By Jo Nova
My appearance with the wonderful Mark Steyn Tuesday is playing at SteynOnline, or on the Australian ADH TV.
Mark was tickled with the idea from my article last week: The science is settled but we just found 19,000 new volcanoes. He also wanted to talk about The crime of talking to Tucker Carlson and the Red-pilling of Naomi Wolf. We discussed other major science surprises like the mass phytoplankton blooms that seed clouds. That was another rule breaking surprise just two months ago — that moment when researchers realized that all the toluene and benzene pollution over the Southern Ocean was actually not caused by humans at all, but by phytoplankton all along.
We discussed the odd coincidence of how all the places that are warming in Antarctica seem to lie over the top of a 91 volcanoes we only discovered a few years ago. As I said, we know the surface of the moon better than we know the depths of the ocean. Only three men have visited the Mariana Trench and it’s only 11 kilometers from the surface of Earth, but 12 men have walked on the moon.
It was a lot of fun. — Bear in mind that it was 3pm for Mark and 3am for me. We really are on opposite sides of the world.
What if a volcano blows up underwater, and nobody hears it…?
Doing research for this I wondered if we would know if a volcano erupted under a kilometer of water. The answer, it turns out, is often “Not”. If they don’t trigger a seismic wave, the best we can do is look for floating rafts of pumice, and discoloured water containing bits of silicon, iron and aluminium oxides. Yes, it’s that bad. Volcano’s might be going off on Earth and we wouldn’t know.
Indeed, after Hunga Tonga surprised everyone — people started to wonder if there might be other volcanic surprises lying in wait on the sea floor. How would we know? We haven’t a clue. A lot of the time we don’t even know after they have erupted — let alone before. People might think there would be a heat signature on the surface of the ocean, but that only works for shallow volcanoes that are already putting out hot lava. With the average ocean four kilometers deep and up to 11 kilometers deep a 3 or 4 kilometer mountain can appear and we likely won’t even notice.
It’s rarely acknowledged, however, that most volcanic activity on Earth occurs beneath the sea. Submarine volcanoes are pretty much ubiquitous in all of the world’s major oceans and it’s estimated that 75% of the Earth’s magma output comes from mid-ocean ridges.
To make things trickier, many known submarine volcanoes are found far from land, and being underwater prevents scientists from observing any changes by conventional means. So how do we monitor them?
Can you imagine what it would cost to install seismic detectors all around the Pacific Rim or along the Atlantic Ridge?
Scientists have managed to install equipment that detects tell-tale tremors on the sea bed before. This research has helped reveal the seismic precursors of a submarine eruption – the signs that one is imminent – similar to what scientists had already documented in volcanoes on land. Installing this equipment does not come cheap though, and it’s not possible to do it everywhere.
An impending eruption can be detected in subtle temperature increases on the volcanic surface. For submarine volcanoes, these are harder to spot. The heat signatures of submarine volcanoes will only ever be visible at the sea surface if a volcano is in shallow water and already erupting hot lava. At that point, it’s too late to warn anybody.
Drive your nuclear submarine carefully.
A note from Mark for Australian fans:
Today’s edition of The Mark Steyn Show can now be viewed on ADH TV Down Under. The show will be posted every day, Tuesday to Friday, at 5pm Australian Eastern
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May 2, 2023 at 01:34PM