dirty rag

Humor - The International Volcanic Abatement Treaty - Sheldon Wimpfen

Circa 1000 AD, King Canute invoked his regal powers to halt the tides. Now, a millennium later, should not man be able to halt the damaging impacts of volcanic activity that impose great hardship on humankind?

Volcanoes bad!

Leading scientists particularly concerned with global warming applaud the recent accord setting goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases. However, they reveal that any successful program to limit global warming must inevitably include the restriction and eventual cessation of volcanic activity.

Some 1500 volcanoes around the world have exhibited certain activity in the past 10,000 years. Recent eruptions such as those of Mt. St Helens, Nyiragongo and Pinatubo contributed greatly to the release of carbon dioxide, sulfuric acid and immense tonnages of particulates. These damaging introductions into the atmosphere exceed the anthropogenic sources of such materials and should therefore be placed under rigid control.

Congressional delegations are already studying the matter and anticipate legislation that will effectively control volcanic activity. Although no conclusions have been reached as to how such control might be achieved, there is talk of plugging volcanic vents by the application of high density corking material. Plugs of a size easily transported by the largest helicopters would be manufactured in large quantities.

Plug fabrication would, preferably take place at sites near the volcano to be plugged. In addition to cement and rock, other high density materials such as ferrous scrap would be used in plug fabrication. As fossil fuel driven vehicles become outmoded, large volumes of ferrous scrap would be generated that would go into volcanic plug fabrication.

Forecasters predict this new industry would provide employment for thousands of low skill workers occupied in the production of plug materials and the actual fabrication of plugs. A more highly skilled group including helicopter operators would be involved in the placement of volcanic plugs. Preliminary cost estimates for this program put the bill at $862.56 trillion, part of which would be subsidized by a tax on those living in the proximity of volcanoes.

Some volcanic vents are huge such a Kilauwea in Hawaii. As plug size would be limited by the lifting capacity of the helicopters and balloons involved, they are not expected to have dimensions greater that 20x20x20 feet. Huge numbers of such plugs will be needed thereby employing thousands of workers over a period of many years. Indeed, this new activity of plugging to preclude volcanic activity will have a scope exceeding that of the construction of the pyramids of Egypt and should prove more beneficial. The merits of sacrificing one or more well-endowed virgins, digitally validated, by throwing them into the volcano prior to plugging are under consideration.

Write your congressional representative now to urge active participation in the enactment of appropriate and effective legislation to control volcanic activity. Subsequently an International Volcanic Abatement Treaty (IVAT) should be forthcoming so that the entire world may act in concert towards the reduction and eventual elimination of volcanoes as a source of greenhouse gases and damaging particulates.

For the long haul, further legislation may arise to cease all geologic change. An enlightened public would unite behind the drive for such legislation, as it would provide meaningful protection for successive generations. To set forth a few examples of the damaging impacts of volcanism may shed light on the great need for the International Volcano Abatement Treaty.

We remember the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State on May 18, 1980 as one of the most significant geologic events in the United States in the 20th century. The explosion on May 18, was instigated by an earthquake and rockslide involving one-half cubic mile of rock. As the summit and north slope slid off the volcano that morning, pressure was released inside the volcano - where super hot liquid water immediately flashed to steam. The northward-directed steam explosion released energy equivalent to 20 million tons of TNT, toppling 150 square miles of forest in six minutes. In Spirit Lake, north of the volcano, an enormous water wave, initiated by one-eighth cubic mile of rockslide debris, stripped trees from slopes as high as 850 feet above the pre-eruption water level. The total energy output, on May 18, was equivalent to 400 million tons of TNT - approximately 20,000 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs.

In June 1991, after more than four centuries of slumber, Pinatubo Volcano on Luzon in the Philippines erupted so violently that more than 5 billion cubic meters of ash and pyroclastic debris were ejected from its fiery bowels producing eruption columns 18 kilometers wide at the base reaching heights up to 30 kilometers above the volcano's vent.

In its wake 847 people lay dead, 184 injured, 23 missing, and more than 1 million people displaced. Hundreds of millions of dollars in private properties and infrastructure lay in ruins that would require tens of billions of pesos and several years to rebuild. For months, the ejected volcanic materials remained suspended in the atmosphere where the winds dispersed them to envelope the earth, reaching as far as Russia and North America. This phenomenon caused the world's temperature to fall by an average of 1 degree Celsius. Clearly, Pinatubo's eruption signals the world's most violent and destructive volcanic event of the 20th century.

The earliest recorded eruptions on Krakatau were in 1680-81. Activity next began on May 20, 1883, culminating in four gigantic explosions on August 27. The third of these was the most violent explosion on Earth in modern times. The eruption blew away the northern two-thirds of the island, produced tidal waves as high as 37 M. (120 ft.) that resulted in 36,000 deaths, and sent a dust cloud 80 km. (50 mi.) into the atmosphere. The cloud encircled the Earth by September 9 and caused atmospheric effects, including red sunsets, for over a year. The amount of ejected material is estimated to have been 21 km. of debris. The total energy released was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT.

A brief examination of just these three volcanic eruptions underscores the urgent need for prompt action to assure the complete cessation of all volcanic activity. Write your Congressman now to urge his full cooperation in the launching of the International Volcanic Abatement Treaty.