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Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-08-10 07:34
  Subject:   [MeFi] Six places to nuke if you're serious.
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Nuke the Yellowstone Caldera

Hundreds of cubic kilometers of magma at high pressure. A five kilometer cap that limits eruptions to only every million years or so. A well-placed explosion that destroys that cap in the space of a few seconds. A lava plume ten times taller than Mt. Everest, followed by perpetual and global night that lasts for years. This one requires a nuke slightly larger than 1-megatons - 20-megatons ought to be sufficient.


http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/?p=120
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  User: nickhalfasleep
  Date: 2006-08-10 15:38 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
That's the stupidest thing I've ever read. You'd need to dig a several kilometer deep hole to place it, and I'm sure the park service would notice you bringing in heavy drill equipment. I think just after "No firearms" and "Keep dogs on leash" in the National Park visitors guide is "Do not disturb the sleeping caldera". Note that for real earthmoving Thermonuclea r 100+kt weapons were invisioned for Project Plowshare.

Physics bitches!


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osmium_ocelot
  User: osmium_ocelot
  Date: 2006-08-11 01:07 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
I was just about to say something along those lines. But ya beat me to it.

Dumbest fictional use of a nuke EVAR.... except maybe for the guy who wants to try and stop hurricanes with them.
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-08-11 01:16 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
I pretty much assume you could blow the caldera's cap open with a properly placed nuke (i.e., two km down)... but my question is how long would the magma really flow before it hardened and plugged its own hole back up. I'm having a hard time believing statements like "a plume of lava as high as Mt. Everest."
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osmium_ocelot
  User: osmium_ocelot
  Date: 2006-08-11 02:05 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Well, once the cap is open, it'll flow. The power behind volcanic eruptions is the exact same thing that makes soda fizz when you crack the cap on a 2 liter of soda : dissolved gas escaping under considerably less pressure than was previously present. So, if you crack the cap, the lava will "fizz"; how violently it fizzes depends on how viscous the lava is. The thicker the stuff is the more gas it holds and the more explosively it's released. Hawaii lava is thin, which is why Hawaiian eruptions tend to be calmer than most. Thicker lava, bigger eruption.

I don't think you could crack the caldera open with a single nuke; not even a 20 megaton kabanger placed 2km down. The caldera floor (ceiling of the lava chamber) is 5 miles thick and dozens of square miles in area.

But the really BIG problem that's being overlooked is this : there might not even be enough pressure in the magma chamber to start an eruption right now.

As for the plume of lava as high as Mt Everest. No. An ash column as much as 25 miles or more high? Yes.

There's a really good article on the Yellowstone volcano here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/1999/supervolcanoes.shtml
complete with transcript of the show.

There was a followup with more information and scientific background (I hated the whole "superdisaster" drama aspect of it) that aired recently. I find Volcanoes fascinating and supervolcanoes especially interesting.

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Alex Belits
  User: abelits
  Date: 2006-08-11 08:07 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
In any case I would worry much more about NYC -- it has a lot of of single points of failure for things that many people don't like.
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