Why we didn’t die – The Short Story of Toba Tuff

Click the link to get a very high resolution image of the calderas.

Click the link to get a very high resolution image of the calderas.

We humans are great at imagining really bad things. It is part of our particular survival strategy. Thinking of all possible disaster scenarios and then planning for them. The thinking of doomsday scenarios is what we are particularly good at. The planning not so much. So, if you take two disaster scenarios, why not combine them and come up with a truly nibiruistic scenario? [Editors note; Nibiruistic = The art of seeing the end of the world in everything, especially through a great conspiracy]


Ingredient one: a nuclear winter (those of us who lived through the 80s might remember how tangible this particular disaster scenario was back then) Ingredient two: Pinatubo and the associated global cooling.

Mix dry ingredients well and add water. Hey presto, what have you got? A volcanic winter! The basic line of reasoning is this: If a comparatively small VEI 6 eruption can do that to the climate, what’s a “supervolcano” going to do?

Well, by far the most compelling argument for the impact of a massive eruption on the human population is the Toba catastrophe theory first suggested by Ann Gibbons in 1993 and subject to vigorous debate ever since.

The Young Toba Tough  (YTT)

Put simply, the evidence for the Toba catastrophe theory is that the DNA diversity in the population of homo sapiens is much lower than that of other great apes with some scholars suggesting at the time, that the entire population of homo sapiens was reduced to roughly 3000 individuals at about the time of the Toba event.

Now, such a radical reduction in the size of the population (yes, the human population was much larger prior to the date of the YTT) may have been caused by any number of things, such as disease, the sudden appearance of a new predator, Playstation IV, or some other factor. But given the lack of any hard evidence of some other factor, there does appear to be some correlation between the YTT and the human bottleneck. So for the sake of argument, let’s just say it was the YTT that just about did us all in back then.

If you are interested in the paleontological aspects of the Toba debate, there is a whole lot of material out there. This site might be a good place to start.


Now, regardless of the final conclusions of the Toba debate, there is something that even lay people like me can take from it. Simply look at any map of the distribution of the early human population and correlate it to the fall­out of Toba:

Source: Evaluating the mitochondrial timescale of human evolution. Phillip Endicott, Simon Y.W. Ho, Mait Metspalu and Chris Stringer.

Source: Evaluating the mitochondrial timescale of human evolution. Phillip Endicott, Simon Y.W. Ho, Mait Metspalu and Chris Stringer.

Source, Clive Oppenheimer.

Source, Clive Oppenheimer.

Note how the ash fall from the YTT extends westwards from the vent. Ash thicknesses have been reported of 9m in Malaysia, 1 to 3 meters on the Indian subcontinent (yes, that’s right, a whopping three meters of ash that far from the vent), thinning out as the cloud extends to the Arabian peninsula and the fertile crescent and the eastern coast of  Africa. That is an awful lot of ash.

I don’t think it takes much imagination to realize that life within this area of heavy ash fall became pretty well impossible until growth recovered. Much more interesting, however, is how neatly this ash fall represents a more or less direct hit on the habitat of homo sapiens at the time. Those populations outside of the exclusion zone (had there been one) did fine. For example, upwind of the vent, there were survivors of Toba, just a couple of hundred kilometers from the vent. (homo erectus on Java and homo floresiensis on Flores).

Going anywhere Mr. Homo Sapiens?

Going anywhere Mr. Homo Sapiens?

Likewise, the habitat of gorillas and chimpanzees in the jungles of Africa west of the Rift Valley survived the event well enough for there to be no comparable bottleneck in their DNA. From this I think we can infer that IF Toba is responsible for the human bottleneck (and, despite the big if,  it looks like it was), then the primary cause was ash fall rendering their habit temporarily inhabitable and NOT (this is the main point I finally wanted to get at) a global volcanic winter as this would have affected other species in a comparable fashion.

We can see the same pattern in many other places around the globe. Let’s take New Britain. There are a number of large calderas located along the northern coast of this island that have all erupted in the last 50,000 years.  While nothing on the scale of the YTT, some of these eruptions have been pretty big monsters. Take, for example, the Witori caldera,  Long Island,  Dakataua, Rabaul, Tavui, etc.

Why is this significant? Well, this region of the world just happens to include some of the longest lived civilizations on the planet. One would think that if large eruptions were to have the devastating impact that we think they might have, then those regions with a high concentration of large caldera eruptions would be places of low population density. New Britain proves the opposite to be true.

New Guinea is home to 1000 of the world’s 6000 languages and has maintained this huge diversity of relative stable human civilizations for the last 50,000 years and it is downwind of and more important, relatively close to this belt of extremely powerful caldera volcanoes that have erupted within that same time frame.

In a paper on Wiktori and Dakataua calderas, Machida, Blong et al. show that the areas buried by the tephra from these volcanoes contain human artefacts, indicating that the area was repeatedly occupied after each major eruption. The same is true, by the way for Southern India after Toba. So much for local bottlenecks.

And if we move our anthropocentric view away from our own species for a change, New Zealand’s Taupo Volcanic Zone provides a similar example. Despite recording 34 ignimbrite eruptions over the last 300 000 years, the flora and fauna of New Zealand is doing very well, thank you ­ even without wings ­ well it was until humans arrived but that is another story. Japan has a similar history and we all know how big the eruptions are there.

For these reasons, I am fairly confident that it is ashfall (and pyroclastic falls), which render regions temporarily uninhabitable, and not a volcanic winter that accounts for the most devastating impact on human life. In other words, if you keep far enough away from a volcanic cloud, you have a pretty good chance of survival, even when that cloud comes from a “super” volcano.

But… but… but… what about the volcanic winter? We’re all going to starve!!! Look at Tambora!!!  100,000 dead in Russia!

For sure, the famous year without a summer is attributed to the large eruption of Tambora in 1815 with many dying of famine as a result. To quote from Wikipedia:

“In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent “dry fog” was observed in the northeastern US. The fog reddened and dimmed the sunlight, such that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rainfall dispersed the “fog”. It has been characterized as a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil.”

But here I sometimes wonder if we have fallen in for the old “correlation is not causation” trap. Look at the temperature anomalies for 1816 from Wikipedia:

Source: Wikipedia creative commons license

Source: Wikipedia creative commons license

Note how the anomaly hit Western Europe but not Russia? People in America and western Europe thought it was cold and they went hunting for something to blame. If they lived somewhere else on the globe, like the sunny beaches of Irkutsk, they might have come to a totally different conclusion than that the cold snap was due to Tambora. And who knows if the cold was not due to any number of other factors? There was, after all, a historic low in solar activity at the time. Moreover, there had been a number of large (VEI4 or larger) eruptions in the couple of years prior to Tambora that may have loaded the atmosphere.

Despite the correlation between a winter famine and Tambora there is not actually a hell of a lot of evidence for any correlation between major eruptions and volcanic winters. Try this from a paper released a couple of months ago:

“The bipolar linking gives no support for a long­term global cooling caused by the Toba eruption as Antarctica experiences a major warming shortly after the event.” (Svensson et al. Direct linking of Greenland and Antarctic ice cores at the Toba eruption (74 ka BP))

I don’t think I need to remind people just how big Toba was. Another example is Taupo. Did it leave an ice record? Forget it.

Yeah, but what about SO2 and other nasty gases?

We, and by we I primarily mean GeoLurking [Frequent commenter and article-writer at Volcanocafé, editors comment], tried to identify any correlation firstly between SO2 in the ice cores and known large eruptions, and secondly, between large known eruptions and falls in global temperature indicative of a volcanic winter.

Well, based on what GeoLurking uncovered, I am not convinced that volcanic eruptions have such a massive impact on our climate that we are likely to die from mass starvation. Firstly, not all large eruptions leave a trace in the ice record and that is due to a number of factors: the season, the weather patterns, the amount of SO2 released by the eruption, how high the plume, the latitude of the eruption, and the evolution of the SO2 in the atmosphere (see GeoLurking’s ruminations on this topic in the archive).

And this is just to explain the correlation between the ice cores and the eruption. It totally ignores what cooling effect these aerosols might have had on the climate. To correlate this to past global temperature changes is fraught with uncertainty. I tried and quickly gave up, not least because it is pretty well impossible to find reliable information on what the global temperature actually was in any particular 5 year time frame let alone sift out the volcanic signal from the all the noise of other factors. If someone else with more tenacity than me (not difficult, I readily admit) wants to try, I’d love to see the results, but until someone convinces me otherwise I do not believe that volcanic winters on their own have such a massive impact as our doomsdayers might wish.

And Laki?

As for Laki, there is no doubt that the high fluorine content of the tephra poisoned crops and affected agriculture in Europe. But, again, the impact here is limited to a wider region. Not the whole globe. Possibly, it is not the size of an eruption that is critical, but how poisonous it is. While huge, large caldera forming eruptions of remelted crustal material might in fact have less impact on our civilization than nasty little ones.

Final words from a flightless bird

The little Kiwi bird.

The little Kiwi bird.

Now, of course I don’t want to downplay the impact that a couple of hundred, or even thousand cubic kilometers of ash dumped on a major population would have on our global  civilization. This would be a calamity the like of which we have never seen. There would be all sorts of economic implications and the stress could indeed lead to the breakdown of civilization as we know it.

It is not something I would want to witness. That said, I think we should shift our focus away from Yellowstone­type doomsday scenarios to planning for disaster relief because the impact of a massive volcanic eruption, while devastating, is going to be regional first and foremost. Possibly there will be some kind of global impact like a volcanic winter, but I don’t think we need to worry ourselves that we are all going to die. I just can’t see enough evidence for that in the historic record. I mean, we have already lived through a number of VEI 7 and 8 eruptions and we’re still here. And anyway, a regional disaster is going to be bad enough to deal with.



Eruptions that Shook the World Clive Oppenheimer The Toba Super­eruption: http://toba.arch.ox.ac.uk/project.htm this site also has an entire page of scientific references)

Sounding the Depths a blog by Victor Grauer http://soundingthedepths.blogspot.de/2011/03/chapter­ten­bottleneck.html

Evaluating the mitochondrial timescale of human evolution Phillip Endicott, Simon Y.W. Ho,

Direct linking of Greenland and Antarctic ice cores at the Toba eruption (74 ka BP)) http://www.clim­past.net/9/749/2013/cp­9­749­2013.pdf Mait Metspalu and Chris Stringer (paywalled)

336 thoughts on “Why we didn’t die – The Short Story of Toba Tuff

  1. Hey Carl,and everyone. Do you a volcanic winter doom? Try a nuclear war.

    The reductions in global temperature, depending on how many cities would be burnt, are staggering. And superior to whatever Yellowstone we throw in the equation.

    People should be much more worried about nuclear arms and nuclear conflicts than super-volcanoes. If all those doomsayers would instead focus their energies in working towards a nuclear-free world, it would be a much well spent time.

    • For instance, a minor nuclear war (two countries use only 50 Hiroshima-like nukes on each other): this results in cooling more dramatic than the coldest of the little ice age, an average cooling of 2ºC, but still less than the ice age.. A cooling of 4ºC would occur in parts of Eurasia, making agriculture failures in most of the temperature world. It would be a disaster for our nations, with millions dying of indirect effects and a severe crises following. And this is just a minor nuclear war between two countries.

      Now enter a true global nuclear war. The average cooling (of -8ºC) is almost double than that of the ice age! In parts of Eurasia the cooling is of 30ºC. This means, large parts of the globe would have total freezing even during summer, for years in a row. We would probably have mass extinction of species, including our own, probably no more animal and plant life in most of the world, except a few surviving ones. A true disaster for the planet.

      • I’m not buying the mass extinction bit. It has become pretty evident that you need a couple or three unfortunate events that in combination, wipe out a species ability to overcome the hardships.

        • Not related to nuclear winter, but I agree with this statement, But keep in mind, many of these factors are inter-related.

          For example, oceanic Anoxia can be caused by flood basalt eruptions. Those two events are technically separate, but the anoxia in an ocean is only enabled by the ongoing trap event. similarly, climatic domino effects occur for a lot of other disaster scenarios like impact events.

          Generally speaking, nature works in thresholds. Most natural environments self sustain themselves, and even self-correct when something is trying to throw the environment out of whack. This occurs until it passes a certain threshold, where you then see dramatic shifts as the system can no longer self-correct.

          • *like* – this is exactly how I see it too. Disasters kind of happen as a chain of unhappy circumstances that gets triggered by a tipping point. That tipping point may by a massive event like an asteroid impact but it might also be something tiny in a system whose tolerances are already strained to the max.

            • Then you are going to love early to mid January. Thats about the time we pass through the middle of ISONs debris field.

              Most think that there are just micro particles of dust there that may not even show up as a meteor shower…. but there is always a chance that something larger could have fallen off and be drifting along that path… or not.

              We won’t realy know until we get there.

        • So in other words, typically the 2 or 3 factors that come together to force an extinction I don’t believe come about as a coincidence, but rather as a consequence of 1 large event that severely disrupts the earth’s climate, which leads to a domino effect and a re-alignment of the environmental & biological systems.

          • I think it could go either way. Causative or coincidental. The idea chains well with normal disasters also. A chain of unfortunate events (or decisions) that lead to a giant “Oh Shit!” just before impact.

            A bit of contamination in a turbine blade metal that was not detected… an engineer that didn’t allow for a debris shield around a hydraulic line due to weight savings, a missed item on a routine inspection, a burned out indicator lamp… many chained items can lead to catastrophes.

          • I still do not think that would bump off humanity… We are to much like a virus spreading. I think it would take the total annihilation of the planet for us to be gone.

            • Yeah, I agree with this for the most part. Also, with the level of current technology, it would take something massive to send humanity back to the complete dark ages. The only thing that I think could end us entirely would be a high level extinction event similar to the one at the P/T boundary.

              I honestly wonder if the Chixiclub impact that killed off the dinosaurs would be able to wipe out humanity. I feel like if crocodiles were able to survive, there would be at least a few remnant bands of humans that would be able to weather the storm and survive the event. If nothing else, it would put those fallout shelters built in the 60’s to good use (even if it would mean living in a post apocalyptic wasteland for thousands of years afterward).

            • I do not think the P/T boundary could wipe us out. We are worse than cockroaches really. People normally say that cockroaches will be the last life on the planet, I say no. Cockroaches are a too great source of protein for us to not eat the last cockroach if needs be.

            • Eh, this is hard to say, and it really depends on the actual nature of the event itself. With that said, I don’t doubt that a few isolated groups could live in shelters for years regardless of the situation, so who knows.

    • I am not buying into nuclear winter. It would not be larger than what Tambora did really.
      No, the thing with nukes that kill you are the radioactive isotopes spread wide and far giving you all sorts of cancers.
      Would an all out nuclear war kill humanity? Yes, for most points and purposes it would. It would take centuries for the few and far apart that survive to even get to the middle ages.
      So, yes a nuclear war is most likely the only thing that could wipe us out (almost).

      • Agreed Carl and Lurk. More of a “Canticle for Liebewitcz “type scenario….
        Now I think a big rock(s) from space would more damaging to humanity.
        but unless the plane was busted up, I think Humans ability to survive would
        still show up.
        OT now 6days Post Op. doing very well start full regimen of therapy next week. Not needing much in the way of opiates in the painkiller area. i hate that stuff and only will use it in a ah,”bind” leg is working well. Look to be in the air this spring, Better than before. Leg may have been hurt initially
        in 2008 there was an undiagnosed fracture of the upper femur then.
        slight limp I had from that is gone. Feel like one of “Cohen the barbarian”
        raiders now. : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rincewind#Cohen_the_Barbarian
        I’m a bit younger than he. (Terry Prachett is one of my favorite authors..)

        • Good to hear that the operation was a success. Just remember that the end result will only be as good as the amount of physiotherapy you do. It is not fun… but it is so worth it in the end 🙂

          • Yep I agree, I’m ready. My maternal auntie had three hips put in (wore two out) and she was walking 5 miles a day in a week after she ended therapy. I favor that side of the family in such things (Scot/Viking blood). Pop always called that the “Anderson bulldog ” trait….

      • I’m not even sure radioactivity would wipe us out. Heck, wildlife thrives in the refuge created by Chernobyl’s radioactivity. (Some of it gets radiation-caused illness, but avoiding other human activity more than makes up for that.) Even if radiation would kill people at a young age, humans only need to make it into their teens to successfully procreate. And humans look out for each other, so parents dying when a child is young is not the end for a kid.

  2. Jamison: yes, well caught. This morning there was definitively a large quake in Katla that did not make into the list of IM. I estimated a M2 to M3, it shows in most SILS around the area, but probably not so deep since it affects mostly near SILS.

    Seems to have been either at the east or north side of the caldera (could be Godabunga too).

    Doesn’t show so much near Hekla, so probably its not Hekla.

  3. This is north side of Katla: http://hraun.vedur.is/ja/oroi/sly.gif

    Also, a few quakes in Bardarbunga, but did not make into list.
    Looking at the graphs, there seems to have been no significant quakes or swarms as of recent days, in Hengill, Reykjanes, Askja, Krafla, Tjornes area. Just on those two spots. And perhaps Esjufjoll http://hraun.vedur.is/ja/oroi/ksk.gif

    Also, near Reykjanes, an area seems to be exhibiting changes in the tremor graphs. A couple of SILs shows that, http://hraun.vedur.is/ja/oroi/nyl.gif

  4. I now only read now on Carl comment in this morning possible magmatic quakes in Öraefajökull.

    My guess goes either Öraefajökull or Esjufjoll, since a few quakes happened there recently. But then, so Öraefajökull has been also a bit restless.

    Öraefajökull is the mother of all Icelandic volcanoes. the largest and tallest volcano and source of VEI eruptions. Not something to ignore!

        • ah, link seems broken (budget cuts already? Cutting safety there too. It seems safety at football matches matters more.)

            • Well, in the USian football there are not that much spectator fighting. In the rest of the planet football means full on riots, mayhem and murder. Wars have litteraly been faught due to that damned so called sport. It should really be banned.

            • I loved attending sports in the US… people where polite and friendly there. Here I would bring full on riot gear and a heavy machine gun to a football game. If I had kids and they wanted to go to a sports event I would put them on a plane and go to the US since there is no way in hell I would endanger kids by going to a football game in Europe.
              For those of the European conviction, in the US they actually serve beer during the game. People talk to you and if you talk back you will most likely be invited for a post game barbeque. This is THE spot where our American friends have One Upped us on a Giant Scale… I hope we one day will learn how to be like that too.

            • Enjoy it while you can. There is a full on assault to tame the violence and injury in US football. Eventually, they will make it so de-nutted that no one will go due to the boredom.

              Whoever the wannabe tyrant in chief is then better watch his ass… intently. Like Ancient Rome and the follow on Byzantium, Colosseum games serve to keep the population distracted and placated from the crap that the government was up to. Do away with that and the only thing to talk about will be just how F’d in the head the political ruling classes are.

              If they really wanted to cut back on the head trauma, they should take away the massive padding and helmets. Use equipment more akin to Australian Rules Football. They can keep their play-style, but it would make the cost of driving your head into someones abdomen a bit more risky, and less likely to occur. What we have now is defensive protective equipment being used as offensive weaponry.

              If they want to use what amounts to armor, make it out of 1/4 inch plate steel to slow them down, and ya might as well throw in Claymores and Halberds to round out the picture. Wanna be a modern day Gladiator? Got to wear and use the right gear.

              For the feint of heart, remember, I’m one of those who think that the batter should be able to keep the bat when he runs the bases. A sure way to cut down on basemen blocking the bag is if the guy coming at them is still wielding the bat. To compensate, let the basement wear what armor they need to fend off the batter… hell, give them a bat also so they can fight back.

              Bring on MMA style Full Contact Golf!!

      • From the video:

        “Cars are ao yesterday. Bikes are the future.”

        Yeah? Throw 500 lbs of parts and tools on yer bike and pedal 340 km down to the jobsite crossing multiple thunderstorms….

        • My eternal mantra, use what you need and not more. If one needs to haul parts long distance, use truck. If you are going to buy the newspaper, walk. Anything in between, use something in between.
          I know a lot of people who use a truck to drive to the next block to buy a newspaper, that equates to two litres of fuel being spent to save 5 minutes of moving the butt and walking.
          There is not one solution to the problem, there are several. I tend to walk, bike, ride bus, trains, airplanes and cars. I just take a few seconds to ponder what would be the best solution at any given time. I love to walk more than most, I guess in the future more will be like me. 🙂

    • Wonder if that is the same place that makes men not use the map whilst being lost?
      On a more serious note, I am pretty certain that it is due to women never getting to learn how to use a map in the first place.

      • Ahem! My brain must go round in circles (which explains a lot) because I happen to be a very good map reader. I also excel at giving directions. Now my daughters couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag! I have a friend (of the female persuasion) who can not follow east/west or left/right directions. It has to be driver side or passenger side. Now that’s funny.

        • I would guess that you learned how to read a map when fairly young?
          I have noticed that it makes a heck of a big difference.

          • Map reading is definitey a leaned art. Some of my best flight students
            that were superb navigators were women.But to a person, the knew how to
            at least use a road map.One of my worst was as German Mathematician
            who read more into the map that it actually was telling him. Without map,
            HOPELESS! Redeeming features: One, he could fly the plane. Two, he was impossible to panic. Including the time we ended upside down and entering a spin, ‘Humph.Interesting” (as in the Spockian-Enterprise Warping out into he middle of the Kingon battle fleet. -“Interesting”). I had as a co worker a Woman who was also a. PhD.I gave him to her for the Navigation
            training . She broke though when she realized that it was Geometry. Then he could figgure it out in his head true course wind correction angle, etc. He got his license (private) and bought My friend and I dinner an the fanciest place in town….

            • It gets worse with a MoBoard. But I’ve seen some who could whip out the most intricate maneuvers in seconds, dodging their way through the formation with ease and landing right in the middle of the assigned box.

          • Geography was a favorite subject in school, so I suppose studying geographic maps and understanding north, south, east and west on a map made reading a road map simple for me.

        • I can map-read, give and follow directions (N/S and E/W) but have issues with left and right. So OK driving but can get lost walking 😕

          • I am ambidextrous, I blame that for me getting right and left confused. Odd thing though, I never get port and starboard confused… And I read maps like a star. But, give me left and right instructions and you would be in the ditch quickly. But, port and starboard works fine. Perhaps some weird viking dna working there too…

          • Yeah… the same with me, and several female friends, and my mother. Why do we have that left-right thing? On the other hand, I know at least two men, who cannot read maps… And I have the left/right issue as well as the E/W problem :/

  5. Hi

    Here is the El Hierro summary for November.

    The action moves a bit around with the majority of the quakes near the Tanganasoga location. There are also some quakes west at sea and recently in the El Golfo area.

    One notable quake at a low depth (3 km from memory), but the error margin is quite high for this one.

    Al in all there were much less quakes in November (nearly half the quantity) with 147 events instead of 329

    I have supressed the black cloud (which were the “older” quakes) except for the end of a sequence to allow for a better view.

    Data from NOAA, IGN, made on Gnu Octave

    • Evenin’ DFM, and All,
      Nice plot, thanks.
      So the action remains mainly under/ around Tanganasoga at 10-15km depth…
      There have been a few fair sized/ felt quakes in the last 2 months…
      It’s a shame the seismic record for La Palma around the time of Teneguia is so schketchy… It would give us a little something for comparison; Teneguia was a flanking vent of Cumbre Vieja in a somewhat similar way to BoB- Tanganasoga…

  6. The image with the footprints up above are from the Laetoli beds in Olduvai Gorge, they are probably 3.6 – 2.4 million years old based on lava stratigraphic analysis.

  7. So the Icelandic news today is from Oraefajokull and Godabunga? Interesting. While still unlikely, any activity from these two would really be quite spectacular, and in the grand scheme of things, would be very disruptive eruptions.

    Question – is Godabunga entirely 100% separate from Katla? I can see a scenario in which the katla caldera was formed from multiple godabunga style cryptodomes erupting over a long period of time, and gradually expanding the caldera into what it is today. Not really “nested” per say since that would imply a singular large caldera to start out with, but more like a scenario where eruptions around the rim gradually take chunks out of it until it gets larger and larger.

    If I believe correctly, Katla’s caldera has multiple magma pockets below it, and is more of a “volcanic area” than a single centralized volcano with one large central magma chamber (going off memory here). If we were to assume that magma accumulation beneath the Katla area doesn’t necessarily follow one single route to the surface, it would make sense that the majority of the eruptions occur in the caldera, but eventually, some outlying intrusions would occur around the rim, gradually expanding it. As the caldera expands, a higher percentage of the eruptions would take place within the caldera boundaries itself, but they would occur with a lower overall power level since there is less resistance to magma accumulation due to the weaker lid in a caldera floor. This would provide a realistic explanation for the Size of Katla’s caldera despite it not having any massive singular eruptions that could form a 10+km caldera.

    Would it be possible that the Vedde ash deposit was a result of an eruption of a Godabunga style cryptodome in another area of Katla?

    • Well, not likely the same volcano. Godabunga and Katla does not share the same volcanic plumbing. Katlas feeder tube goes in a completely different direction than Godabungas. Katla belong to the same volcanic belt as Grimsvötn and Bardarbunga, but Godabunga has a feeder that runs towards the Eyjafjallajökull and Vestmannaeyjar volcanic belt.
      There is even the off hand chance that the Fimmvörduhals eruption was caused by a lateral injection from Godabunga.
      Oh, and Godabunga is young and still building, the main bulk of the magma arrived in the nineties so we have a really good track record of that one. I believe we will see Godabunga erupt in our lifetime, but it will not at all be a large eruption, it just do not have the magma system for it. Expect something like Fimmvörduhals. So any idea of Mt St Helens eruptions is just not gonna happen, not even close to enough Ompf for that to happen.

      • Thanks for this information, so many moving parts to icelands geology, with many different possible outcomes over time

      • Interesting to hear. I don’t know a ton about Godabunga obviously. I suppose I just assumed it would take a ton of energy to “break through” but that’s probably not the case.

    • So many what? I guess you meant things that can hit us? Well, thing is that those would make a fuzzy ball of trajectories so thick that you wouldn’t be able to spot the sun, even less our planet. There are literaly hundreds of millions of rocks and ice lumps out there. 90 percent will be caught be the sun or the gas giants, 9 percent will get flung out of orbit so that they get into the sun or gas giants… But 1 percent will inevitably hit us. Question is just what and when.
      One thing is though clear, it will not be the end of our civilisation.

      • Your right the end of our civilization will be caused by thieving bankers and their butt boy’s (politicians)
        End rant

        • I also doubt that.

          At some point, most creatures will get fed up with being antagonized and snap/strike back at the antagonist. History shows that the reaction usually isn’t very pretty.

          If Karma doesn’t get the antagonist, the populace will.

          An example of a Grand karma event: Herod the Great. His death was likely Fournier’s gangrene.

          Essentially, he rotted to death.

          • Hey Lurk, lSON didn’t make it. Broke up. Wonder if as you implied, that we may have a new source of meteor showers.
            Also,for Bruce- l have told the story of a dig
            I was on in nearby Ladd canyon. About 10,000 years of use of high quality basalt
            slate by the local tribes. When Mazama blew,
            It covered this area with about one meter of ash. They never stopped using the site until
            euros arrived in quantity.
            I’m in the NE corner of Oregon. Cold -12c possibly down to -23 later in week. All doped
            up with pain meds, can’t wait to get done with that..night all..

            • Ouch, cold weather and bone pain is a bad combination in my experience.
              So now we’ve got Mazama as another really big eruption that didn’t result in the death and destruction of eveything around it.
              (I have to reiterate here for the sake of clarity that it is nevertheless a really bad idea to be UNDER an eruption cloud and when at all possible you should err on the side of caution and get the hell out of there before it blows – as Mike said earlier, upwind and uphill is the way to go).

            • Material that came off on the inbound leg will likely be a residual annual shower. Stuff that came off after it crossed our orbit will show up in a few hundred thousand years. One of the last reports that I saw from NASA put the main body at about a 400,000 year orbit. Even if it broke up, the debris will assume a Gaussian distribution sort of blob around where it was at.

      • This is material that was deposited on the cone during the last paroxysm and is still hot – consider that the cone is subjected to very heavy fallout of large quantities of huge blobs of molten lava during a lava fountain, a lot of this material develops “rheomorphic flowage”, sometimes forming quite conspicuous lava flows, whereas in other cases this material just oozes down the cone’s flank a short distance. We have even seen sometimes that such accumulations of hot material kind of pop open at their lower end and lava oozes out from the interior, something like the offshoots at the margins of crusted-over lava flows. Etna is showing us a lot of really amazing stuff … but no, it’s not a fissure. In the meantime, the new Southeast Crater cone is very close to reaching the height of the old Southeast Crater cone, which after the last paroxysm is barely recognizable as a distinct feature.

  8. This morning there was another unlisted significant quake in the Katla region (or Hekla region). Also one significant quake near or at Askja or north of Bardarbunga, and a small one in Oraefajokull.

    • Worried me for a moment there. I thought you were talking about the Federal Reserve. Helicopter Ben is a piece of shit.

      His thesis on the “Great Depression” was that you needed someone throwing money out from a helicopter. Now we get to see him experimenting with his pet theory. History may not fully repeat, but it sure as hell rhymes. Back then, every country had a depression, but the US had a “Great” depression. It’s long duration was caused in part, from the Government meddling with it.

      To err is human. To really “F” things up takes a government, or a “well meaning” politician.

      • I should probably not point out that it was a Swede who caused the depression (Great or not)…
        Swedes, making the world miserable since 763 :mrgreen:

        He invented the idea of buying companies on money he borrowed from private people on iffy bond-loans… Ring a bell somehow? Yeah duh, here we had the inventor of re-packaged stinky loans.

        • I did not know that. Got a name? Swedes seem to be quite adept at coming up with ways of blowing stuff up. (Alfred Nobel)

          I had thought that David X. Li had a major causative role with his Gaussian Cupola for the more recent calamity.

          The big issue with the Cupola was that it did not accurately represent risk. But… because it made a cute little index and had a bunch of spooky math behind it, it was overly relied upon.

          • Ivar Krueger, The Match King.
            He is counted as the wealthiest man ever alive, net worth in todays currancy would have been around 4 Carlos Slims. He excelled in inventing financing schemes, and after his death (probably murdered) numerous laws where passed internationally to put an end to unsound financing. Those laws where abollished during the Reagan deregulation years. We truly never learn.
            After his death a small banker familly picked together the pieces of his empire and is today the largest of the corporate familly empires globally, The Wallenberg Familly.


            • I do have to take exception with that. Reagan left the key limitations in place that would keep stuff from blowing up. A later entity decided to try and one-up Reagan by removing those. The fun part is that some of the more dirty fingered passed a fast track emergency measure to fix it, and they are already trying to de-fang the Dodd–Frank bill. so that the shady stuff can resume.

              … and now they are looking at Bit-Coin legislation. Good lord won’t a continental shelf mass wasting event occur just off the coast of Washington while they are all in session? The resulting tsunami could clean up a lot of the shit.

            • Heh… in other news, Florida Wildlife officials are using dough-nuts to try and trap a local bear that has been menacing a community. So far all they have managed was to trap a cub.

  9. And back in the realm of the nukey nukes. What happens if whoever it is, builds the casing with copious amounts of cobalt? Once it becomes highly irradiated by the blast, you get cobalt 60 in the fallout. Not good stuff. It’s the basis of the doomsday device in the Planet of the Apes series.

    And.. from todays news. Somebody stole a truck down in Mexico City. The cargo? Cobalt 60. (used for medical radiation activities)

  10. It is when you wake up late in the evening with a roaring headache and a deadline for a new article that you really start to love all the wonderfull people who write articles for VC.
    One will be up as soon as I get my vision back on both eyes (ibuprofen and coffee to take hold)…

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