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The Guardian: CO2 Apocalypse Now! Volcanoes, earthquakes, awaken subterranean giants

Posted By Joanne Nova On February 29, 2012 @ 2:56 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

The Guardian “Climate change will shake the Earth” (parroted by the SMH)  is feeding the pagan masses who worship The God CO2. Which would be fine, except they pretend that it’s science when it’s the “hell” part of any religion. If you drive your SUV too far you, sinner, will bear the blame for earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides. The mystery, we wonder, is why they forgot pestilence and plagues?!

Try this on. I’m quoting them: “So what – geologically speaking – can we look forward to if we continue to pump out greenhouse gases at the current hell-for-leather rate?”

  • “we could almost certainly say an eventual goodbye to the Greenland ice sheet, and probably that covering West Antarctica too”
  • “a 10-metre or more rise in sea levels.”
  •  ”these could trigger submarine landslides spawning tsunamis capable of threatening North Atlantic coastlines.”
  •  [More]” landslide activity would be inevitable in the Andes, Himalayas, European Alps…”
  • “acting to squeeze magma out of susceptible volcanoes that are primed and ready to blow.

Oh, Lordy. And what major study are these dire pronouncements made on? Why, someone called Bill McGuire has noticed a lot more volcanoes lately. That’s it.

He seems to have trouble keeping things in perspective.

The bottom line is that through our climate-changing activities we are loading the dice in favour of escalating geological havoc at a time when we can most do without it.

Sure, there has never been a worse time to deal with disasters: all those neolithic cave dwellers, and preindustrial people coped so much better with volcanoes and earthquakes than we do now.

Unless there is a dramatic and completely unexpected turnaround in the way in which the human race manages itself and the planet, then long-term prospects for our civilization look increasingly grim.

Grim? Here’s “Grim”

Among other things, Bill-the-vulcanologist seems to have overlooked the worst volcano in Human history, namely Toba, a supersized supervolcano of a magnitude 8 (and there is no “9″ in that scale). It was so big it blew up in Indonesia and left 3-6 metre (10-20 foot) deep ash as far away as India. For all that Mount Pinatubo was a decent volcano, Toba blew off 200 times as much. In what was truly a global disaster of civilizational proportions, genetic studies on homo sapiens show a bottleneck in our gene pool at about the same time. It’s theorized that we were almost wiped off the planet –  almost extincto-humanoidia.
Awkwardly Toba popped it’s top in about 70,000 BC. This is despite the likelihood that things were probably 5 degrees colder than it is now, it being an ice age and all. And this is after  Toba-the-sleeping-giant sat quietly through the Eemian warm phase when the world was around 2 – 4 degrees warmer than the present (circa 130,000 BC) which surely would have triggered all those “primed and ready to blow” volcanoes.  The dormant super volcano missed all those Eemian sea level rises and melting icecaps and exploded when the world (or at least Antarctica) was colder. Hey, but a lot can change in 50,000  cooling years. (Maybe it would have been a bigger explosion if humans had invented coal powered turbines 100 years beforehand? Who knows?)
Another magnitude 8 volcano blew up in 26,ooo (Lake Taupo’s Oruanui eruption) another not-so-warm period deep in an ice age. The largest volcano in modern times was Mount Tambora, an impressive magnitude 7. In the context of warming and CO2 emissions, though, the 1816 inferno date is just another data point that doesn’t fit the theory.  It’s only a sample size of 3 (see below for more) but if we are talking of civilizational threats, you’d think these rated a mention.
The current batch of magnitude 4′s in this the warmest supposed decade “ever” are not the stuff of global apocalypse.

The Smithsonian don’t think volcanoes are on the rise with CO2 either

They argue any increase is due to an increase in reporting. Previously, small remote volcanoes went un-noted. Plus reports of volcanoes rise after news coverage of a larger volcano and fall during other distractions, like during World Wars.
Spot the ugly rising trend in volcanoes with increased emissions:
Active volcanoes trend

Finally, we plot (above) the record since reasonably comprehensive reporting of global volcanism began in the 1960s. Note that the number of confirmed erupting volcanoes has leveled off between 50 and 70 per year through the past four decades, and a linear regression line through the data indicates that volcanism has been virtually constant

So much for that theory.
If you want an apocalypse, search for an ice-age.


Bill McGuire is professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes is published by Oxford University Press.

UPDATE: “Bob-the-vulcanologist” has a nice ring, but that should read Bill, so I’ve fixed it. And yes, Eocene should read Eemian. Corrected. Apologies. Thanks to readers Peter Miller and Mac for the proof reading!  — Jo

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