Do we have the means and capability of stopping a toba catastrophe type super-volcano – quora electricity transmission loss


The last link (graphic not shown here but Covi Zeman has the same posted from a different site) shows a gas filled volume only a kilometer or two below the surface. I couldn’t find out how much of the cavity was a void and how much was rock, but Zeman’s link says 6%-8% I recall the magma chamber below and adjacent of the gas fill volume. This is under a great amount of pressure, yet is not necessarily interlinked pore space.

My guess the amount is about the same. If Yellowstone has the right combination, you could set it off. Bleeding the pressure is a tricky issue, just like the Vajont Dam – Wikipedia disaster was set off by the characteristics of Monte Toc – Wikipedia and the flooding of the dam at the base.

The pleasure of being a geologist is that the unique properties of rocks can make a very large difference. Unless the drillers were exceedingly careless, a lot more would have to be known of the place. Since we have never gone through a super volcano in recorded human history, and only have had many instruments in the last 50 years or so for regular eruptions, there is much to learn.

Were we to drill and an interconnected pocket found, this could, repeat only has the chance, of widening the hole without plugging through the varied types of rock consistencies. By human technologies, it is like a mosquito bite felt by an elephant. The effect (malaria ignored, if they can penetrate in lesser membranes of the beast) is trivial. A side drill that slowly grinds it way upwards, driven by gas, could enlarge the hole to about house sized, which would be a very different situation.

Bleeding off pressure is similar to the Japanese government official saying he is ‘going to pop a bubble’. The first time not work, and the second let the economy down softly, in a 27 year deflationary period that remains very traumatic. I find it doubtful in the Yellowstone example that large eruptions would not occur, though much of the pressure could be let off.

What happens when molten rock saturated with gas expands? Rock is shot upwards and can easily blow the entire mountain to pieces. The rock often becomes pumice, the hot gas filling holes in the frothy mixture and then cooled. The initial process is a bit like this:

So far, we have never stopped, started, or otherwise affected a volcanic eruption. There have been several attempts to get lava to flow to different locations (away from cities) by digging channels for it with explosives, but we haven’t even succeeded with that relatively easy task, as far as I know.

Supervolcanos form when magma pools up under the Earth’s crust, but is unable to break through. The pressure rises until it’s high enough to all burst through at once. So one thing to try to prevent a supervolcano would be to drill down through the crust and let off some of the pressure. You’d still have a huge crazy eruption, as soon as you de-pressurized the magma chamber, gas dissolved in the magma would bubble out, giving you results similar to opening a carbonated drink after shaking it. But maybe you could arrange a gentler eruption with much less material ending up in the atmosphere causing extinctions.

The deepest humans have managed to drill was the Russian research project, the Kola Superdeep Borehole. The Kola Superdeep Borehole started in 1970, and reached a depth of 12262 meters below ground in 1989, nineteen years later. However, at that depth, it was 180 degrees celsius, and the drill bit couldn’t go any deeper. I’m not sure why they had to stop, my guess would be some sort of necessary lubricant was melting, or perhaps the drill was water-cooled.

Is 12262 meters deep enough to ease pressure on the magma chambers of a supervolcano? I’m not sure how deep the magma pools on supervolcanos usually are. It might be. Here’s an image of the shallowest magma under the Yellowstone Caldera Supervolcano (tehre is deeper lava we can’t get good information about):