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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.