The Earth Fights Back
Given the very fragile nature of our planet
, it is good to know that is is capable of fighting back. Our natural disasters are Earth's shock therapy.The Earth is an extraordinarily fragile place that is fraught with danger: a tiny rock hurtling through space, wracked by violent movements of its crust and subject to dramatic climatic changes as its geophysical and orbital circumstances vary.
Barely 10,000 years after the end of the Ice Age, the planet is sweltering in some of the highest temperatures in recent Earth history. At the same time, over-population and exploitation are dramatically increasing the vulnerability of modern society to natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions.
So says Bill McGuire
, who is the author or editor of over 400 books, papers and articles focusing on volcano instability and monitoring, volcanic hazards, natural hazards and environmental change, climate change and global geophysical events
One doesn't have to be a geophysicist like Bill to understand one simple chain of consequences
There is global warming so the ice caps are melting. This increases water depths across the planet, whilst exposing the land masses at each pole. The increased weight of water elsewhere puts pressure on the Earth's crust. The addition of over a hundred metres depth of water to the continental margins and marine island chains, where over 60% of the world's active volcanoes reside, seems to be sufficient to load and bend the underlying crust
.This in turn squeezes out any magma that happens to be hanging around waiting for an excuse to erupt. It may well be that a much smaller rise can trigger an eruption if a volcano is critically poised and ready to blow.
Think of it as similar to squeezing a particularly ripe pimple or boil and you get the picture.
That one outcome of increased volcanic activity is likely to be a period of falling temperatures, as a veil of volcanic dust and gas reduces the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface is of little consolation though, as this will reduce the growing cycles of our food crops.
I can see no arguments against McGuire's hypothesis, based as it is on impeccable research, but I'm sure there is one group with vested interests who will. After all, the Asean Energy Ministers say that there is a dire need for nuclear power stations in the region. Aware of the growing public antipathy to such a notion, this past week they have established a working party to work out the details of their proposed ASEAN Nuclear Energy Safety Sub-Sector Network
One can't be too sure what they will achieve. After all, they believe that nuclear power is inherently safe because, according to the World Nuclear Association
(who else?), the deaths per TWy of electricity produced are 885 for hydropower, 342 for coal, 85 for natural gas, and 8 for nuclear
That it has also been stated that there haven't been any problems with the storage of nuclear waste in the past 50 years is largely irrelevant here. (Apart from being untrue, what about its storage for the next 100,000 years, after which current spent fuels will be deemed safe.)
So nuclear power plants are comparatively safe. Can they withstand earthquakes and volcanic eruptions?
Not in Japan
, they can't!
And here in Indonesia which leads the world in many volcano statistics
It has the largest number of historically active volcanoes (76), its total of 1,171 dated eruptions is only narrowly exceeded by Japan's 1,274, and these two regions have combined to produce 1/3 of the known explosive eruptions. Indonesia has suffered the highest numbers of eruptions producing fatalities, damage to arable land, mudflows, tsunamis, domes, and pyroclastic flows. ... Four-fifths of Indonesian volcanoes with dated eruptions have erupted in this century ...
And 68 have erupted in the past 100 years - there's a good map here
And the good news? Global cooling has often been linked with major volcanic eruptions. The year 1816 has often been referred to as "the year without a summer". It was a time of significant weather-related disruptions in New England and in Western Europe with killing summer frosts in the United States and Canada. These strange phenomena were attributed to a major eruption of the Tambora volcano in 1815 in Indonesia. The volcano threw sulfur dioxide gas into the stratosphere, and the aerosol layer that formed led to brilliant sunsets seen around the world for several years.
And the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 (Bali) apparently caused a considerable decrease in temperatures around much of the world.
So, the country whose population is contributing more than most to global warming, through deforestation, the burning of peatlands, industrial and urban pollution, may find that nature will look after itself and preserve Mother Earth for those species which aren't interested in raping and looting.
It won't do much for humans, but, hey, we are relatively insignificant in cosmic terms.
Labels: nuclear power