The Sperm and The Volcano

A bid wad of humans during Pink Floyds concert in Venice.

I will this time temporarily deviate from the usual style and subject of Volcanocafé. The reason I am doing that is due to the grave importance about which I am writing. But rest assured that there will be a sideshow of volcanism, and even some geology.

For those who do not wish to have their sunny happy day imposed upon, I suggest not reading further.

Upon chemicals

We live in a world filled with artificial and natural chemicals. On any given year the amount of new man-made chemicals is roughly 10 000. Very few of these are tested if they have an impact on humans. The exceptions are medications and food additives. The rest are untested.

Most of these chemical compounds are helpful and benign to humans, at least used as intended and in moderation. But, some are outright dangerous to human life.

We now live in a geological epoch called Anthropocene, it is an age defined by the layer of human produced ash and chemicals that is now covering the surface of planet Earth. In this layer an increasing amount of harmful chemicals reside.

Chemical plant, not related to the subject of this article. Photograph by William Grimes.

To date humanity has banned 1 chemical on a global scale, and that is Freon. PCBs and phthalates are banned in many countries, but not all. And there are others that are banned at a per country basis.

So, to sum it up: on any given year we are introducing hundreds of chemical compounds with unknown properties on human life expectancy.

I could of course make a never-ending list of chemicals that are known to be harmful, but the effects are more interesting. Below I will concentrate on a single effect just to make a point.

Every sperm is sacred

In the early seventies humanity reached peak sperm. Never before had we had so many healthy swimming sperms as we did then. The reason for this is simple, nutrition and healthcare. At that time the average man produced a whopping 380 million nicely swimming sperms per ejaculation.

For some time, we have known that both the number and quality of them has declined. There has though not been a reliable aggregate study around to tell us exactly how much of it has disappeared.

Now we have that data thanks to a study that aggregated 185 research studies into one massive dataset. And the news is literally life changing.

Human egg with sperm.

In the last 40 years 52.4 percent of all human sperm has disappeared. The numbers vary a bit on a global scale, but even the super-sperm of Finland has started to go extinct. It was previously believed that Finnish sperm was impervious to the phenomenon, but now even those numbers have started to drop. Still it seems like Finland will be the last naturally fertile country on the planet.

These figures are of course an average. It means that more men are infertile, or have fewer healthy swimming sperm, or a lowered sperm production rate. At the same time there are still men out there happily producing north of 380 million happy campers.

The problem is that if the trend is linear, we the humans will be on average infertile in 38 years. Those few who can still produce healthy swimmers will by then have a quite comfortable lifestyle producing swimmers for an ever increasing amount of artificial inseminations. The other option is that it is not linear, and that we will reach Spermageddon quite a bit sooner.

The lack of sperm will not be the end of humanity. For quite some time we will be able to rely on stoic Finns producing for the human survival, or for that matter artificial sperm. The big problem is that the cost of artificial insemination is to large for a big part of humanity. Then we have a majority that can perhaps scrounge up enough money for one child.

In the western world we will probably just continue to produce children as there was no tomorrow, problem is just that we do not produce a lot of them. The western birth-rate has been dwindling for quite some time as we try to juggle life, work, education and so on.

Based on the impending Spermageddon we would quite simply reach peak-humanity in a decade or two, and then we would diminish to about a billion humans. And that would be good news, that is a number that the world can comfortably sustain and nourish if we act responsibly for a change.

The reason

Problem is that we do not have a good grip on why this is happening. All that we know is that it is happening to all mammals and reptiles. If we had lived in a world that was sane this is the time that governments would pour billions into research, but that is not likely in our current times.

There are though suspects to be found. One group is the common hormone contraceptives. Unlike human produced hormones they have a far longer duration, so we can find them in trace amounts in all water on the planet.

Another suspect is hormone-derived pesticides. Also a few plastics are suspected. The big problem here is that we do not know for sure, all we know is that something is affecting all animal life on the planet in a very negative way.

Chemical summery

If it was only the sperm, we would solve the problem and humanity would end up blissfully diminished in amount to perhaps one billion. Problem is that we are talking about just one problem. There are others out there that will further gnaw on that number, and if we are unlucky that number will drop down to zero (together with pretty much all other life on the planet).

And remember that every day that doomsday mountain of new untested chemicals is increasing. What we need is regulation on introduction of new chemicals stating that it must be trialled before being introduced on the market. And we need to trial all previously introduced chemicals. There is just no room for any cheating if we wish to survive as a species.

Where is that volcano?

Salar de Pujsa con Acamarachi La Pacana. The supervolcano with the longest name.

In the end there are just 3 scenarios available to humanity, and these 3 scenarios are viable for all of our problems ranging from raw materials shortage via global warming to us poisoning ourselves.

The first should be that we the humans get our shit together and start to clean up our own garbage pile. This would take global cooperation on a scale hitherto unseen. If we were truly an intelligent species that is exactly what we would do, but now we are the average garden stupid humanity, so we will not.

Next alternative is to wait until we have started to die off in such a big rate that even the dimmest of humans will get the message, and then we clean our shit up. At this point all the solutions would be quite draconian.

The third option is a bit more surprising. And that is that we suffer from either a Chicxulub event or a super volcanic eruption. And the super volcanic option is better.

The first benefit would be that a large portion of humanity would die in a short timespan. This would dramatically reduce the human induced pollution. I know that this sounds incredibly grim, but it is nonetheless a reality.

The second advantage would be that the ash would help to cover up the toxic layer that we humans have produced. And the third is that the massive amount of sulphates would produce acid rains that would help to either destroy, or leach, most of the chemicals.

Conclusion

This all sounds grim, and it is, because we are talking about the potential end of humanity. Even at best we are talking about quite a bit of hardship and misery for us who are living now and the next couple of generations.

There is though a sunny side to it all, and I am a great optimist. If our great grandchildren are just a modicum more intelligent than we are they will live in a true golden age of humanity. They will truly live in a land of plenty as long as they are careful and do not over-populate the world again.

I do though wish that we will instead choose the first option and that we quickly will start to clean up our act. That way we can control the rate of our diminishment and safeguard our future with far less misery and hardship. I really think this is what is going to happen, I am ever the happy camper even as I venture out into the dark and cold night of reality.

I promise to get back to a more directly volcano related article next time. This was just something that I felt that I had to write about due to the severity of the issue.

CARL REHNBERG

https://academic.oup.com/humupd/article-abstract/23/6/646/4035689?redirectedFrom=fulltext

 

 

117 thoughts on “The Sperm and The Volcano

  1. I have often thought Carl that things can’t go on as they are. Personally I have no confidence that Homo Stultis has the capacity to tackle the problem. So I fear that we will be reduced by natural catastrophy (I agree this is a good option as we not be able to play the blame game) or some adverse effect of our own pollution.

    Comment rescued from the clutches of akismet!

  2. Needlessly pessimistic IMHO. Anyway we could do with a world of about 1B people rather than 10B. Its a version of Malthusian prophecy, that is it might happen, but probably won’t. We are, though, approaching a rather bigger problem which is collapse of our food supply due to inability to control weeds, fungi and insects and also to control human infections because nature is in the process of dealing with our efforts to control these problems. No effective fungicides and no effective antibiotics (and even resistant weeds to herbiocides) could result in a world carrying capacity of only 5B.#

    Who gets to choose who dies? This may be a real decision we have to take in the next 20 years.

    • your view doesn’t really differ from mine. We hope that is won’t happen but some version (hopefully less sever in form probably will. I have 4 kids and so far 2 grandchildren so my fears are for them not for me.

  3. Chilling perspective. Did not know that mammals and reptiles in general were affected. Will be very hard to find the chemical(s) behind this trend if all pristine environments are gone. In what experimental system could we test componds if all are contaminated already? Got four kids but waiting for grandchildren….

    • Could actually be easier to find/develop a drug that increases sperm count. Will also feed the pharma industry!

  4. My spidey sense says something like the AD 535-540 events coinciding with a solar minimum would produce a collapse of sufficient magnitude; we are headed into a weak solar minimum centered on 2030, there are several probable VEI7 eruptions on the horizon according to your excellent website, and impacts rather larger than Tunguska are commoner than suspected until recently.

      • Of these, the main risk for a natural event would be a VEI7 (30% in the next 100 years) but in itself that would have limited impact. Impacts large enough for major effects are really rather rare (Tunguska is a once-a-century event at (most), but the chance of it hitting a densely populated area are low). Solar activity has no discernible effect on climate, and the changes in solar cycles affect the maximum, not the minimum. I would agree with Carl that the main risks we run are self-induced.

        • So is the Maunder minimum irrelevant to the Little Ice Age? Most bolides hit in the ocean and potentially cause tsunamis as well as atmospheric veiling; the chances of hitting a population center are low but the chances of causing mass mortality are higher.

        • I don’t thing the Maunder was irrelevant, just an unfortunate coincidence.

          Alone, neither large scale minimums or large volcanic events are overly drastic… but together, they tend to augment the calamity.

          I’ve seen a lot of hoopla about the Sun’s current “funk,” but analysis by those that do such things on a professional basis tend to note that the Sun is doing much less than a Grand Minimum. Even Usoskin et al, who produced one of the better papers on the subject “Grand minima and maxima of solar activity: New observational constraints” don’t show the Sun anywhere near Maunder levels of inactivity.


          As for potential VEI-7s noted here on Volcano Cafe, remember, we are a collection of amateurs looking at bits and pieces of scientific data that becomes publicly available. Though we are generally quite reserved in our predictions, we tend to examine the full scale of possibilities. (NOT probabilities, POSSIBILITIES.) The big difference is that a possibility is “well, it could happen if things go really bad on the GEOLOGIC timescale” Not that there is a chance of it actually happening. As for probabilities, Carl recently illustrated how silly it is to try and assign a finite probability to some event actually happening at a volcano. I’ve been fascinated by trying to look at probabilities and have run the numbers for various volcanoes. What did I learn? → Volcanoes absolutely HATE statistics and will do anything in their power to violate a prediction. (Yeah, it’s Anthropomorphism but sometimes it helps to conceptualize things.)

          Just look at Katla. The common belief was that anytime Eyjafjallajökull erupted, Katla would do the same in short order. This is a ludicrous idea. Katla’s eruptive frequency is such that anytime Eyjafjallajökull has erupted, Katla was already on the way to eruption or had just finished one. It’s like the bus. Just because you step outside and go to the bus stop, you didn’t cause the bus to show up. It was gonna be stopping there anyway whether you were standing there in a suit and tie or speedos with an inflatable duck.

          Though we strive to be accurate in what we state, that does not make us experts. Many of us are experts in some field, but Volcanology is a hobby for most of us. I think the only one of us who has actually nailed a predicted eruption is Carl… but he was looking at the prevailing stress system and indications of magmatic activity. My closest personal prediction was about Sabinosa on El Hierro. That wad of magma wound up erupting out to the west of the island. All indicators that I had were that Sabinosa (sitting on an old scoria cone) was in jeopardy. I never stated publicly that it would erupt under Sabinosa… but luck was on their side and the pocket of magma found a weak point and moved west as a sill before breaching the crust. Tanganasoga was a lower possibility, but some of the initial quakes outlined the perimeter of the vent around the magma dome that it extruded when it last finished it’s activity.

          • I also nailed Kelud. There I also did a world first together with our Indonesian readers and produced the worlds first crowd sourced ash-isopac. 🙂

          • I am aware (as I think I indicated in the comment) that the current solar dip appears to be lower than either the Maunder of Sporrer minima; however, it represents a departure from the last 100+ years when solar output and low volcanic activity reinforced anthropogenic global warming, and the probability of more than one veiling event occurring in narrow time frame near the 2030 minimum is scarcely infinitesimal.

          • You’re obviously correct in your example that correlation does not imply causation (chickens crowing in the morning does not cause the sun to rise). But respectfully, I think if one were to be standing there in speedos with an inflatable duck there would be a high probability that it would cause the bus (or more accurately, the bus driver) not to stop.

        • Taking data from Table 1 of Usoskin et al for the “known” grande minima… the next one should be between 1994 and 2290… (95% conf interval). But, as with all stats looking at random systems… this could be flat out wrong.

  5. Chemicals have been a mixed blessing. Some things they do very well – fruit grown with chemical help tends to be healthier than organically grown. Some things they do badly: bananas are a case in point where so many chemicals are needed that the people working the plantations themselves suffer. And somethings they should not be doing, for example hormones in hair treatment or antibiotics in anti-bacterial wipes. Pesticides are a mixed bag: if it is labeled as affecting birds (imidacloprid), you should be concerned about the impacts on our bodies too (a sparrow weighs 10,000 times as much as an insect, and we are 3,000 sparrows, so scale-wise it is halfway).

    But the effect on sperm count is disputed. There are studies suggesting that depends on what the mother did during pregnancy. Obesity may of course play a role.

    We are facing massive problems. But they are solvable problems.

    • Yes, the reasons are still disputed/unknown.
      There is probably a whole heap of reasons for the loss of sperm.
      All I can say is that we do need a lot of research on the subject.

      And yes, we are facing a lot of problems. The biggest and most obvious problem is that we as a species are damned stupid.
      And that we suffer from fairly stupid politicians that pander to the lowest common denominator among the electorate promising simple solutions to complex problems, instead of taking the time to say that this is a whopper of a problem and we should fund the experts and follow their advice. And the fall from a semblance of meritocraty towards stupidocraty is right now going at lightspeed.

      In the end there is not a single problem that we could not solve if we really wished to, but instead we prefer to sit on our proverbial arses munching on sweets as everything crumbles around us.

      • I agree with you Carl, but the main problem is that the people in power at present worship one God – money! Anything else can go f*** itself. To them, ‘Experts’ are people to be derided and sidelined.

    • Neonics (imidacloprid) are really insecticides, I haven’t heard of a direct problem with birds. Also a great deal of the perceived problem came from the USA where vast tracts would be uninhabitable due malaria were it not for past mass spraying of DDT over entire states for years. That’s where the idea of DDT as a problem came from, megatons to control HUMAN disease. In europe, hearing about this problem, we did the usual trick of falling on a sword that was pretty well completely under control. We are doing the same with plastic bags where europe has almost no impact (we don’t chuck our rubbish in rivers) and even this little could be fixed better in other ways.

      Imagine no insecticides and malaria rife in parts of europe and the south eastern USA.

      • DDT was a horrible answer to a horrible disease.
        It is well known as one of the worst carcinogenics humankind has invented so far. It is clearly linked to among other things leukemia.
        On a bit of an anecdotal note. My father was among the first to try out DDT in Sweden when he was young. Back then it was seen as totally safe and the 4H movement actively told people to spray their produce with it. So my dad did. He died 39 years old from leukemia. Funky thing is that both me and my brother are genetically screened for leukemia and we lack the requisite genes, the same test was done on our grandmother before she died at the ripe old age of 98. She also lacked the genes. My grandmother was a farmer, she refused to use DDT. But, a study of one is at best anecdotal.

        Yepp, the plastic in the ocean problem is almost purely American. I am stumped that garbage is still dumped into the oceans in America from dedicated garbage scows. Our European solution to burn the plastic in power and heating plants is slightly better. But, best is to limit production of unnessecary plastics. And in most cases there are better products to use that are sustainable (and cheaper). Take for instance the reusable fabric shopping bag. It costs the same as 10 plastic bags and literally will last you a lifetime.

        • Working in the cancer field I am not aware of DDT caused cancer untill a recent study showed that female childs of mothers who were exposed to DDT when pregnant now, 50 years later, have an up to 5 fold increased risk of developing breast cancer. Some epidemiological studies suggests increased risk of liver and testis cancer but other studies have not confirmed this. Animal studies on the contrary has clearly shown DDT as a carcinogen.
          Leukemias and other cancers are, with exception for heriditary cases, always caused by accumulation of mutations in one single cell and its derived clone that by Darwinian selection gets a growth and survival advantage. With exception from pediatric cancers and some rare adult tumor forms this development takes many years. Carcinogens speads up this process increasing the risk of getting fully malignant cells. DDT is not a mutagen as many other carcinogens are, but may cause other effects, increasing risk for breast cancer when female fetuses ar exposed.

      • Malaria used to be prevalent in the UK, in the MIddle Ages. It disappeared without an insecticide being involved, when the marshes were drained. DDT is still allowed as control in extreme circumstances, but should be avoided at all cost. I think we have learned our lessons and if this lesson needs re-learning, I suggest off-planet would be a better place to experiment.

        imidacloprid is known to be toxic to birds: the LD50 for birds is as low as 30 mg/kg (it varies per species). Cowbirds are reported to stop eating treated seeds after suffering the side effects. The official blurb states

        “Imidacloprid’s toxicity to birds varies among species. It’s highly toxic to house sparrows, quail, canaries and pigeons. Birds species it isn’t highly toxic to still show adverse symptoms, such as diarrhea, lack of responsiveness, in-coordination and inability to fly. IMI also causes eggshell thinning and reduced fecundity.” (From the insecticide fact sheet, 2001. There are various fact sheets from different organization but this one is from a scientific journal). The NPIC re-phrases this as ‘not very toxic to birds’. The US EPA lists its toxicity to house sparrows specifically.

        Mammals are less affected because at normal doses it can’t get past the blood-brain barrier.

        It would be nice if the plastic here was really incinerated. In practice, the school children walking past our homes still drop it everywhere, apparently believing parents are following them to pick up their rubbish. Two people on the street once collected a large bag of their rubbish from the street and dumped it in the school office. That worked for a while.

        • There is a better solution. A regular bottle of Yes (or similar).
          It is what is used here nowadays to control mosquitos, and we have gazillions of the nasty buggers.
          The detergent breaks the surface tension on stagnant pools and the mosquito eggs drown. It is remarkably effective, an area treated is mosquito free for years afterwards. And the concentrations required is crazy low.

          We should not demand so much from schoolkids of today. Remember that they eat tide pods.

    • Fine if you like risking fecal contamination of your food.

      (Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Citrobacter etc…)

      • Of all of the food product recalls I have heard of in the US recently, most have been in packaged organic lettuce and such for some sort of fecal contamination.

        In my line of thinking, there are only two ways that could happen. Either the product harvesters don’t wash their hands, or the the organic fertilizer is not processed enough to remove contaminants… a 3rd option is someone is crapping in the field.

        • Neither.

          Since fecal bacteria are very common. Its practically impossible to prevent contamination of food grown in fields regardless of wheter or not its organic grown. Thus we clean products before they are being sold or further processed.
          and are not allowed to use them before we can trust them to be clean. This eliminates any extra contamination caused by manure if present.

          However sometimes something goes wrong in the plant. A machine could get heavily contaminated and spread its filth on the products. A fridge fails allowing a minor contamination grow to unacceptable levels. Or the pastourizer does not reach the required temperatures to elliminate enough bacteria etc. And when you catch this too late, you may need to do a recall.

          Currently organic products are only 10 percent or so of all recalls And that is mostly to blame on their popularity rather than a risk.

  6. mother nature always has the last word, this was my late grandmothers saying.
    I have observed in nature that when a species is multiplying like it is going out of fashion, there is a reason behind it, there is usually a scarity of the right food, for whatever reason, and only the best, fittest etc. will survive to start the cycle anew, for the best of the species survival.
    Plastics in all its forms plays with the hormone balance in interfering protactinium of species on this planet.
    Ursh

  7. And for those who think that we will become smarter in the next few years.
    Sadly that is not the case, we will go the other way and eat ever more tide pods.

    The reason for this is that CO2 is stupefying gas. It directly affects our higher reasoning and intelligence.
    If I remember correctly it is projected that we will hit 750ppm CO2 in 100 years time. This increase means that we will become a whopping 21 percent less intelligent. In other words, there will not be a single genius left on the planet.
    But the most hair-raising things is that about 10 percent of the human population will become so stupid that they lose the ability to speak and keep from shitting themselves.
    In fact, we are all a couple of percent less bright than we should be. That 2 percent drop in IQ on a global scale might explain that we nowadays have lost the ability as a species to comprehend complex problems and instead opt for strong leaders with simple (stupid) solutions (that wont work). Heck, it might even explain the tide pod eating.

    https://thinkprogress.org/exclusive-elevated-co2-levels-directly-affect-human-cognition-new-harvard-study-shows-2748e7378941/

    • I don’t buy this result. Experiments have been for almost a century, and find that effects on intelligence come in at concentrations of tens fo thousands, not 750. People in submarines are routinely exposed to high concentrations, so these experiments were done for a reason. Leaded petrol has had a far greater effect on IQ, and IQ tests did show that we were getting brighter and less violent. Until, of course, the entertainment industry managed to get hold of us full time.

      • Coming back to possible mechanisms that could limit human population size. How about the Malenkovich cycles?. How are we timed there? Are there any reason to think they are synked with variation in seismicity/volcanism?

        • Nothing notable one way or another with Malenkovich cycles or their correlation with great big ice ages, ditto the position of Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions in the Zodiac, whose correlation with century-level climate fluctuation was noted by astronomers in Mesopotamia in the 10th century. It has been suggested that the strain put on plates by buildup and rapid melting of ice sheets at the beginning and end of the ice ages may be correlated with volcanism (Toba is after the beginning of the Wisconsin glaciation, so not a cause per se but seems to be correlated; possibly an intensifier) – this is very speculative but based on reasonable extrapolations from reliable data.

        • Gravity is a very weak force, even down to our Moon’s influences. Milankovitch Cycles would have at best tiny incremental changes in solar gravity influence over the Earth. Solar heat input and the Earth’s tilt are the driving forces in ice development and retreat. Personally, I reject any Milankovitch effects on the Earth’s seismology and volcanic activity.

          • I did an article some time back called the Moon and the Moonie. (Might be on the old VC site that shall not be named) Part of the reason was that invariably, someone will putz their way through here claiming a catastrophe is coming up due to a Super Moon or some rare alignment. I took 10 to 20 years worth of USGS quake data and pulled the ephemerides for the Sun-Moon for those specific time stamps. Yeah, there is an uptick in quake activity depending on the moons position, but it flattens out when you take the dwell time into account. The moon spends more time per angular increment at apogee than perigee.

            Looking at the change in the force of gravity, about the only effect the moon or sun is going to have, is to cause a quake to happen a couple of seconds before or after it would have normally occurred. In other words, the enormous energy involved in the quake fully dwarfs the extra energy the sun-moon dynamic contribute to the situation. Is there an effect… well, sort of, but it’s ridiculously small compared to the quake energy release. It’s about like getting knocked off a bridge by a mosquito.

            The University of Berkley had some correlation data for San Andreas quakes and the Moon’s position, but it was equally ephemeral.

            As Jack@Finnland taught me, if the signal doesn’t rise 2 standard deviations above noise, there probably isn’t a signal there to worry about.

            The cute part about that endeavor, was that I offered up the spreadsheet to anyone wishing to contest my results. It was so freaking large that most versions of Excel would choke on it. (Excel 97 era). Note: The spreadsheet is no longer available. I needed the drive space.

            If you wish to replicate my work, USGS Quake data is freely availible, and the Ephemerides I used came from a program called Alcyone Ephemeris. (You’ll need the paid version to get the functionality that I did. Making a batch query to the program via time-stamps.)

            NOTE: This is not an endorsement for Alcyone Ephemeris, but since they were the source for part of my data, I figured they deserve the live link. After all, the program performed exactly as I needed to get the data.

        • The ice ages follow the Malinkovitch cycles very closely: see http://www.volcanocafe.org/ice-age/

          This image shows the Milankovitch cycle (black) versus temperature (purple)

          There is not much evidence for a relation to seismicity or eruptions, apart from that large eruption seem more common just after the ice has melted, either from pent-up heat or from decompression.

          • Milankovitch and other related astronomical cycles have nothing to do with gravity but eccentricity and inclination of Earth. They relate to more and less radiation in different hemispheres over summer and winter and therefore trigger ice ages. There are ressonance effects as well, which amplify the mechanisms and also as we know weather is a chaotic / stochastic system, so small variables can create a big impact. So even things like small effects of gravity from Jupiter can trigger cycles in Earth’s climate. At least theoretically.

          • I was actually thinking (speculating) of icing and melting effects with falling an rising sealevels as cause of variations in volcanism. Not the moon or gravity pulls. from the graph pulled out by Albert above it looks like we are deep into a low sun radiation period, but temperatures are going up as we all know because of human activities.

          • Yes, global cooling should have been well on the way. It is one of the reasons to view the little ice age as the start of the real one. A little global warming has been a good thing for us. It is the future we are concerned about, not so much the present. (Albeit, we have already gone a little too far. The Syrian war developed out of the drought brought on by climate change.)

    • I’ve seen figures of over 1000 ppm of CO2 by the end of this century isn’t considered unlikely. Well I’l be 101 in 2100 so I dont think it will matter for me by then… Just gives me more time to think about future beings analyzing the earths fossil and geological records and finding the short period of extreme warmth in the middle of what both records say is supposed to be an ice age, then the strange occurrence of calcium/aluminium rich hydrated rock of unusual composition all over the place (concrete) followed by concentration of rare elements in specific areas, and then thinking about all those weird big mammals that existed millions of years ago when the continents were separated. That is probably all that will be left of us when the next supercontinent forms in 200-250 million years, just rusty concrete and a strange distribution of rare metals, along with maybe some plastic byproducts and unnatural long lived radioisotopes like curium 247 which has a half life of 15 million years and so would still probably exist far into the future.

      I guess 250 million years is quite enough time to have a ‘few’ supervolcanoes show up, maybe a few flood basalts too, and maybe 1 or 2 10+ km asteroids for good measure.

    • What has dropped in recent years is average scores of adults on standardized intelligence tests in industrialized countries.That is not the same as intelligence and is obviously heavily influenced by all sorts of factors, of which CO2 concentration in the ambient atmosphere is actually not a likely candidate. This sounds suspiciously like confusing correlation with causation. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2730791/Are-STUPID-Britons-people-IQ-decline.html

      • Sometimes wild claims can actually be true, so I would not be surprised by Carl’s point of view that CO2 could be leading to reduced intelligence overall across mankind.

        I personally think mankind has been and continues to be stupid, on average. The Medieval times and its endless wars are the confirmation that such stupidity has been there before. Nowadays it continues. The human brain creates plenty of assumptions, mental traps, illusions, etc… All that is actually not stupidity but just the problems of our human brain.

    • From my experience today’s political leaders tend to come in 3 different shades of stupid.

      1. The Corrupt: Who are more interested in pandering to themselves and their ‘friends’ with nice incentives like donations than the future of the country, the people and the planet.

      2. The Charismatic Moron : A loudmouth with lots of opinions and poor grasp of reality.

      3. The Ideological Turdflinger: More interested in finding a collective scapegoat for all of society’s problems than actually working to find solutions.

      Our spam shield took exception to this. I think it wanted donations. – admin

    • Side hobby of mine. Looking up the DOT placards for odd looking tanker rigs. 1203 is my favorite. That’s gasoline. I give them a wide berth when I’m in their vicinity. Same for Propane and LNG haulers. There is a bridge on Hwy 18 in Mississippi west of Bay Springs that was taken out by a propane truck. Folklore says they only found a 4″ section of bone for the driver. There is a new bridge there now.

      32° 0’3.98″N – 89°21’46.46″W

      • I live in SE Virginia. When I was in college, I was sharing an apartment with some friends. Not exactly sure what happened (don’t remember if it was a wreck or what) (I do now, it hit a garbage truck), but a gasoline tank truck caught fire two or three blocks from where we lived. Never heard an explosion, but the fire was intense. Three people were injured, but fortunately no fatalities.

        http://www.gendisasters.com/virginia/16496/norfolk-va-gas-tank-truck-explosion-sep-1984

        • I believe, at that level of combustion, it is called a conflagration. Technically, explosions have to generate a shock front near or above the speed of sound. Conflagrations can be subsonic, but everything goes up pretty much at once. And it’s quite big. Similarly, “Flash over” is seen in house fires. It’s not a Backdraft, where residual uncombusted gasses that just need a bit more oxygen to detonate, and get it from a smashed window by someone not recognizing the signs. Flash Overs look like an upside down ocean wave lapping along the ceiling and every thing reaches ignition temperature at once.

          Side note, icky brownish smoke leaking out of the seams of windows is a good indicator that the building is in Back-draft territory. The smoke will appear as if it has no direction that it really wants to go. This is about the time that the responding crew will be ordered to open the roof so that the gasses that are near combustion can escape and lessen the danger of something nasty. If the building “self ventilates” the danger goes down.

          Caveat: Not an actual Firefighter, but I have held State Certification as a Structural Firefighter in the past. Active black-cat Firefighters are societies true heros… (and are a bit crazy, but knowledgeable enough to not get themselves killed for stupid reasons.) That crazy bit comes from the adrenaline. It does weird things to your mentality.

          • Cool, thanks for the info. The one term I learned from environmental safety training is BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion).

          • I’ve been in a large ,quickly expanding forest fire, we were trying to get a line around the fire with retardant, This was in western Oregon On the Wilmette National Forest. the fire was driven by an east wind and the humidity was bout 10%. This thing was rolling west and downhill like a freight train. “Trust me i know what I am doing ” msaid the Leadplane pilot
            and we followed her into the gaping maw of a quickly expanding “Conflagration” One good thin this was on the McKenzie drainage so the run out was not too bad and we thought we could pull out to the relatively safely. down into the canyon down wind. As we got in there the smoke laid down and 200 year old Douglas firs were blowing up like bombs. Lead said”pull off can’t see!!” neither could we we jettisoned the load ,3000 us gal. of retardant. and
            full power. we got out into the clear in the river drainage heading west.
            The retardant helped for the crews bailed out and were able to pull back to an established
            logged off area and it slowed down whebn it got there.
            Worked that thing for the next week but never forgot that sight. Saw more like that but I was a green co-pilot the lead was one of the best in the business and it scared her too…

          • Funny thing tgat BLEVE phenomena. It’s the inspiration for FAE ordinance. A burster charge releases a spray/fog of fuel and then it is detonated.

            We had a propane training event years ago next to our station. The event was for a hose team to approach a flaming stand pipe and secure the valve. During the event, we noticed that traffic on the 4 lane road next to the station was backing up because they were rubber necking at the 30 foot flame shooting up into the air. This was just after sunset and the bright propane flame looked like a giant bic lighter.

        • THAT was Nitroglycerine, not that much burn, more “BUMM” und definetly a detonation, not a deflagration. ;o)
          (If propane burns or deflagrates/detonates is a matter of mixture with oxygen…)
          @Geolurking: an explosion with speeds below the speed of sound is called a deflagration in my opinion…

          • I agree. Since I’m not an expert I wasn’t going to state definitively.

            Fire, I know a bit more about.

            Factoid; One of the fastest common structure fires is a house trailer. In my experience, a trailer fire can be down to the chassis/frame in about 20 minutes.

            …and, burning bowling balls are quite irritating to deal with as they are rolling around the floor. Scorched my heel on one. You can’t kick em without hurting your foot, and they reignite quite easily.

    • The vents go right to the edge of the outer caldera, so this might be a pretty significant event compared to some of its earlier eruptions (extra-caldera eruption like in 1977). I read a paper that several eruptions in the first decade of this century involved intrusion beyond its caldera but no eruption, and the one thing they had in common was an eruption at the inner caldera wall like what is happening now.

      Or it could stop erupting tomorrow…

    • This volcano may be one of the biggest mystery volcanoes I can think of on the planet.

      So much of it seems to defy logic. It should not be possible for a caldera that large to form at such a depth beneath the ocean.

  8. Oooh, look at volcano ‘O’, now called Niua Tahi is a giant, near-circular caldera ~15 km in diameter, with a floor at a depth of about 2 km (Arculus, 2012). A young cone (Motu Tahi) in the SE sector rises 730 m above the floor to a summit at a depth of 1,270 m depth

    For unknown reasons your comments are being intercepted by the spam deamon and stored in the dungeon of despair. A more knowledgeable admin will need to investigate. In the mean time, please have patience!

    • Wow. That is too deep for an explosive eruption: the caldera must have formed by subsidence. Where did the lava go?

      • That seems impossible.
        There is nothing around even likely to have been the cause of such a huge caldera to form. Is it possible that this is within your field and that this is a comet strike?

        • O…
          I have an idea…
          It could be an almost young kimberlite-pipe. If so it could probably explain one of our “eruption unknowns”.
          Whatever it is, it is interesting as heck.

          • That would be a very big kimberlite pipe, Im not sure even the depth of the ocean at that point would stop something like that from being visible. I dont know what would happen if you set of a tsar bomba at 2 km deep, but it would probably be like that…
            I know you probably aren’t being serious but I like the possibility 😉

          • It looks like a volcano. Volcano O seems to appear when the ridge SW-NE, located southwest of the volcano abruptly shift to a S-N orientation. Of course it might be the striking coincidence of such a comet impact happened in that exact location. But I think its almost certainly a volcanic caldera.

            A detailed earthquake map of that region should reveal if there is a volcano over there or not. That’s easier than going 2km deep in the ocean and removing a few samples from the ocean floor.

          • I’ve brought this volcano up quite a few times over the years here, it never ceases to make me wonder “wtf”?

            Defies so much logic.

        • Impact craters and volcanic craters can be hard to distinguish. A 1-2 km asteroid could make such a crater, but I am not aware of any such cases in deep water (but a rock that size would indeed be able to reach the ocean floor, I expect). But this region is highly volcanic, and a volcanic origin is therefore more likely. The fact that the central peak is not in the centre is also unusual – unheard of for an impact.

          An explosion is not possible because of the depth. At 2-km the water is at the critical pressure. Water can’t vaporize above that, so no explosions. However, there was a paper a while ago on eruptions under these conditions which I will try to find.

          Another way would be by having the explosion in a much higher cone where the pressure is less. Perhaps in that case the caldera floor is exactly at the critical pressure. Perhaps a post..

          • Maybe there was a much taller volcano there once and it was shallow enough to be an island or at least shallow enough to erupt explosively, and it either erupted enough magma to collapse that way directly and hence might have erupted subaerially at one point and left an ash layer that is otherwise from an unknown source, or the magma intruded into the surrounding crust and erupted as multiple small eruptions on the sea floor on several sides of the caldera with none being big enough to explain the caldera on their own, and so being overlooked. I believe the area in question is a rift zone/ back ark basin, and so this could happen?

            Or maybe it is from in the ice age when the sea level was lower, and boiling at that depth might have been possible. If the caldera floor is right at the threshold of water boiling then if the sea was 130 meters lower it would be above that point?

          • That is a good point. But I would have though that it would still be difficult to get to a high enough excess pressure for the mountain to explode.

          • The small cone inside the caldera is at 1270 meters deep, and some of the rim looks like it is at least that shallow, so assuming it is a normal volcano that was a cone shape before the caldera formed, its pre-caldera summit would have been at least as high as this and probably a lot shallower, possibly only a few hundred meters deep, which would allow for potentially significant pyroclastic activity like at havre seamount in 2013, which actually is very similar to niua tahi but a bit closer to the surface. Apparently the volcano is mostly dacite, with what is very likely basalt as the last eruption product based on the description of abundant lava tubes near the summit of the post caldera cone (called motu tahi).

          • Since the size is almost the same as Anakchak I used the pre caldera numbers for that volcano. Out came a possible caldera event ranking in as a VEI-7 for volcano O.

          • The only thing I can think of is that the caldera formed in a glacial period when sea levels were much lower, and that the original volcano was high enough to erupt violently. It could have even been an island once, if it had a steep slope then it would probably easily reach above sea level with a diameter of 15 km at 1100 meters depth (caldera rim is about that deep not the caldera floor), and hence the eruption could have been on land, before caldera collapse and probably a krakatoa-style water magma explosion on steroids afterwards. Apart from the post caldera cone which is made mostly of basalt, the volcano is apparently primarily dacitic so a VEI 7 scale explosion is possible.

            On the other hand, if it was a substantial and tall island once, then maybe it could have happened within the holocene and is the source of an otherwise unidentified ash or sulfate layer in Greenland or Antarctica.

  9. Could the ridge next to it be a fissure from O? I have hard times imagining a mechanism, that would drain the magma under a caldera into an adjacent higher stratovulcano, but at least it could have started as a fissure.

    • A fissure would be normal but the exit point should be below the level of the mountain. You can’t get a caldera floor below the level of the fissure. The idea that the mountain used to be much higher is appealing, but still leaves unexplained why the explosion went down so deep. Even Krakatoa only dug down to 100 meter or so. A VEI-7 under water must have been some event! A calm fissure eruption has its advantages

      • Don’t forget that a high heat through put can lift the level of the seafloor. Think Hawaiian Swell for a good example. Couple that with lower sea levels and things get easier to reconcile. Island volcano over a temporary hot spot goes boom, empties the chamber, hot spot goes away, glaciers melt, seas rise. Collapse caldera is left in an odd spot and we go nuts trying to figure it out.

        • If the rim of the caldera is at 1 km deep, and the caldera is 15 km across, then for the summit of a cone to reach sea level its slope would be 1/7.5, which is about 12 degrees slope. And so if the cone was much steeper then the size of the island is going to be actually quite substantial. If the still existing slope is at 45 degrees and has a diameter of 20 km, then the top of that cone would be 10 km above the base. It looks like the bottom of the volcano is mostly about 2.5 km deep. Using a 45 degree slope puts the point where the cone reaches sea level at 15 km wide. The caldera in real life is actually 15 km wide and about 1.2 km deep so this doesn’t work that well, but assuming the preserved slope is about 30 degrees, which is probably much more accurate, the cone is about 10.5 km in diameter at sea level (and about 5 km tall…) which is still not that small. The slope around Hawaii I think is steeper than that and isn’t a linear gradient so the island actually might be bigger than 10.5 km wide. The bit above sea level was probably much flatter and the mountain probably not even 1 km tall but that doesn’t really matter much

          This is actually the first time I have done proper maths since last year at school…
          But by my probably slightly off calculations there actually could have been a decent island there once. Maybe the upper part of the magma chamber was inside the cone to some extent and weakened it, eventually leading to the whole thing going off. I guess all we know is that it didn’t happen within the last 3000 years or something like that, because someone would have seen it otherwise and recorded it somehow.

  10. I believe I have a lead on the prime likely suspect causing sperm production drop: According to http://www.pnas.org/content/115/4/E715 Ibuprophen, prevalent across said countries, downregulates the downregulator produced by the testis used to limit production of female hormones. This study should get more press!

    In short, pain medicine are turning men female, as a consequence, a drastic drop of sperm production.

    As a long time reader, I rarely comment, but I braved the wordpress login to post this (wordpress gives me immense pw troubles upon login attempt… using correct pw single digit entry, thus I dont comment usually)

    • Ibuprofen..that is not something I would have thought about. Does aspirin have the same effect?

      • I know my other half had to stay away from ibuprofen when we went through IVF due to the prostaglandin effects which affects embryo implantation.

        For me, the opiates had the biggest effect by increasing prolactin production which then inhibits testosterone. I also read that tramadol had some effects on sperm direct, increasing the numbers of unviable ones.

        Thankfully, we have two kids now and all that is the past!

        • From the article: “The so-called “over-the-counter” mild analgesics (hereafter simply called “analgesics”), such as acetaminophen/paracetamol, acetylsalicylic acid/aspirin, and ibuprofen, are among the most commonly used pharmaceutical compounds worldwide “Increasing evidence from recent years shows that exposure to analgesics can generate negative endocrine and reproductive effects during fetal life (6). Nonetheless, no in-depth studies have analyzed the effect of mild analgesics on the human pituitary–gonadal axis”

          so, YES, aspirin too…

    • Seems to be similar effects with other cox inhibitors such as aspirin. Fetal effects interesting. In adults sustained high level intakes were studied.

      • It could also explain, ouside of social causes, why the Millenial Generation, and Gen. Z have so many emotional issues, in the case presented here, caused th brain wiring at fetal development stage before birth, to be partially wired feminine. Honestly, more research is needed either way. I am still surprised this is not 1st page news

        • As a female I get emotional issues reading such bullsh**
          *getting into the next course for anger management normaly visited by men with to high testosterone*

          • Maybe time to call an end to this discussion! I have never found any problem with female brain wiring. It is the hormones that worry me..us intellectuals just can’t cope with them.

          • @Colloid

            I’m pretty sure the “emotional issues” comment was directed at the modern male of the species Homo Stultus.

  11. It bothers me when scientists explain how things aught to occur instead of how it does. To exist is both a risk and a danger. Why not explain the risks of utlraviolet light or an oxidizing atmosphere? Explain the science of shortsightedness and how we never see the big picture since it doesn’t interest us right here and now. I suppose ape man feels he shouldn’t wipe himself out, that he’s above that instinct or it isn’t natural, when it’s perfectly OK

    • It scares me when scientists say ‘ought to occur’ even more when they say their piece if research is to “show xxxx is true/is the mechanism”. They tell the truth of course because if they show it does, their paper gets published and they get more grants, if it shows its not the case then no publication and your research career just ended.

      Go figure.

      PS I expect this is another post of many that will be censored.

      You were right. Found in the dungeons. – Admin

  12. Censored posts.
    It looks as if only one censored post per poster is held in the dungeon, all earlier ones are automatically deleted. Since when I do post I often make several at a sitting this is quite irritating.

    It goes back to when I requested a post of mine to be edited by a dragon because it pointed incorrectly and I have had problems like this ever since.

    We will look into it. Comments can be either passed by the system, held for approval (the default for first-time users, or for comments with too many links) or put in the spam queue. There is no instant delete. Your additional comments never made it into the system and I wonder whether there is a bug related to multiple comments submitted simultaneously (either here or on the user side). The issue of your comments being held for approval seems a different one but needs a more powerful dragon to look into – admin

    • Apologies farmeroz, I’m looking into now to see if I can beat Akismet into behaving with your comments. We (dragons) are certainly not censoring your comments. Ironically, your latest comment made it through the spam filter without issue.

      It didn’t .. – minor dragon found it in the dungeon

    • I’ve always been interested in the volcanism of that area. 4 different volcanic systems overlapping but not connected, and one of them is a supervolcano… I’ve read an article somewhere once that a similar event to the mono/inyo craters eruption 600 years ago is plausible within the next 100 years. When that eventually happens we will finally get to see a genuine mountain form within historical time. Actually I think the area would be a good topic for a future post. Much more likely that an eruption will happen there than at yellowstone.

        • As far as Im concerned anything that can make a hole in the ground that big with one eruption should deserve the title of supervolcano, even if it didnt form in a VEI 8.

          VEI 8s are all supervolcanoes, but maybe not all supervolcanoes have to be VEI8s. I know ‘supervolcano’ isnt really a fully accepted term anyway, but It really should be for things on this scale. Now all we need is to find an eruption of 10,000 km3 of magma in one go and we have an ‘ultravolcano’.

  13. Nevados de Chillan raised to Orange alert (first alert above yellow in Chile for nearly 3 years).

  14. Sinabung seems to be erupting bg again, VA 500 according to Darwin. No visability on webcams at the moment, unfortunately.

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