Would a winter lasting 80 years be enough to appease “Global Warming Alarmists”
That’s how long two volcanic winters may have lasted after two separate explosions of the Yellowstone volcano about 630,000 years ago, the same eruptions that formed the Yellowstone caldera, and the last big eruptions of the volcano. The explosions occurred about 170 years apart and helped drop the ocean surface temperature by about 5.4 degrees.
These conclusions are the result of a detailed examination of sediments collected in Santa Barbara Basin, off the Southern California coast. By drilling into the basin’s mud, scientists from the University of California Santa Barbara could see the individual layers on an almost decade by decade basis, an amazingly detailed view.
Their research was revealed in a press release from the Geological Society of America last week.
Mention Yellowstone and volcano in the same sentence and news feeds hum, Facebook lights up with frightening posts and some websites hype a foreboding end to life on Earth. Especially in the past few months, Yellowstone’s supervolcano has garnered several such headlines.
First came a swarm of earthquakes, mostly small, that spawned theories of an impending eruption. Earthquake swarms are common in the area, hitting as many as 3,000 in 1985. The cause is either changing stresses in the vicinity of the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake, or it could be water or magma moving around under the surface, according to Mike Poland, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the scientist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.
Last summer’s log of earthquakes was high at 2,500, but Poland pointed out that the seismic infrastructure monitoring the Greater Yellowstone Area is also much more sensitive and yet may still be missing some smaller, more localized temblors.
Another story that grabbed attention said that NASA scientists had studied how to inject cool water into Yellowstone’s magma chamber to depressurize the system and halt an eruption, according to the BBC. The system could use venting steam to power turbines, a double benefit.
Other recent headline-capturing stories have been based on a scientific study that, taken out of context, was used by some websites to create doomsday scenarios.
Arizona State University graduate student Hannah Shamloo, who analyzed fossilized volcanic ash from Yellowstone, reported that an injection of fresh magma into a system like Yellowstone’s — enough to cause a supereruption — could happen in decades rather than thousands of years.
“It’s shocking how little time is required to take a volcanic system from being quiet and sitting there to the edge of an eruption,” Shamloo told The New York Times.
That statement was qualified, though, with the footnote that there’s more work to do before scientists can verify a precise time scale.
Poland happened to be in the Yellowstone backcountry when that story appeared, requiring his predecessor to field calls on the subject from the national and international media. Although Poland has worked in Hawaii where volcanic eruptions can generate a lot of local interest, he said he was surprised by the “intense media focus” related to Yellowstone.
“There’s a psychology to this I didn’t expect,” he said, “which has me wanting to get more information out to the public, because it seems like the public really eats it up.”
An example of the continuing public interest Yellowstone’s plumbing can generate also came in October when University of Utah scientists published a report providing a better picture of the underground workings of Old Faithful geyser and the surrounding geyser basin. By using seismic sensors to capture faint vibrations, the researchers were able to map the hot water reservoir that supplies water to the geyser.
“The neat thing about these geyser systems is they are repeat experiences,” Poland said. “Assuming the plumbing doesn’t change, they can deploy in one area, move to another and see the same process to map out the plumbing system.”
The scientists estimated that the underground hot water reservoir — which is really a system of cracks and fractures rather than one large pool — has a diameter of about 200 meters, “a little larger than the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium, and can hold approximately 300,000 cubic meters of water, or more than 79 million gallons,” according to a university press release.
By comparison, each eruption of Old Faithful releases around 8,000 gallons, leaving a lot in reserve.
“Although it’s a rough estimation, we were surprised that it was so large,” said doctoral student Sin-Mei Wu, the first author of the research.
Old Faithful got its name because it regularly erupts about every 44 to 125 minutes.
Back to mud
Old Faithful’s eruptions are like seconds on the geological time scale when compared to the data analyzed in the mud of the Santa Barbara Basin. Poland said although the findings are intriguing, he’s going to hold off on endorsing the evidence until it can be reconciled with other information found around Yellowstone.
“I don’t know much about the offshore geology,” he said. “But even if it is only a couple of hundred years, I think you would see it in the stratigraphy that was mapped in Yellowstone. It could be completely consistent.”
U.C. Santa Barbara geologist Jim Kennett, who led the study, said the evidence was so apparent because of the basin’s unique formation. About 1 millimeter a year of sediment is deposited into the basin, which is fed nutrients from the ocean that include tiny shellfish. The shells preserved in the sediment are a record of oxygen isotopes from which scientists can deduce the sea surface temperature when they were alive.
Oxygen levels on the bottom of the basin are so low that no mud-dwelling marine animals live there, animals that could burrow into the mud and mix up the sediment layers.
“Thus, it is not surprising that Kennett and his group can look in detail at the climate changes following a volcanic eruption,” Cathy Whitlock, a Montana State University professor whose Paleoecology Lab has used sediment cores from mountain lakes to track fire and climate history in the West, wrote in an email.
“Their study gives us insight into a period that is generally poorly known,” she added. “It was a time of tremendous change in our region, with the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, which was likely a series of closely spaced eruptions.”
Each volcanic winter lasted longer than it should have, according to simple climate models, Kennett said in the news release.
“We see planetary cooling of sufficient magnitude and duration that there had to be other feedbacks involved.” The feedbacks might have included increased sunlight-reflecting sea ice and snow cover or a change in ocean circulation that would cool the planet for a longer time.
Such findings didn’t surprise Whitlock.
“We saw cooler temperatures around the world as a result of the Mount Pinatubo eruption in the early ’90s,” she wrote. “This was due to the ejection of particulates and sulfides in the atmosphere. It sounds like this group is seeing a similar but greater cooling impact from the Yellowstone eruptions, which would have been many times larger.”
If the research holds up, Poland said volcanologists will have to adjust their models.
The ability to examine an event so long ago based on layers of sediment in a basin in California is fascinating to Poland and just one more example of how continuing technological evolution is painting a broader picture of ancient events, and giving greater insight into the functioning of the Yellowstone caldera and its unique geology, tales of which are always good for a headline.
For decades it has been somewhat of a mystery to secularists as to why our solar system is structured the way it is: the four gas giants—Saturn and Jupiter, composed mainly of helium and hydrogen, and Uranus and Neptune—orbiting far away from the sun, and the four smaller rocky planets, the terrestrials—Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars—orbiting much closer to the sun.
Astronomers are puzzled that other recently discovered planetary systems look so different from ours. One evolutionist stated, “There are so many surprises in this field—almost nothing is turning out as we expected.”1 Indeed, for the secular astronomer, basic planet construction is caught on the horns of a dilemma.
The predicament is this: Planet formation must occur quickly before the protoplanet is pulled into the star it’s orbiting, but getting tiny bits of protoplanet dust to join up into nice, round spheres and thence into a proper planet has not been found to work. Many stars in our Milky Way possess spinning disks of matter—orbiting gas and dust—but there are three significant problems in forming planets from these ingredients: death spirals, accretion (the gradual growth of planets by the accumulation of debris), and turbulence.2 The building of planets large and small is an enigma, and “many aspects of the formation of the giant planets remain unresolved.”3 An evolutionist writing in the prestigious Nature journal stated,
The discovery of thousands of star systems wildly different from our own has demolished ideas about how planets form. Astronomers are searching for a whole new theory.4
But even if our neighboring planets somehow formed quickly from accumulating space dust, recently discovered exoplanets (extrasolar planets) have changed secular solar system formation theory.5 Ours is certainly unique: “Today we know that planetary systems are quite common, but in many cases the ones we see differ significantly from our own.”6Finkbeiner concurs, stating, “Perhaps the biggest question is why our Solar System is so different.”7
Exceptional star systems require, well, an exceptional star:
There are many factors that would make a star system too hostile for life to even get started, let alone survive for any period long enough to evolve. So what sort of star provides the perfect conditions for a habitable planet elsewhere in the universe?8
It so happens our sun provides the perfect conditions. It’s not too small (i.e., too dim or too cool) or too big (producing unfortunate charbroiled results from simply being too hot). Compared to the intense and violent activity seen on other stars, our sun is remarkably even-tempered and well-mannered—it doesn’t flare or pulse like other stars. When solar flares do occur, they are not so violent as to vaporize our oceans…or worse.
On the local level, our moon is equally amazing, leading two secular authors to ask, “Who built the Moon?” Knight and Butler state, “The Moon is 400 times smaller than the star at the centre of our solar system, yet it is also just 1/400th of the distance between the Earth and the Sun.” Consequently, the moon and sun appear exactly the same size in Earth’s sky—making precise solar eclipses possible. The authors also say, “By some absolutely incomprehensible quirk of nature, the Moon also manages to precisely imitate the perceived annual movements of the Sun each month.”9
Another secular author expressed surprise at the moon’s amazing orbit:
The Moon’s orbit is fiendishly difficult to explain, moving as it does around a rotating Earth, which together form [essentially] a ‘double-planet’ system that orbits around the Sun. It is a classic example of a three-dimensional, gravitational three-body problem.10
After seeing the precise placement of our planets with their right distances, masses, gravitational attractions, and orbital characteristics, is it any wonder one evolutionist said,
You might also think that these disparate bodies are scattered across the solar system without rhyme or reason. But move any piece of the solar system today, or try to add anything more, and the whole construction would be thrown fatally out of kilter. So how exactly did this delicate architecture come to be?11
Move any piece and it throws the whole solar system fatally out of kilter? Sounds like it must have been set up in a delicate balance—a precisely orchestrated cosmic dance, if you will—from the very beginning. A French astrophysicist confirms the remarkable precision of our outer planets’ relationship to Earth:
Jacques Laskar discovered that the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn keep the earth’s orbit from becoming chaotic. Without the orbital stability produced by Jupiter and Saturn, the earth’s orbit would make extreme changes, causing instability in our climate and making the earth uninhabitable.12
To conclude, our solar system is so unique that Mike Brown, a secular astronomer at Caltech, bemoaned, “It really is something that I find deeply weird….What does it all mean? I don’t know.”13
Lovesblues commentary: Well I call it Genesis and DIVINE. Another in the many pointers that all you need to do is simply OPEN your EYES to understand that there was a guiding hand in the creation of our earth, and ourselves.
“Almost nothing is turning out as we expected,” “astronomers are searching for a whole new theory,” “by some absolutely incomprehensible quirk of nature,” “fiendishly difficult to explain,” “fatally out of kilter,” “deeply weird”—these comments don’t seem very scientific. They reflect the desperation of the secular scientists’ worldview.
The satisfying answer to the question of our solar system’s origin is found in the opening pages of Genesis. Our solar system was designed complete, intact, and perfectly balanced by the Creator, for the full benefit of us His creatures, during the creation week just thousands of years ago.
- Woo, M. Y. 2010. Discovering New Worlds. Engineering & Science. 73 (3): 18-23.
- Asphaug, E. 2009. Growth and Evolution of Asteroids. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. 37: 413-48.
- Chaisson, E. and S. McMillan. 2014. Astronomy Today. Boston: Pearson Publishers, 154.
- Finkbeiner, A. 2014. Astronomy: Planets in chaos. Nature. 511 (7507): 22-24.
- Chambers, J. E. 2009. Planetary Migration: What Does It Mean for Planet Formation? Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. 37: 321-344.
- Chaisson and McMillan, Astronomy Today, 379.
- Finkbeiner, Astronomy: Planets in chaos.
- Nicholson, B., B. Carter, and J. Horner. For life to form on a planet it needs to orbit the right kind of star. The Conversation. Posted on theconversation.com December 1, 2014, accessed September 21, 2015.
- Knight, C. and A. Butler. 2005. Who Built the Moon? London: Watkins Publishing, 4-5.
- Dumé, B. Moon’s bulge linked to early orbit. PhysicsWeb. Posted on physicsworld.com August 3, 2006, accessed September 21, 2015.
- Webb, R. 2009. Unknown solar system 1: How was the solar system built? New Scientist. 2693: 31.
- Bickel, B. and S. Jantz. 2001. Creation & Evolution 101: A Guide to Science and the Bible in Plain Language. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.
- Krulwich, R. Our Very Normal Solar System Isn’t Normal Anymore. National Public Radio. Posted on npr.org May 7, 2013, accessed September 1, 2015.
* Mr. Sherwin is Research Associate, Senior Lecturer, and Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Frank Sherwin, M.A. 2015. The Perfect Balance of Our Solar System. Acts & Facts. 44 (12).
Kick-’em-Jenny is a submarine volcano located near Grenada in the Lesser Antilles.
In 1939, a major eruption sent volcanic material up to 300 meters into the air, signaling the potential growth of a new island. Seismometers have recorded further activity approximately once a decade, but these events are rarely observed directly. Scientists therefore understand little about what is happening at the volcano that is approximately 190 meters below the sea surface.
In a new study in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, scientists conducted bathymetric surveys of the volcano in 2016 and 2017. They combined this with four previous surveys of the volcano, made between 1985 and 2014, covering a number of these periods of unrest. This movie shows two of those surveys: a 2017 survey performed by the R.R.S. James Cook, which shows a close-up view of the cone of Kick-‘em-Jenny and a 3D rendering of the gas released during that survey; and a regional 2013 survey collected by the R/V Nautilus.
Not to be confused with the Nautilus Institute
Rather than a growing cone, the study’s authors observed several small landslides from the flanks of Kick-’em-Jenny. In recent decades, far more material has fallen away from the cone than has been added in eruptions, with some parts of the volcano growing and collapsing with regularity. This type of behavior is also seen in the handful of other studied underwater volcanoes worldwide, suggesting it is a common process. In the next stage of the project, the study’s authors try to further decode the seismic signals in the light of these volcanic processes to aid future monitoring of the volcano.
Read the full study at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10…
Video Animation by: IVS Fledermaus
Video Produced by AGU
Music by: departures by airtone (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/airtone… Ft: speck
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