage more practical scientific discussion and debate for tackling the threat.


The Beeb

It’s “meter,” not metre and there’s no “u” in endeavor… And such a plan might not cool the magma chamber at all…



A new University of Utah study in the journal Science provides the first complete view of the plumbing system that supplies hot and partly molten rock from the Yellowstone hotspot to the Yellowstone supervolcano. The study revealed a gigantic magma reservoir beneath the previously known magma chamber. This cross-section illustration cutting southwest-northeast under Yelowstone depicts the view revealed by seismic imaging. Seismologists say new techniques have provided a better view of Yellowstone’s plumbing system, and that it hasn’t grown larger or closer to erupting. They estimate the annual chance of a Yellowstone supervolcano eruption is 1 in 700,000. Credit: Hsin-Hua Huang, University of Utah. Another thing more worrisome than global warming: Yellowstone super-volcano has 4x more magma than once thought.

The lower part of the magma chamber is about 10 miles deep.  The magma reservoir goes down to the top of the mantle (~30 miles deep).  The deepest geothermal well drilled to date, only goes down a bit over 3 miles.

Iceland is drilling the world’s deepest geothermal well

By Kesavan Unnikrishnan Jan 22, 2017 in Technology

Iceland is digging world’s deepest geothermal borehole into the heart of a volcano at a depth of 3.10 miles (5 km) to tap renewable energy. The extreme pressure and heat at such depths could derive 30 to 50 MW of electricity from one geothermal well.


Read more:

10 miles is 52,800 feet.  The deepest well ever drilled for any reason, the Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia, only went down 40,230 feet.  Prior to this, the deepest well was the 31,441 feet deep Lone Star Producing Co. 1–27 Bertha Rogers well in Washita County, Oklahoma.  In a note of totally unrelated trivia: Lone Star Producing became Enserch Exploration, my first employer in the oil “bidness.”  The Bertha Rogers TD’ed (reached total depth) in molten sulfur.  Enserch’s executives all had sulfur paperweights from the Bertha Rogers.

While I am happy to find out that at least some folks at NASA are actually considering genuine threats to this nation and the other people on this planet… Their proposed solution to the supervolcano threat appears to be straight out of Fantasy Land.

Note:  Yes, I know the BBC is British and that we are “two peoples separated by a common language.”  I just like poking fun at the way they misspell so many words.


[1] Mastin L. G. Van Eaton A. R. Lowenstern J. B. (2014). Modeling ash fall distribution from a Yellowstone supereruption. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 15, 3459–3475.

Further Reading

[1] Kummer, Larry (2017).  Geologists warn us about dangerous volcanoes. Will we spend pennies for warnings? Watts Up With That?



385 thoughts on “NASA's Secret Plan to Save Earth From Super-Volcanoes… Seriously?

  1. Lets assume this works, and we start cooling most of the volcanoes on earth – this would be the end of life as we know it. The whole carbon cycle depends on CO2 trapped in limestone formed on the bottom of the ocean getting subducted and re-released into the atmosphere via volcanic activity. No more volcanoes, and we get a major drop in CO2 eventually ending life on earth.
    I guess it would make the Al Gore types happy.

      • The scientists can’t agree on global warming or what the weather will be next weekend and we should applaud the efforts to “stop” a (super or not) volcano from erupting ? How about we instead agree dial to back the speed on which private companies wish to implement AI ? How about we agree that the climate treaty leads to net increases in coal use/pollution over the next 20+ years ? How about we agree to clean up the monster pile of floating plastic detritus in the Pacific ?
        I applaud the women and men who spend 8+ years in university capable of proposing phantasmagorical solutions to such noted problems as super volcanoes and “impending climate doom”, but I would prefer a good old round table discussion on solutions for the current woes facing the world……and could someone put the trans fats back in my Oreos while they’re at it, they just tastes better that way.

      • Civilization has a “z” in it.

        The first letter b in BBC stands for British. That is why they use British spelling.
        Maybe you need to focus on any REAL criticism you may have , not knit-picking minor spelling issues you mistakenly think you have found. It looks really petty and like you do not have anything better than pointless snark.

      • I just like poking fun at the way they misspell so many words.

        Hey , we invented the language, that is why it called “English” , not “American”. If you have to simplify it because remembering how to spell is too complicated for you to deal with, that is your choice, not anyone else’s for “misspelling” their own language.

    • marq2
      The whole carbon cycle does not depend on volcanoes alone to recycle
      the CO2 trapped in limestone deep in the earth. At great depth, heat, pressure
      and water convert the minerals to hydrocarbons, mostly natural gas.
      The natural gas and other hydrocarbons rise, and some are trapped in rock
      layers and over time, the accumulation can be drilled and produced as oil
      or natural gas wells.
      A substantial portion rise as natural gas and in the presence of adequate moisture
      and oxygen, microbes consume the natural gas, enriching the soil and oxidizing
      the hydrocarbons creating CO2.
      This is easily observed by a simple test. I use an anemometer, thermometer,
      a 14″ stainless steel salad bowl, a 10 lb rock, and an inexpensive CO2
      meter which allows for lengthy exposure readings.
      On my last observation, the wind was less than 2 mph, the ambient C02
      reading was 404 ppm. I put the meter on the ground in an area which has
      dark brown topsoil approximately 12″ deep and the grass had been cut short.
      I then inverted the ss bowl over the CO2 meter and placed the 10 lb rock
      on top of the bowl.
      12 hours later, I retrieved the meter and recorded the CO2 reading. It was
      961 PPM.
      This is a real test It is easy and inexpensive to replicate. Your readings will
      vary depending on the richness of your topsoil, and therefore, the amount
      of natural gas upwelling in your area.
      In Kansas and most of the midwest, the CO2 reading will be very much higher
      than, for example, the area around Atlanta, Ga. where the soil is red, because the
      shield is very close to the surface and blocks most of the natural gas, thus little
      to no CO2 output.
      The amount of CO2 contributed to the atmosphere in this manner is unknowable
      because on my property, the CO2 output varies by 300% in less than 1000 ft.
      In deserts, the natural gas can pass into the atmosphere unoxidized because
      there is not enough moisture to support an adequate microbial culture, and
      the gas is then oxidized in the atmosphere.

      • Jerry Henson,
        “an inexpensive CO2
        meter which allows for lengthy exposure readings.”

        I’m interested in purchasing a sensitive CO2 meter. Where did you get yours and do you have specs?
        I have periodicaly searched for a CO2 meter that can measure as little as 10 ppm or less without success.

    • when a child living on a farm in the prairie wilderness we used to entertain ourselves with such fancies of the imagination.
      Of course, back then there was no internet, TV, or even radio except for the rare occasions when a battery was available.

    • I think that is right as far as it’s understood, and I am studying volcanocity as a climate change mechanism. However, there are two quite different scenarions for the end of Tectonic activity, supposedly in a Billion years or so. Venus has massive volcanoes and no tectonics. The BBC “Space Volcanoes” programme on this shows how little we really know, and its obviously a macro level balance of native atmospheric components, solar intensity, magnetic field, mass, density, etc particular to each planet and it’s orbit. It won’t be a problem for the human race, though.

      • Same with metre and meter …. I have a gas meter and an electrical meter but I measure things in metres.

      • It’s a good thing for the USA that the Brits didn’t copyright the language or we would be paying HUGE Royalties to the Royalites

      • In the United States we call our language ‘English’ out of fondness for our motherland which really and honestly has given us much that has made us what we are today.
        However… England 53 million, US 325 million. The language could very well be called ‘American’. How many people around the world practice their English by watching movies from Britain (or the UK)? (No slight to Mr. Rowan Atkinson intended! He is worth learning English to hear, even though there isn’t much to hear!)

    • Also,to quaesoveritas remark,:endevour is with a ‘u’. A metre is a standardof European & now also UK measurement. a meter is a machine or device for measuring gas flow ,or electricityconsumption , as in’ gas meter’ ‘,electricity meter ‘etc. the ‘re’ending ,as also found in’ theatre’ is from French ,&is the correct spelling .it was pronounced with a slight roll of the ”rr”sound, not the anglicised version of ”er”

    • And NASA is a singular noun so stop with the plural verbs already. It’s a collection of people, true, but the collection is a single entity, so “Nasa have conceived” is wrong. The Brits don’t seem to know their own language…

      • Yanks see NASA as a single thing with a mind of its own, taking the singular. English-speakers see NASA as a community of people, taking the plural like any other group. I’m afraid the constant sniping at good spelling greatly diminished the authority of this article in my eyes.

      • >> … NASA is a singular noun …
        An organization, made of of many people, but referred to as a single entity. Similar to how collective nouns (e.g. ‘jury’) refer to a set as a single object.
        Back when Noah Webster composed the (American) English Dictionary, he made a few spelling corrections, adjusting a handful of words so their spellings matched the way they were pronounced. Which has changed less on this ‘side of the pond’ than in England.

      • I regard the Oxford English dictionaries and their companion
        volumes on grammar etc, as the definitive publications about
        the English language.
        This is one word on which both languages (American and English)
        agree on the spelling.
        My Oxford English Dictionary says civilization along with civilize
        and all its derivatives (civilized, civilizable etc ).
        Quite correct, Mr Middleton, quite correct.

      • John Harmsworth
        Plenty of Brit’s on here agree with you mate.
        I’ll be even happier when the scientific community can figure out the difference between coal fired chimneys spewing diamonds into the atmosphere, and CO2.

    • Civilisation most certainly does not have a “z” in it.
      And while we are about it, it is not Zee, its Zed.

  2. In the defense of NASA, it is their job to think of science fiction ideas and then find ways to make those ideas realities.

      • “You’re the guys that’re thinking shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up!”
        Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) quote in Armageddon

      • One of the BEST bad science fiction movies ever made. My favorite scene is when Stamper hits golf balls at the Greenpeace protesters.

    • I deal with NASA regularly. They do employ scientists and few engineers, BUT NASA is a contracts administration entity. THEY DO NOT DESIGN SPACECRAFT NOR ROCKETS. They contract with private companies to design and build them, and then paint their “meatball” logo on to them. They then parade it about saying see what we did! When, in fact, all they have done is manage and maintain launch facilities.
      They will even go as far as appropriating authorship for concepts and papers submitted by request from contractors. I have had my architectures and designs appear on NASA sites listing NASA as the originator, and they didn’t even have the decency to change the names we had coined.
      As I have said before any scientist can calculate a number, but it takes an engineer to show you how big a sh*tload that really is.

      • Dear Rocket Scientist
        A friend of mine is a plumber, i.e. he works with lead. He did some leadwork for a roof restoration. The architect won an award for it.
        PS Nice to see a salad scientist take an interest in other areas. DP

      • rocketscientist: NASA only puts their logo on successful programs. The failures are all the fault of the contractors. I’ve had experiences with both.

      • I once went to an coal fired Edison Electric plant to solve an abrasion problem they were having with a part of their fly ash handling system. I submitted a drawing showing the design and specifying the specs and configuration of the abrasion resistant ceramic lining of the replacement part I proposed. Two weeks later I received my drawing back with a request to quote from their purchasing department but they had accidently included a distribution note in their cover page. They had sent my drawing out for bid to every major competitor we had.

  3. Another note, I was trying to figure out the power of the explosion. 1.5 megatons, is approximately the output of a 1 gigawatt power plant in a year. The energy of one supervolcano explosion would be the output of 10,000 gigawatt plants in a year. I suspect science underestimates the power of these explosions as well.

    • Good catch.
      I was wondering about the power plant comparison as well.
      My bet is that the journalist or editor screwed that comparison up.
      Actual scientists know that volcanoes deliver vastly more power than 6 power plants.

      • I think the point they try to make is that 6 gigawatts per year could stabilize it. Over 1000 years it would potentially cut 6000 plant years. I just wanted to see how the actual explosion compared.

    • No, the article is correct. The explosion is the instantaneous release of the energy built up over time. The power plant comparison is with rate at which the energy builds up over time.

  4. NASA misspelled the word, too. Check out shuttle names.
    Another case of wasting time worrying about something there is very little chance humanity will ever be able to stop. It makes interesting fiction, but why are government agencies wasting time on it?

  5. “I just like poking fun at the way they misspell so many words.”

    Hey, like America invented the English language and has the copy write on spellings.

      • Tire? – Tyre.
        Airplanes? – Aeroplanes
        Bougainvillea? – Bougainvillaea
        Cesarean? – Caesarean
        Catalog? – Catalogue
        Check? – Cheque
        To name but a few. However we are not spelling Naz*’s so unlike the French, we accept the our language evolves. In fact, the English language is a bastardisation of numerous languages. Please note folks, that’s bastardisation, not bastardization.

      • Tom Halla
        Oh dear. You even got that wrong. The full term is arsehole. Being that ‘you are an’.
        Not you personally of course, it’s just an illustration.

      • @Bryan A. Let’s put it this way: the USA didn’t *win* the War of 1812. If Britain hadn’t been busy fighting Napoleon, things might have gone rather worse for the USA than they did. Mind you, if the US military had been as competent at the beginning as they were at the end, things might have gone the other way.

      • “That may be but America has yet to loose a war with the Brits”
        We’ve yet to fasten one either.

  6. If/when Yellowstone blows, all the greenies need to do is get lots of electric trucks to collect the ash and tip it into the San Andreas fault.

    • Columbia River and Snake River are plateau basalts from fissure eruptions. The more recent Yellowstone eruptions have been caldera collapses.
      By the way it seems a lot more likely that Long Valley than Yellowstone will erupt relatively soon.

      • The Columbia River fissure eruptions occurred when the hot spot that caused Yellowstone was adjacent to the southern edge of that area. It would seem that the odds are heavy that there is a connection.
        Nick on the Rocks gives a great lecture on it:
        Notice he emphasizes that the hot spot is not moving, the North American plate is. Lots of disagreement on the rate the plate moves but the claims run from 1 cm to 10 cm per year. Now how long did they say it would take to cool that magma chamber? And would not a new one form to the NE anyway?
        BTW I made my first trip to visit Yellowstone the first week of July. What a magnificent and fascinating place. We were staying in a Condo in Driggs, ID and drove to Yellowstone twice spending about 12 hours in the park each time. I think I could spend weeks or longer and not get bored. I guess we were lucky though. Saw two Grizzlies with one only 30 yards away. From talking to others I get the impression that lots of people have spent far more time in that park and never saw a single bear. And yes I know they were Grizzlies. Seen several black bears in the wild before.

      • The more recent magmatic eruptions in Yellowstone have been typical volcanic eruptions. I have a photo that shows some 23 different ash layers, all form since the last caldera collapse.

      • In the relatively short time I was at Yellowstone I tried to visually pick out Tuff from the three different eruptions. I’m pretty sure I got two of them.

  7. What could possibly go wrong? Messing with Nature Mom on this scale never turns out well. NASA is beyond Neptune and keeps on going.

  8. It’s “meter,” not metre

    Metre is the French (International) spelling. American’s use Meter.
    Just saying……

  9. What is NASA doing in the field of terrestrial geology? This is infantile babble one would expect from a lunatic …

    • I was wondering the same thing. Oh, I get it. They are building spaceships so we can get off the planet when the big one hits….

      • Not “we” but “they can get off the planet…”. They don’t give a crap about the rest of us.

      • See my previous comment: NASA doesn’t build spacecraft. They buy them.
        Everyone seems to forget the last A in NASA stands for “Administration”.
        And, they really have no business in terrestrial geology.

    • BB,
      Perhaps because the USGS is being morphed into the USBS, they don’t have many qualified geologists left to address this issue. Or, the geologists left know better than to engage in “infantile babble.”

    • How do you think the Astronauts learned what moon rocks to grab and how to describe the lunar landscape and geology they were seeing? By studying geologic processes on earth they learn much that can be applied to understanding the geology of other planets. For example the “blueberries” the Opportunity rover found on Mars were recognized for what they are because they are found here on earth.

      • True, BUT the astronaut was a trained GEOLOGIST. I would suspect that the astronaut learned about rocks while studying geology (not so much from studying orbital mechanics). Scientist from all fields are necessary for studying extraterrestrial bodies. That doesn’t mean that NASA should be training geologists geology, not botanist botany. Hire the scientists and then cross train them on how to survive in space an operate the vehicles they’ve bought.

      • The ONLY scientist that flew a Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo mission was NASA geologist Harrison Schmitt. ALL of the others were test pilots/engineers. Schmitt flew on Apollo 17, the final Apollo mission. My reading of the accounts of the various astronauts is that there was strong opposition to letting Schmitt on the crew, but NASA was forced politically to do so. The general scheme of selecting astronauts based on disciplines other than engineering came along during the space shuttle days.
        So the Astronauts that flew the moon missions were trained by NASA Geologists here on earth for their moon walks.

      • RAH,
        The landing sites and directions for what to look for were derived from geologic maps prepared by the USGS. NASA did not prepare the geologic maps!

      • RAH,
        You said, “So the Astronauts that flew the moon missions were trained by NASA Geologists here on earth for their moon walks.” My recollection is that the NASA astronauts were trained by USGS geologists such as
        Eugene Shoemaker, who essentially invented astrogeology. At that point in time, NASA employed very few geologists other than Schmitt. Where are you getting your ‘facts’ from?

        Beginning in March 1964, the Apollo astronauts participated in a number of geology field trips designed, firstly, to introduce the astronaut corps to geologic concepts and, latterly, to give crews assigned to specific missions detailed training in the types of observations they might expect to make on the Moon. Details can be found in a training history by Gerald Schaber with a US Geological Survey perspective and one by William C. Phinney with a Manned Spacecraft Center perspective. Relations between the two groups of geologists were often strained. Apollo 17 astronaut/geologist Jack Schmitt suggests that both accounts be considered in gaining a balanced perspective.
        Appendices from draft copy of Phinney’s account were provided for the ALSJ in 2002 by Glen Swanson, historian at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The appendices are entitled “Geology Field Exercises: Early Training” and “Geology Field Exercises for Apollo Missions”. They provided lists of Apollo astronaut field trips including training locations and the names of the astronauts who participated in each.
        In 2004, Jennifer Troxell, then an intern working with Steve Garber of the NASA Headquarters History Office, independantly compiled a spreadsheet devoted to Apollo geology training using information gleaned from the History Office archives, from Phinney’s draft, and from Don Wilhelms’ book “To a Rocky Moon” Troxell’s spreadsheet has much of the same information as the Phinney appendices but also details sources and lists relevant NASA photographs.
        NASA photos S64-23846 and S64-23847 show a group of twenty astronauts at Philmont Scout Ranch during the 3-6 June 1964 field trip. From left to right, they are: Pete Conrad, Buzz Aldrin, Dick Gordon, Ted Freeman, Charlie Bassett, Walt Cunningham, Neil Armstrong, Donn Eisele, Rusty Schweikhart, Jim Lovell, Mike Collins, Elliot See, Gene Cernan (behind See), Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Gordon Cooper, C.C. Williams (behind Cooper), Bill Anders, Dave Scott, Al Bean.

      • RAH,
        From Wikipedia ( ):
        “Shoemaker helped pioneer the field of astrogeology by founding the Astrogeology Research Program of the United States Geological Survey in 1961 at Flagstaff, Arizona and he was its first director. He was prominently involved in the Lunar Ranger missions to the Moon, which showed that the Moon was covered with a wide size range of impact craters. Shoemaker was also involved in the training of the American astronauts. He himself was a possible candidate for an Apollo Moon flight and was set to be the first geologist to walk on the Moon but was disqualified due to being diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a disorder of the adrenal gland. Shoemaker would train astronauts during field trips to Meteor Crater and Sunset Crater near Flagstaff.[6] He was a CBS News television commentator on the early Apollo missions, especially the Apollo 8 and Apollo 11 missions, appearing with Walter Cronkite during live coverage of those flights.”
        NASA was in charge of the Apollo program, and coordinated the training. However, no one at NASA is/was as well known or as much of an expert as Shoemaker. The lunar geology maps were made by the USGS and no one at NASA was as much of an expert on impact craters as Shoemaker. It seems to me that an administrative agency is trying to take too much credit for actually teaching “…what moon rocks to grab and how to describe the lunar landscape and geology they were seeing.” However, that isn’t anything new. NASA is currently taking credit for the knowledge obtained from the Landsat satellite program, which they co-sponsor with the USGS. However, it was the USGS that was responsible for first launching the ERTS satellite, later re-named Landsat, processing and analyzing the data, and developing many of the algorithms for extracting information from multispectral imaging.

      • And they started studying climate and weather on earth to apply it to the study of other planets but soon the scope of their climate study expanded. I mean how can one Administer the Air and Space without studying it? 😉
        I think that NASA needs to have the scope of it’s climate studies reigned in. It is redundant. How many agencies do we need telling us each year was the hottest ever?

  10. Hi David, Interesting post, thanks. I’d be worried about applying any technique that might cause a rapid change in magma pressure.
    By the way, ‘civilisation’, ‘metre’ and ‘endeavour’ are all correct standard English language spellings outside N.America. But I’m sure you knew that already and were just taking the mick.

      • But criticising something that was written “outside” the United States. An attempt at a cheap joke not worthy of you Mr Middleton.

      • If you want to communicate with a given audience, your spelling and usage should be as the audience expects. Otherwise, you distract from your message. Mad Av knows this, which is why high-end goods are shilled in the US with an ersatz-Brit voice-over.

      • David,
        Interesting post and I thoroughly enjoyed the spelling ‘corrections’!
        Interesting (to me) how many folks were miffed… and a few seem to be headed for a tiff.
        Does a stiff upper lip necessarily prevent a smile and sense of humour?

      • Maybe you can get Soros to chip in some of the money he uses for trolls in order to buy higher class jokes?

      • PS: My tongue is so thoroughly embedded in my cheeks that I’m in danger of developing Gillespie pouches.

    • International spelling, which includes Canada, so not even just “North American” spelling, but just everywhere that speaks English (or otherwise) except the USA. The USA is getting it wrong with English, not everywhere else. Just use Canadian English, the perfect hybrid. Aluminum (not Aluminium), but Colour and Armour as well! If you want real fun, try this sentence: “I’m going to center ice of my favourite sports centre.” 😉

    • currently in Europe we need saving from terrestrial terr0r1s(z)m. European governments ‘endeavo(u)r’ amounts to bu-ger all to preserve the European ‘civilis(z)ation’ as we use to know it.

  11. It’s always apocalypse week on the BBC, CNN, NYT, WP et, isn’t it?
    I like being in the civilised world, measuring in metres, to the best of my endeavours.

  12. Perhaps certain departments in NASA can see some of their funding streams getting a little dry. Time to manufacture some new ones.

    • THats by far the best and most perceptive answer. As with climate science, you need to create fear in people that justifies lot of bad science about looming catastrophe from some innocent, improbable or unavoidable bogeyman, backed up by junk science from “Authoritative bodies” – like Piltdown Mann and friends, that depend on supporting the government fraud initiated in the name of the avoidable fear for their priestly rewards. Good old time religion at work, or Josef Goebels.
      That justifies lobbyists and politicians in the trough being paid a lot of easy money to solve a catastrophic problem no one can really prove, but it is made career limiting to disprove, and all the insiders involved will have spent the easy money and be long gonr by the time the protection racket is exposed – by the laws of nature. Or a bloody great bang in this case. Same old scam either way. I blame the lazy belief in propaganda in as supposedly educated society (mostly technicaly illiterate), and the dishonest scientists who support the obvious rackets.

  13. There is something really wrong with the scaling – the energy of 10’s or 100’s of cubic kilometers of liquid hot magma? A few puny deep holes? This is some kind of joke article.

  14. If this proposal was to proceed, It surely would lead to a catastrophic outcome !! We should NEVER interfere in Nature to this extent – its gotta be plain lunacy

  15. Pumping water into an imperfectly known magma reservoir doesn’t sound very safe. I’ve seen icelandic studies that indicated that the early explosive phase of the Laki 1783-84 megaeruption was largely due to the rising magma cooking off groundwater. N. B. it is the explosive phase that does the most damage.

    • “… it is the explosive phase that does the most damage.”
      Since we’re all picking nits I’ll have a go at that one.
      The latest study on the end-Permian extinction proposes that the worst damage was done by sills being intruded into sulfur (sulphur?) containing carbonates which released all sorts of toxic gases – mostly SO2 and the ever catastrophic CO2. An article about this study was posted here at WUWT not too long ago.

      • “The latest study on the end-Permian extinction proposes that the worst damage was done by sills being intruded into sulfur (sulphur?) containing carbonates which released all sorts of toxic gases – mostly SO2 and the ever catastrophic CO2.”
        However to have global effect the gases have to go into the stratosphere, which only happens during the explosive phases, as shown during the Laki eruption. During the effusive phase effects are mostly local since the nasty stuff gets washed out fairly quickly (not the CO2, but that is hardly dangerous)

      • vukcevic
        “We spoke twice, contact me via email.”
        Forgive me, but that sounded a bit commanding. Have I done something wrong?
        Were you referring to me?

      • To hot scot ,just to clarify,i was (somewhat Tonguein cheek ),referring to the’ die hard’ bruce,at that momentintime I was not aware of the death of the famous uk legend,but thanks for your comment

    • God no, no one commands to a Scot, the least a Balkan vagabond. I was about to tell you about couple of conversation I had with Brucie, but you got me worried now.

      • “no one commands to a Scot” I can second that. Those people throw telephone poles at each other for sport! 🙂

  16. Middleton ==> “Note: Yes, I know the BBC is British and that we are “two peoples separated by a common language.” I just like poking fun at the way they misspell so many words.”
    Strictly speaking, we call it “English” because it comes from England — they spell things right and the colonials in the Americas spell them wrong.
    Reversing the arrow of origin is provincial — literally.

    • If I have to tell people when I’m being sarcastic… It would take all of the fun out of being sarcastic.

      • Webster was a drunken subject of KIng George 3rd, who gave inflamlattory speeches after 6 brandies, ate too much lobster and was a general trouble maker and rebel, as I recall from sharing the xperience at Quincy Market one weekend…. As was Paul Revere and his Raiders. Didn’t he sign some declaration or other? Probably fake news by the slave owning propagandists of the time, though.

      • brianrlcatt August 18, 2017 at 10:13 am
        Perhaps you can tell us if there are any statues or monuments in England honoring
        George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or any other of our Founding Fathers ………. for historical purposes.

      • Tom in Florida
        Just a quick search, in response to your inquiry, and other than Pocahontas, it seems there are six statues of American presidents in London alone. Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan and Kennedy
        Now apart from the bust of Churchill Obama had removed from the Oval Office, and replaced with one of Martin Luther King, are there many statues of British statesmen, or any others in the US?

      • HotScot,
        No, Pocahontas doesn’t count. She did not rebel against the Crown My point was that the U.S. has statues of leaders and warriors of the Confederate States. They have been referred to as “traitors” and consequently should not be honored and their statues taken down. So I was wondering if England has statues honoring those who lead the Colonies in rebellion against the King.

    • England has no title to English. The language came originally from NW Germany and Denmark, ie Saxony and Anglia, after c. AD 450. It then spent some in Britain, where it came under the baleful influence of Old Norse and Norman French, due to further invasions, until c. 1600, after which time, it was perfected in North America, while degenerating in the UK.

      • after which time, it was degenerated in North America, whilst being improved in the rest of the world

      • Gloateus
        To the best of my knowledge the good people of NW Germany and Denmark don’t speak English. So England kind of has first dibs on the unique evolution of the language, as it stands of course.
        However, we British (ahem) are relaxed about its adaptation because that’s how it emerged in the first place. The French, on the other had have a government department dedicated to protecting the French language.
        Just don’t misspell mademoiselle, you will be hunted down.
        And they, and much of Europe, genderise everything. Now that’s odd.
        And as the most widely spoken language on the planet, it’s bound to have some parochial adaptations..

      • A Scot! Ye cannae understand their vocalizations bu’ ye cannae question their application of the alphabet!

      • It’s quite interesting more so to note, that the language of “English” did not actually originate in England.
        Welsh & (extinct) Cumbric is pretty much the closest to Briton’s original language.

  17. I suggest NASA steers a meteor to impact the Yellowstone caldera. Pre-emptive strike so to speak. Two birds with one stone.

  18. Using the geothermal energy from these areas is a very practical and physically correct idea. There is no reason not to — not that I recommend drilling into the magma — but geothermal power plants are in use in Iceland generating about 30% of their electricity and could make a real contribution to America’s energy mix.
    I doubt that our use of geothermal would prevent a super-volcano — but it couldn’t hurt.

      • But no doubt all the tree huggers would object to the project because it could potentially impact the geysers. Better to have devastation than tourists disappointed.

      • I would agree. At the “estimated” cost of just 1 10 Km hole you would bankrupt the world economy just to drill a few handfuls of these boreholes and still not have enough heat transfer to make any real difference (and that’s if you could actually get it to work). This type of “study” just reminds me of the old cautionary saying “Don’t believe everything you think”. Makes for an “interesting” diversionary newspaper piece, but total junk science and worthy of sarcastic, snarky comments.

    • link
      Iceland is the world expert on geothermal energy. They have plans to go 100% fossil fuel free. They could do it and would thereby improve their balance of payments … well except for the fishing boats and Icelandair.

      • I wish we could bring some Icelanders to Hawaii to show us how to do geothermal. We are sitting on top of several active volcanos, but must make do with imported oil, roof top solar panels, and a few bird choppers.

  19. …However those who instigate such a project will never see it to completion, or even have an idea whether it might be successful within their lifetime. Cooling Yellowstone in this manner would happen at a rate of one metre a year, taking of the order of tens of thousands of years until just cold rock was left. Although Yellowstone’s magma chamber would not need to be frozen solid to reach the point where it no longer posed a threat, there would be no guarantee that the endeavour would ultimately be successful for at least hundreds and possibly thousands of years….
    Could anything be better planned to create a job for life? And for your great-grandchildren and further on, to infinity and beyond…?

    • Dodgy Geezer
      Unless, of course, it went pop in 5 years time. Despite the best efforts of NASA (and it’s contractors) and billions of taxpayers money spent trying to control the unpredictable.
      Hmmmmmmm…….isn’t this where the climate debate began?

  20. …But if more of the heat could be extracted, then the supervolcano would never erupt. Nasa estimates that if a 35% increase in heat transfer could be achieved from its magma chamber,…
    Pardon me for my lack of maths, but I suspect that would be a fair amount of heat that they are thinking of extracting from this one supervolcano. I understand that they might want to do it with several…
    If, as I understand it, global warming is such a dangerous phenomenon, and our climate is critically balanced such that a few PPM of CO2 will send us into oblivion, can someone with a calculator tell me how many degrees it will raise our atmosphere if we extract all the heat out of a supervolcano or two and dump it in the air…?

  21. It looks like they get their ideas from cheezy SYFY channel disaster flicks. Any plan sounds good after a few cold ones, suspending Scientific and Engineering practices makes it a slam dunk. What could possibly go wrong? Phreatic eruption anyone?

  22. Leaving arguments about spelling aside, I am now getting seriously alarmed about what is going on in the minds of the people who came up with this notion. Apart from the issue of drilling the actual borehole (which is probably not possible on current technology), isn’t the release of the energy itself (buying for a moment into the fantasy we could do it) going to add something more than a mere six power stations worth of the heat we are supposed to be avoiding?
    Also, a mere detail, but the most destructive paroxysm of the Krakatau eruption took place precisely when the by then empty magma chamber filled up with water. So now dumping water into a caldera is suddenly a great idea? Have I missed something or am I just more stupid that I thought?

    • In the movie Armageddon, Jason Isaacs (a British actor) played NASA’s top rocket scientist, Ronald Quincy… How would he have spelled NASA? NASA or Nasa?

      Regarding the hazards of poring water onto magma and risking a phreatic eruption, NASA’s cunning plan is to inject the water from below the magma chamber. This minimizes the eruption risk. I just don’t think they put much thought into how deep they would have to drill or what might be underneath the magma chamber.

      • David
        Just how deep would you realistically have to go to get underneath the magma chamber of a caldera type volcano? Is it even possible to calculate where exactly this would be ?
        If you can’t answer this question I suspect no one truthfully could.

      • I don’t think humans could ever drill enough boreholes and remove enough heat to overcome magma welling up from below. Even though the article already mentioned needing thousands of years to accomplish this, it still sounds as if they’re modeling this as a static system, which it’s not (now where have we heard that before?) And by static in this case I don’t mean that nothing moves, only that all time-dependent actions remain constant, which doesn’t happen in the real world either. Why do you think Mother Nature is so stingy with straight lines in the landscape?

      • Or if the magma chamber actually has a discernable bottom! It might just as well gradually diffuse into a mushy migmatite or network of conduits that are still under a lot of pressure and at temperatures that will make drilling steel behave like spaghetti.

    • Moderately Cross of East Anglia
      Not as stupid as me mate. I poured boiling water onto some Caustic Soda I had poured down the drain.
      I’m still in the doghouse until the ceiling is clean. I dread to think what pouring cold water into a magma chamber would result in, but I ain’t cleaning up the mess. Not enough Marigolds in the world for that job.

      • Just a quick maybe unscientific thought ,surely this magma under Yellowstone,must be connected with the earth’s(hot) core somehow for it to be there ?be it either directly , or via a fault or fissure of some kind ,or would wthe ‘bottom’of it be as deep as the earth’s core ,i believe the th[ckness of the ‘crust’ varies at different points on the globe .

        • The magma chamber is in the upper crust, the magma reservoir is in the lower crust and the “hot spot” is due to a mantle plume. All of this is well above the core.

  23. The deal killer is coolant management challenges.
    1 Where to get sufficient water?
    2 If not circulated out, water use is astronomical.
    3 If not circulated out you are building a huge steam driven bomb
    4 If circulated out, how do you cool down the coolant?

      • No, NASA stands for: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
        They are a federal contracts administration agency for aircraft and spacecraft.
        DARPA is another although they are military (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency)

      • The idea sounds goofy to me, but I would have thought they would heat exchange from the 600+ temps to a secondary steam loop at managible pressure and temp.

  24. Geothermal is the only “renewable” (not really) energy that is dispatchable and very desirable.
    Unfortunately , practical geothermal is not found at very many places. There was talk awhile back of tappping into the heat available everywhere underground, but very deep and not as hot. Have’nt heard anything since then, so perhaps it is not practical.

      • Oil wells are in the 5,000 ft plus range, many much deeper.
        Pumping water down and getting steam back up (in a constant loop) produces the steam to run a turbine.

      • Geothermal power plants generally need temperatures of 240 to 300 °C. With a typical geothermal gradient, these temperatures are found at depths of 10-12 km (30-40,000 feet).

        geothermal gradient
        1. n. [Geology, Drilling Fluids]
        The rate of increase in temperature per unit depth in the Earth. Although the geothermal gradient varies from place to place, it averages 25 to 30 °C/km [15 °F/1000 ft]. Temperature gradients sometimes increase dramatically around volcanic areas. It is particularly important for drilling fluids engineers to know the geothermal gradient in an area when they are designing a deep well. The downhole temperature can be calculated by adding the surface temperature to the product of the depth and the geothermal gradient.
        Synonyms: temperature gradient, thermal gradient
        See: high-pressure, high-temperature filtration test, mud engineer

    • Indonesia has 26 viable geothermal sites at last count, based on current technology.

    • There are a number of working plants in Iceland, and I remember hearing about a few in CA.
      The sites where it is practical are few, but they do exist.
      Besides the problem that David listed above, there’s also the fact that the area around Yellowstone is not heavily populated, so not too many users for the electricity being generated.

    • One was working in Switzerland but it was shut down after earthquake activity (minor) was noticed.

      • ..Very little heat winds up in the atmosphere…….
        That’s odd. It doesn’t seem to fit with the thermodynamics lectures I remember. Where does it go, then?

      • Water is pumped into the geothermal source through an injection well. This boils the water. Steam is delivered to the turbine via a production well. The steam condenses as it cools. The condensed water flows into a cooling tank, where most of it gets re-injected. Some water vapor does get vented to the atmosphere, but this is not particularly hot by this time.
        The heat source stays in the ground.

      • Dodgy…I would assume the correct answer is that it gets turned into work in the form of electricity.

      • Astonishing that the human race is still so reliant on boiling water.
        My countryman (James Watt) from my wife’s home town (Greenock) must be very proud.
        But isn’t it about time we moved on?

      • Nope, we will keep boiling/condensing the most plentiful working fluid we have.
        We tried other types but the the greenies keep complaining…ammonia, CFC’s, etc.

      • But, if the energy is transported from underground to above ground machines that subsequently convert the energy from thermal to mechanical to electrical back to mechanical (or maybe right back into thermal) won’t every conversion dump the lost energy as heat into the atmosphere, where it eventually gets lost to space?
        It would seem to me that we are cooling the earth by stealing the subterranean heat and dumping it into space (as we use it along the way).

      • rocketscientist
        I stumbled on this site the other day
        And I know, fusion is like climate change, it’s always 10 years away.
        But at least these guys seem to have moved away from the enduring reliance on steam to generate everything.
        Direct fusion to electricity supply must be a more worthwhile route to explore than just building another steam engine.

    • Every Watt of power removed from the system, will eventually end up in the atmosphere –
      Take Davids diagram –
      1. Heat is lost as it circulates through the plant; conduction/radiation/convection.
      2. Heat lost in cooling tower (clue in the name); Latent heat of evaporation/convection.
      3. Heat is lost as work –
      3.1 Electricity transports the energy to a place of work where it results in heat… lost to atmosphere.
      3.2 Direct Heat Uses (heating up stuff) … lost to atmosphere.

  25. Why exactly does our “Space Exploration Agency” have its fingers in this? Seems to me that considering the enormity of the cosmos and their mission to explore it they wouldn’t have the time or funding to be worrying about volcanoes on Planet Earth. Or have they lost sight of their mission and need new management to get them back on track and focused on their mission of Space Exploration?

    • They “lost sight of their mission” during the 8 years of Obama, and beginning even before that. An entrenched bureaucracy takes years to purge, even in a technical activity. It only begins with “new management.” Be patient. NASA is but one of a myriad of agencies needing reform. Look to attrition via aging as a potentially optimum timeline given civil service inertia.
      This observation comes to you from an engineer who spent a career in the belly of the beast in a former life.

      • I remember NASA getting involved in “Muslim out-reach programs” during Obama’s tenure.
        Somehow religious diversity is important for orbital mechanics.

      • rocketscientist
        August 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm
        I remember NASA getting involved in “Muslim out-reach programs” during Obama’s tenure.
        Somehow religious diversity is important for orbital mechanics.

        Doesn’t everything revolve about islam?
        Do I need a s(n)arc tag?

    • Well, they had the paper and pencils and they weren’t doing any space stuff. So, ya know…?

    • “Why exactly does our “Space Exploration Agency” have its fingers in this?”
      Maybe “Space” was misspelled “Spacey” in the authorization act?

  26. Before I read this I was thinking of my college English class, and how I got a low grade for spelling “behavior” “behaviour.” But professor, the dictionary says chiefly British, not exclusively British. Maybe I having a father who was British prefer the look of the look of the “U.”

    • A British usage expert (name forgotten) who generally approved of America’s simplified spelling ruefully noted that it would be a rare Englishman who would accept the loss of the richness of “savour.”

  27. Don’t these guys watch Doctor Who? The Daleks nearly destroyed the Earth by drilling like this!

    • You’re forgetting the spider lady that laid her eggs at Earth’s core and was letting them out. No bubbling lava, mantle or iron to be seen!

    • Hans-Georg
      Beeb dear chap.
      Abbreviation’ish, well sort of, or an almost acronym’ish term for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). And to really confuse you, Auntie as well.
      Although ‘Beeb’ and ‘Auntie’ might be considered just affectionate nicknames.
      Nevertheless, socialist, climate change apologists so Blob, perhaps, but Bob is reserved for our national builder.

  28. Do you want a realistic plan to deal with a supervolcano? –Trigger the eruption sooner than nature has scheduled it. This means that more than likely it will be smaller and less destructive, and by knowing when the eruption will happen you can evacuate those in danger and store up enough food ahead of time to carry the current population through the lean years. You might even be able to pay for the entire effort without using any government money by selling “ringside” seats to the eruption…

      • More like a closed container of, say, water being heated by natural forces, getting hotter and hotter until it explodes. Cut a hole in it ahead of time, and the explosion will be smaller.

  29. The other minor little issue I can think of is what material NASA thinks will work to drill magma. Steel, IIRC, tends to go all smooshy at that temperature, and I doubt any current material would retain sufficient strength to use as drill pipe.

      • The Space Shuttle used these for brakes as well.
        Carbon/carbon material is what you are referring to. It maintains tensile properties to 2000°C (3631 °F) Carbon fibers held within a carbon matrix. Made by pyrolizing (burning the crap out of) the epoxy matrix until its only carbon (requires several reinfusion and pyrolization cycles).
        Interestingly when carbon/carbon pads are used against a carbon/carbon rotor disc they are too grippy and produce far to much braking force, requiring the calipers to pulse like anti-lock brakes. The resulting heat is dissipated in the visible spectrum as a series of bright flashing light pulses (like a strobe light). There are several videos on line showing motorcycles performing these light shows.
        Excellent heat conductor as well. Which is why it works so well in brakes.
        But, it doesn’t have good fracture toughness, so it probably wouldn’t be a good candidate for a rock drill head.

        • “But, it doesn’t have good fracture toughness, so it probably wouldn’t be a good candidate for a rock drill head.”
          Not in itself, but allied to other materials it has the ability to transfer enormous torque, through light weights, to a drill tip of a more fracture resistant material.
          The good thing about carbon composites is that they can be designed to perform specific tasks very efficiently, e.g. whilst F1 carbon brake disks and pads are used for braking, carbon suspension elements are used for an entirely different purpose and perform in an entirely different way.
          We haven’t even scratched the surface of the ability of composites.

  30. Nice to see the spelling highlighted. Civilisation depends on understanding each other.
    A metre is a unit of length. A meter is a device for indicating something like voltage or the BS Quotient in some comments.
    I will take advice on how to spell when the instructors learn to put ‘ly’ on adjectives.

    • Just a few of the long list of how much we really are divided by a common language in the context of automobiles/car and general tool terminology:
      What we call the hood is called the bonnet in Britian. What the British call the hood is what we call the Convertible top.
      Our battery is their accumulator
      Our glove compartment is their cubby or cubby box.
      Our firewall is their bulkhead
      Our trunk is their boot.
      Our transmission is their gearbox
      Our generator is their dynamo
      Our truck is their lorry
      Our fender is their wing.
      Our muffler is their silencer
      Our idle is their tick over
      Our wrench is their spanner
      Our Phillips head screw driver is their cross head screw
      Our shock absorber is their damper
      Our gasoline is their petrol
      Our rocker panels are their sills
      It goes on and on.
      The reason the British drink warm beer is because their refrigerator are made by Lucas (An inside joke for anyone that ever owned a Triumph automobile. God help you if you had double Stromberg carbs to keep synchronized.)

      • RAH
        “God help you if you had double Stromberg carbs to keep synchronized.”
        Once, on a Triumph Dolomite 1750. Never again. Godawful rubber diaphragm that kept splitting and couldn’t hold a steady vacuum when it was new anyway.
        SU’s on a nice A series was my carb of choice.
        Webers, ideally, but they didn’t work well on the Dolly either.

      • RAH: “God help you if you had double Stromberg carbs to keep synchronized.”
        My ’72 Lotus Elan had dual Strombergs. After I overhauled them, I had no problems. For the US market only, there was the “Stromberg bump” in the hood (bonnet) as Lotus used Webers in all other markets. I had more problems with Girling than either Lucas or Stromberg.
        As a friend with a Lotus Europa once said: “English cars promote family values. Dad needs to stay home and work on them every Saturday so he gets to be with the kids”
        P.S: I’m driving a Westfield now. It’s the best of both worlds, a sporting Brit chassis and reliable Japanese drive train.

      • ” their refrigerator are made by Lucas”
        Ah, good old Joseph Lucas, known to the British motorcycle fraternity as ‘the Prince of Darkness’ as a result of the performance of his lighting equipment.
        You’ve never lived until you’ve got half way round a corner at eighty MPH and then had all the lights go out because the dipswitch has just shorted.

    • “RAH August 18, 2017 at 3:01 pm
      Our shock absorber is their damper”
      This is wrong too, from an engineering perspective. A shock absorber is the spring. The damper is commonly called a shock absorber.

    • Missing periods! Very alarming? Or perhaps it is only that an entity experiencing a sufficient period of maturation might suffer loss of its periodic capacity and cease having periods.

      • There seems to be a trend toward a “down style” in acronyms. E.g., “COBOL is now usually “Cobol.” But not all acronyms can be safely down-styled this way: e.g., “APL” and “PL/1.” They would make the reader do a double-take if downsized.

  31. Does one suppose that the USGS (which has been studying and closely monitoring Yellowstone for these many years) is aware of any of this? Why has it not suggested this “engineering” project, which would last for millenia? Perhaps because even to the untrained eye it is plainly ludicrous? I smell nothing more than a cynical foray into potential fresh streams of public revenue. The WH needs to inform the NASA administrator to get a grip.
    Besides isn’t NASA supposed to be working on an expedition to Mars? You’d think that would keep them busy enough.

    • It might make sense to build a geothermal power plant at Yellowstone. But… The National Park Service and every environmental group in the world would probably oppose it.

      • “The National Park Service and every environmental group in the world WOULD oppose it.”
        There. Fixed it for ya.

    • The Mars thing is just a “get out of town”thing in case the unlimited energy idea blows up in their face.

  32. Sorry to be picky but your Notes to the Beeb are rude.
    The Brits do things differently and American’s don’t own the English language. Us deniers are supposed to be the good guys, so take the high road and respect that they have their own ways.

      • Maybe I should have put this at the beginning instead of the end of the post:

        Note: Yes, I know the BBC is British and that we are “two peoples separated by a common language.” I just like poking fun at the way they misspell so many words.

        Of course, then someone would take offense at the use of the word “misspell”.
        If I have to say I’m being sarcastic, it takes all the fun out of being sarcastic.

      • I’d say you were being “facetious” (deliberately silly) rather than “sarcastic” (cutting, slighting).

    • Reasonable Skeptic
      “Us deniers are supposed to be the good guys”?
      We deniers!
      “Us deniers” is so ‘street’ dahling.
      For goodness sake!

    • “It used to be the Queen’s English. But it’s become a stock company, and we own most the shares.”

  33. There are hundreds of technical problems with the idea of drilling a well close to the magma chamber. I will discuss a couple of them.
    Oil and gas wells are drilled into sediment or rock in locations where there is oil and gas. Oil and gas can only exist (over geological time) when the temperature is below certain values. Otherwise, the oil converts first to natural gas and then the natural gas breaks down into simpler compounds. Therefore, the technology for drilling ultra-deep wells is developed with temperatures where gas and oil can exist in mind. The oil and gas industry consider temperatures above 200 degree C as “ultra high temperature” wells and there are very few of those. I’m not aware of any commercial oil and gas wells that are even 250 degree C.
    An deep well that is being drilled below a vertical depth of 30,000 feet takes a long time to drill because a large volume of rock must be removed. The top of the well is very large. The well gets “slimmer” as the depth gets deeper and more casing is set. Each casing must be smaller than the one before as it is lowered through the existing casing in the well. A deep exploratory oil or gas well drilled below 30,000 feet using conventional drilling technology can easily cost $50 to $100 million dollars or more. The well uses a large amount of steel, cement and expensive equipment and fluids to drill.
    No one has technology to drill a well as deep and as “hot” as the ones NASA is talking about. It would require the development of different materials for the drill string and bit that can handle stress at higher temperatures. It would require different drilling “fluids”. Therefore, any cost estimate of NASA is not close to realistic.
    Next, no one knows how many wells it would take. The idea I think would be to drill several wells as “injectors” and inject high pressure water into some wells. Other wells would “drain” this high pressure water and it would be circulated back to the surface as high pressure steam. Who knows if something like this could even be made to work at those depths and temperatures? Nor how many wells would be needed to “inject” water in order to cool the magma chamber. I would think it would take hundreds of wells to do this kind of thing if it worked at all. Each well costing hundreds of millions of dollars or perhaps even billions of dollars given it would likely require some kind of exotic materials to drill a well and “complete” it at such temperatures and pressures.

    • Bob G
      Great post, but the blog is now a spelling bee.
      Come on in, it’s fun, Friday night (well here in the UK) a few brews and a bit of mischief.

  34. David — Your concept illustration shows circulation of water(?) through rock strata from an injection well to the producing well. This would necessitate treating of this water for dissolved solids, (salts, sulfur, etc) in the heat recovery process. A multiple single well circulation system would likely fare better where a heat transfer liquid medium would be employed. Larger wellbores would likely be used to allow higher circulation rates of the fluid. The big hangup from my first look into the scheme would be the inherent geological instability and its effect on trying to operate deep wells. Here’s a link to an article on the typical earthquake swarming phenomena that occurs in and around Yellowstone. Not the type of environment conducive to well integrity.
    And here’s another article which touches on the mechanism of the earthquakes, which would be a death sentence to any well in the vicinity of the event.
    “A spokesperson for USGS said: “The location and focal mechanism solution of this earthquake are consistent with right-lateral faulting in association with faults of the Lewis and Clark line, a prominent zone of strike-slip, dip slip and oblique slip faulting trending east-southeast from northern Idaho to east of Helena, Montana, southeast of this earthquake.””
    Lots of homework here to define the geology at depth where wells would be drilled in an inherently unstable environment.

    • This a NASA ‘pie in the sky’ (or perhaps ‘pounding money down a rat hole’) concept. Of course the seismology of the Yellowstone caldera would be problematic for any deep well boring/casing!
      The Beeb used the concept to stimulate more dooms day ‘viewers’ and David highlighted the ludicrous nature of both the NASA concept and the Beeb’s alarmism!
      RE: “Lots of homework here to define the geology at depth where wells would be drilled in an inherently unstable environment.” No. Do not waste more taxpayer money on this ‘drill under the caldera’ fantasy.

    • Yup! It is like fusion energy, only much worse. In 100 years it will still be 100 years away.

    • There are a multitude of reasons why the idea of drilling geothermal wells under Yellowstone’s magma chamber makes me think of the movie Armageddon. 😅

  35. It doesn’t have to “work” to be worth it. If we can pull it off, we get a huge supply to cheap power and if it only delays an eruption by 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 years, then that’s 100, or 1,000, or 10,000 extra years to think of a better solution.

    • Dennis
      “Sounds like they want to create something like the EPA mine spill , only much worse !!!!!”
      Sounds like they want to create another EPA, which is worse than worse!

    • Still angry about that ‘taxation without representation’ thing, I suspect. And them burning the White House. That was rude.

      • Hell, I’m angry about taxation *with* representation.
        I forgot to mention that one of my ancestors, Arthur Middleton of South Carolina, signed the Declaration of Independence. So… the Family Feud, goes back a couple of centuries… 😝

      • I’ve been a Yank traveling in Scotland a few times. I found that they generally “like” us because we kicked England’s butt and got away with it. 🙂 Though I did think it a bit strange that a pub in Inverness had Jack Daniel’s on tap.

    • Why do you think that the “author” is upset? Did it ever occur to you that he might just be a sarcastic smart ass?

  36. As a former petroleum engineer, studying the problems (and there will be thousands) associated with developing this into a workable project would fun squared. BUT, the whole concept is dumb. The minuscule amount of heat removed, compared to what mother nature is generating and what would be further generated by whatever triggers a catastrophic event boggles the mind.

    • Oh c’mon! Just stop at the end of your first sentence. For once, there should be a gravy train for the engineers!

  37. The language is called English. I think the people who live in England and speak the Queen’s English might say that we colonials are the ones who are misspelling words.

  38. The solution:
    1. Create a committee of geologists to study the problem.
    2. Build huge, ultra complex models of the relevant geology.
    3. Buy bigger computers.
    4. Create a new Federal Department of Volcano Groping.
    5. Raise taxes.
    6. Evacuate all the residents, whether they want it or not.
    7. Raise taxes again.
    8. Buy bigger computers again.
    9. Create a global totalitarian Socialist government
    10. Announce that the problem is solved. Kill all who disagree

    • That will not correct the very serious ongoing spelling issues that are preventing the human race from solving its problems!

      • John Harmsworth
        “That will not correct the very serious ongoing spelling issues that are preventing the human race from solving its problems!”
        Indeed sir. We must seek government funding to escalate the spelling crisis to global proportions. We must terrorise the global community to spell to our command.
        NEVER relent.
        NEVER FAIL.
        HE’LL HIT HER!
        That went well, did it not Herr Gobbler? Stop, STOP, don’t live up to your name, besides, I’m not in the mood.

  39. There are two kinds of countries in the world. Those that use Metres, and those that have put a man on the moon. XD

  40. Only in pig English are the Z and U relevant. Otherwise those spellings are correct. and AN does not come before H too Americans.

  41. Here’s a thought.
    Why not kill 3 birds with one stone?
    Take all those geoengineering dudes off of solutions to the caGW non-problem and put them on how to turn Yellowstone into a giant cannon to shoot down any asteroids that get too close?
    (Of course, the trigger mechanism for the super-volcano might be a problem. But it would keep them out of trouble for awhile.)

    • Gunga Din
      Easy, just round up all the Charlottesville white supremacists, give them a free bar for the night, and tell them the hole in the ground is the urinal.
      4 birds!

      • 😎
        But I think you might be being a bit limited by only adding “white” supremacists. Include all those who would be supremacists!
        (But I guess the Audubon Society would shoot the idea down unless the cannon was shaped like a windmill.8-)

    • NASA is the great creator of PowerPoint space exploration programs.
      The one and only rocket designed by NASA (it wasn’t even NASA just yet) was the Mercury Redstone rocket (and that program was actually conducted by the US Army).
      They haven’t built anything since, but they do maintain some nice testing facilities..

  42. Getting geothermal power from Yellowstone will prevent an eruption about the same way that wind turbines prevent global warming. Lots of money in it, huge initial investment needed, all sorts of technical problems to be overcome before it can be profitable…

  43. The first bore hole into Puna, Hawaii was so hot it was uncontrollable for days on days, showering residents and forests with heavy metals. Its roar could be heard for miles, the few residents said. Many developed chemical and metal sensitivities (and these can take years to disappear), as much of the area drinks was via roof runoff and cistern. But a lot was learned, the first hole was finally plugged and the second successful. Presently 38MW is produced and sold, with the existing permit allowing 22MW more. I wish the plant would gear up, but I think they are just grateful they tamed the beast.

  44. It’s “meter,” not metre and there’s no “u” in endeavor
    The report is from the BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation) so it’s correct for them to have used British spelling, rather than American.

  45. From the USGS’s :

    QUESTION: Can you release some of the pressure at Yellowstone by drilling into the volcano?
    ANSWER: No. Scientists agree that drilling into a volcano would be of questionable usefulness. Notwithstanding the enormous expense and technological difficulties in drilling through hot, mushy rock, drilling is unlikely to have much effect. At near magmatic temperatures and pressures, any hole would rapidly become sealed by minerals crystallizing from the natural fluids that are present at those depths.

    On the history of supervolcanic eruptions and all the milder ones, follow the link to the .pdf at – it’s my usual reference to silliness of this sort.

  46. A fascinating exploration into one of the really major threats to civilization on earth. How long would it take to restore agriculture sufficient to feed the world? Consequently how much food would we need to store to bridge that supervolcanoe winter? A challenge worthy of Joseph challenge of preparing to feed the world for 7 years.
    PS Has Mr. Middleton had the opportunity to even crack open one of the 20 volumes of the complete Oxford English Dictionary? THE “definitive record of the English language”? Let alone perused a few of its 228,132 entries and subentries of current, obsolete and derivative words?

    The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries.

    Could he rise to take a brief examination online? Civilised? “Inconceivable”! (Just to twit you).

    • Civilised?

      H.W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage says this:

      -ize, -ise, in verbs. In the vast majority of the verbs that end in -ize or -ise, the ultimate source of the ending is in the Greek verb -iso, whether the particular verb was an actual Greek one or a Latin or French or English imitation . . . . Most English printers, taking their cue from Kent in King Lear, ’Thou whoreson zed! Thou unnecessary letter!’, follow the French practice of changing the -ize to -ise. But the Oxford University Press, the Cambridge University Press, The Times, and American usage, in all of which -ize is the accepted form, carry authority enough to outweigh superior numbers. The OED’s judgement may be quoted . . . [enough]

      • So is it “ise” or “ize”?
        All those in favor …er..or..favour of “ize” say, “Aye”.
        The “ayes” have it!
        The proper spelling is “civilayes”.

  47. You all fail to see the big picture.
    1) Yellowstone volcano is big, scary, is going to kill us very soon (eventually), and everyone should be losing sleep thinking about it.
    2) Given the gravity of the situation (see above) we need to do something about it. It is best to put all available resources into solving the defined and accepted problem (see above) rather than observing, and waiting to base our actions on understanding.
    3) Yellowstone is dangerous because it has too much energy; we need energy; take energy from yellowstone and move it to where it is needed; win win.
    4)Solution viability is not to be considered because of the logic spelled out in paragraph 2 (see above).
    5) If the anticipated solution doesn’t work then its O.K. because we learned stuff from all the resources that we put into the process & and we will be that much more prepared for the next super volcano that we need to suppress.

    • 1) Not very soon. Even in timescales geologists consider “soon.”
      2) Not we don’t. Shutting down the thermal system will deprive millions of people to see that Yellowstone is unique. When were you last there?
      3) Yes, it’s dangerous. The Norris Geyser basin made me nervous. The Elk and Bison are dangerous too.
      4) See 2).
      5) No, its not okay. Tapping into thermal systems in Iceland have greatly reduced the thermal features for miles around.

    • Isn’t the problem to do with the energy throwing a sizeable amount of the planet into the atmosphere?
      An alternative solution would be to remove everything above the magma chamber, (or as much as possible) thereby reducing the force and effect of the eruption. This solution, although a very large amount of work, is technically a whole lot easier and the removed material could be used to raise the levels of areas that are subsiding elsewhere. Pretty good for a lot of employment opportunities as well.

      • Do keep in mind that Yellowstone Natl Park is about three times the area of Rhode Island. The caldera is some 30 miles in diameter. Not the easiest task to accomplish.

  48. Here’s my humble attempt at ROM scaling this effort. First, I want to say this is a breathtaking attempt to secure organizational funding on a scale hardly imagined. It reminds me of the Far Side cartoon were a couple spiders have stretched a web across a playground slide. Assuming all of the engineering difficulties could be solved to allow massive injection, it would have to be MASSIVE. After doing this little scaling exercise the principle of time doing the work is again apparent, like erosion, this would take hundreds of years to accomplish.
    Heat capacity of Magma @1200K is 1450J/KgK. Heat capacity of water is 4186 J/KgK (room temp, I know, high temp-pressure water is a complicated subject I know nothing about). The ratio of equal temperature exchange is, therefore, 0.35 Kg water per Kg magma. Oddly, the specific volume of water is about 3 times magma, so for even temperature exchange the volume of water is about the same as magma. Let’s say we need to drop the temperature of the magma 400K to make it “safe”. For a cubic kilometer of magma we need to inject a cubic kilometer of water that is then heated 400K. How many cubic kilometers is the dangerous part of the magma chamber? I’ll use 50 though I think it is larger, much larger. So we need a pretty large amount of water… 50 cubic kilometers or roughly 40 million acre feet. Since the heat capacity of water is a lot higher in most of this exchange temp-pressure regime the volume required is smaller, I’d guess 20 million AF. I’m not even going to guess how long it would take to inject that much water, or how much energy would be required, or the cost.
    Even over many decades, the politics of diverting 20 million AF of water would be interesting.

  49. The writer lost me when there was the carping about spelling. Civilisation, metre and endeavour are all standard spellings in the UK and it was the BBC being quoted I rather think.

  50. “10 miles is 52,800 feet. The deepest well ever drilled for any reason, the Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia, only went down 40,230 feet. Prior to this, the deepest well was the 31,441 feet deep Lone Star Producing Co. 1–27 Bertha Rogers well in Washita County, Oklahoma.”
    That looks to me that we’re 80% there. Why the neigh saying? I say put petrol in the lorries, toss the drill bit in the boot and go for it.

    • Those deep wells weren’t drilled next to a magma chamber. The temperatures encountered at 8 km in the Kola borehole would be much shallower at Yellowstone.

    • You wont be able to drill deeper in a location with anomolusly high geothermal gradient.
      In any case, this idea is absurd from nearly all rational viewpoints. Hard to believe Nasa would risk their good name publishing it.

  51. I remember when NASA did aeronautics and space stuff, not volcanoes, weather and diversity. They used to be pretty good.

  52. Federal Budget Year 2018 to begin October 1 2017 insanity boils over!
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology (not NASA just a Contractor!) and NASA (HQ D.C.) have plagiarized a plethora of USGS Dept. of Interior Studies!
    Volcanoes whether mud, regular or super are the domain of the USGS!
    NASA needs to re-educate and re-understand that:
    after “N”
    A = Aeronautical
    S = Space
    and the last “A” = Administration, should Congress wish it so or decide to abolish it!
    As a ‘Cold War’ institution I would advocate the disestablishment of NASA.
    However, the Department of Agriculture, the United States’ first department of Science, a Civil War i.e. ‘Confederate’ Institution by establishment, I would advocate the disestablishment of it likewise!
    Jolly Good!

  53. Drilling under the magma chamber and extract heat until cold rock? What? Are they planning to cool the core? Where do they think the heat is coming from? This has to be THE MOST ridiculous think I’ve ever read! April first?

    • The second picture in your link looks like Rotorua, in New Zealand. The thing with geothermal is that it can disappear in an instant especially if it is being extracted too rapidly. Local authorities now ban local residents in Rotorua from tapping in to that source to heat water and pools etc. It certainly is an interesting area in NZ.

  54. I know someone else had said it but: English English is NOT American English. Brits, Aussies and Kiwis tend to use S not Z.
    Just sayin’….
    But I like the rest of the article.

  55. Your degree of “civilization” depends on where you live
    And…It’s “meter,” not metre and there’s no “u” in endeavor
    Again depends where you live.
    Captain James Cook would probably be peeved to find that he mis-spelt the name of his own ship
    Apart from some North American imperialism regarding spelling an interesting article
    It was probably the eruption of Toba in Sumatra about 70,000- 75,000 years ago that cleared the neighbourhood of most of our cousins and allowed modern human expansion into Asia.
    The effect of Yellowstone going off could be “interesting” to say the least

    • Captain Cook *misspelled* the name of his ship. And in honor of Captain Cook’s voyages of explouration and discouvery, NASA mispelled the name of the space shuttle Endeavour (sp).

  56. I get really nervous about letting a government agency drill anything designed to ‘fix’ a problem.
    Here in Colorado the EPA decided to save us from the Gold King Mine toxins with a little drilling project.
    It triggered a true catastrophe, the very thing we wanted to avoid.
    My suggestion is for these agencies to eat a few more donuts and file some memos for their bosses and wait for retirement.

  57. You say you are writing in America,.Mr Middleton. But the internet is not in America.,!
    English is spoken in the Commonwealth but American is only spoken on the television here. And a lot of it is foul language. It has degenerated under the influence of Hollywood. An American institution!

  58. BBC uses their own style guide, similar to Guardian and Observer, I believe
    “However, our style is to use lower case with an initial cap for acronyms, where you would normally pronounce the set of letters as a word (eg Aids, Farc, Eta, Nafta, Nasa, Opec, Apec).”
    The critique on the “z” of civilization and the definition of supervolcano here simply refers to a potential *eruption* which is a valid way of using it.
    Not a good start for any article to show uninformedness on both style and substance right off the bat!

    • My facetious sarcasm regarding British bastardizarion of the English language notwithstanding… Yellowstone is not a *potential* supervolcano. It is, by definition, an actual supervolcano.

      The term “supervolcano” implies a volcanic center that has had an eruption of magnitude 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index (VEI), meaning the measured deposits for that eruption is greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers (240 cubic miles). The VEI scale was created as a general measurement of the explosivity of an eruption. There are multiple characteristics used to give an eruption its VEI allowing for the classification of current and historic eruptions. The most common criteria are volume of ejecta (ash, pumice, lava) and column height. All VEI 8 eruptions occurred tens of thousands to millions of years ago making the volume of ejecta or deposits the best method for classification. An eruption is classified as a VEI 8 if the measured volume of deposits is greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers (240 cubic miles). Therefore a supervolcano is a volcano that at one point in time erupted more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of deposits. Yellowstone, like many other supervolcanoes, has also had much smaller eruptions. The cartoon shows a comparison of eruption sizes, including the three largest from Yellowstone.
      Maybe the Beeb should have consulted with the USGS instead of NASA.

  59. ” I just like poking fun at the way they misspell so many words”
    How about pronunciation? Have you noticed that they pronounce Jaguar as “Jag-you-are?” And Nicaragua comes out as “Nick-are-agh-you-ah”

      • Thankfully, the recent proliferation of subtitles has opened up a whole new world of British Television entertainment.

    • All started when them there Britains tried, and darn nearly succeeded, to control all the trade worldwide. From the start of British colonialism as early as the 16th Century, it gathered speed and momentum between the 18th and 20th Century, spreadin’ the Anglish language and acquiring new words, meanings, and grammatical forms along the way.
      The English colonization of North America had begun as early as 1600. Jamestown, Virginia was founded in 1607, and the Pilgrim Fathers settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. The first settlers were, then, contemporaries of Shakespeare (1564-1616), Bacon (1561-1626) and Donne (1572-1631), and would have spoken a similar dialect. However the French, Spanish, Dutch and American native were also there and they influenced the language at every pow-wow they had….

      Interestingly, some English pronunciations and usages “froze” when they arrived in America while they continued to evolve in Britain itself (sometimes referred to as “colonial lag”), so that, in some respects, American English is closer to the English of Shakespeare than modern British English is. Perhaps the best-known example is the American use of gotten which has long since faded from use in Britain (even though forgotten has survived). But the American use of words like fall for the British autumn, trash for rubbish, hog for pig, sick for ill, guess for think, and loan for lend are all examples of this kind of anachronistic British word usage. America kept several words (such as burly, greenhorn, talented and scant) that had been largely dropped in Britain (although some have since been recovered), and words like lumber and lot soon acquired their specific American meanings. Something approaching Shakespearean speech can sometimes be encountered in isolated valleys in the Appalachian or Ozarks, where words like afeard, yourn, sassy and consarn, and old pronunciations like “jine” for join, can still sometimes be heard.

      For more see —

  60. One lesser known finding from the research is the transfer of government powers to Sacramento from DC.

  61. In the US Constitution the “United States” is referred to as “them” and not “it” as well. So the US is a plural entity, but that is another discussion…

    • Yes, it is a peculiarity of British usage to refer to corporate entities as a plural, as in “General Electric are” rather than “General Electric is”.

  62. To paraphrase Irving Berlin…
    But how will cool that other pup?
    The one that heats the magma up.

  63. Notwithstanding Mosher’s critique, I found this article and the thread it generated a very amusing read for an hour this morning.

    • I consider The Three Stooges and Adam Sandler movies as sophisticated comedy… Hence, my sense of humor is often lost on some people.

  64. I really have nothing to add to this, but one of my favorite movies when I was young was a campy sci-fi thriller, of which this article reminds me.

    You will thank God its only a movie…so far.

  65. I’ll throw a cold wet towel on this plan because of something completely pedestrian: legal and political liability. Who would have the courage to undertake an endeavor that might carry a risk of triggering the thing it is supposed to prevent? Human beings are not wired properly to allow themselves to apply logic on the knife-edge of a scale, to come to consensus on two alternatives balanced on a knife-edge. They will not act, and oppose those who do intend to act with everything up to physical violence.
    The only credible response to the Yellowstone threat is unfortunately boring and unpopular. It is the same response for asteroid impact (elsewhere) or global nuclear war, or anything that would trigger a climate-changing aerosol event or poisonous fallout: we should prepare to survive a long harsh Winter with as many survivors as possible.
    This means directly today, that we must [1] fast-track Energy From Thorium LFTR to power the grid and [2] build a series of underground primary HVDC loops across the continent to feed and interconnect legacy grids, to achieve the specific goal of electricity delivered everywhere, without sunlight or reliance on rail transportation or natural gas pipelines. To survive we must also be prepared to take our animals and plants indoors or underground, to survive cold and particulate extremes. If done right it could be the difference between 50% survival or 5% drawn out death. Harnessing nuclear/Thorium and girding the grid in anticipation of a long Winter is win/win. It revitalizes our infrastructure while presenting the human race with a precious gift, unbounded energy. There is no downside, no perpetual war for remaining fossil fuels, no need to burn wind and solar hipsters for heat or satisfaction.

  66. The language used in the UK is called English, not American.
    Therefore you are incorrect with your snark about spelling. Embarrassingly so.

    • Snark, by definition, can’t be incorrect…

      Definition of snark
      : an attitude or expression of mocking irreverence and sarcasm
      … no human endeavor is beyond snark these days, so lots of people enjoy hijacking a corporation’s marketing hashtag to mock the company … — Paul McFedries
      Unless it’s politically incorrect.

  67. The Beeb article had a picture of an “Indonesian volcano” erupting. Looked just like the volcano looming out my kitchen window that happens to be Mt. Pinatubo. The Beeb had placed Pinatubo in Indonesia. Close enough for Beeb purposes I guess.

  68. Loving the ding-dong regarding spelling. A large part of my military service was spent alongside the Yanks and what a pleasure and a privilege it was too. We used to enjoy winding each other up about language trying to bamboozle the ‘other side’ by using obscure words. For some reason, the word my US colleagues found the most hilarious was the British term ‘bloke’ meaning ‘man’.
    Great times.

  69. So they think one drill hole would be enough to drain away the heat?
    It doesn’t take a genius to see that would be like trying to drain Lake Michigan through a straw.

  70. Studying is what they for a living DC to consume the budget given to them. Accomplishing something in DC is quite another matter and on par with 100 year climate change predictions. You just have to understand that strange budget ecosystem of looking busy and marking time and looking official.

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