The Tragic Underestimation of Tornadoes and The Potential Dismissal of Volcanoes

Guest post from Tallis

The spectacle of Taal

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a fascination with meteorology, Thunderstorms in particular, but the entire science as a whole. I am a self-taught weather person, who has read books, watched lectures and talked to storm chasers about their interests. While volcanoes are almost as interesting to me, my one true love lies with the weather. Tracking and experiencing severe weather has been the greatest physical pleasure I have ever experienced and I would gladly toss aside most other pleasures to experience it.

Tornadoes have always been a long-lasting center for my interest and the catalyst that triggered my dive into meteorology. They are the most intense meteorological phenomena known to man.

In terms of power no downburst, hurricane or blizzard known has matched a tornado’s intensity.

Only a hypercane, born out of a flood basalt or impact event would be likely to surpass or match a tornado’s intensity.

For a long time F5 tornadoes were thought to have winds in the 300 mph range but in 2007 that came to an end with the “Enhanced Fujita scale”. Now the strongest EF5 tornadoes are given wind speeds of around 210 mph. This has put the strongest tornadoes on equal footing with the strongest of hurricanes.

There has not been a single violent tornado with reliable surface measurements done in the worst portion. DOW has shown that winds within F5 tornadoes at a certain level exceed 250 mph but this is not a direct measurement of surface winds. With that being said, a significant portion of our community believes that this new scale underestimates tornadic winds. The power of the strongest tornadoes is mysterious and to this date have not been conclusively measured. Older scientific works brought the strongest tornadoes strength up to 500 mph but most acknowledged the lack of conclusiveness of the assessment with unconfident language. However nowadays, you seldom hear scientific studies of tornadoes bring up winds surpassing this new scale unless explicitly recorded from DOW.

There is significant evidence to suggest winds from tornadoes exceed that of this new scale, but this is a VOLCANO cafe and not a Weather club. So I’ll be bringing up at most two examples later on but for now, let us change tunes from weather to geology. It is my fear that VEI 7+ eruptions will be underestimated by the main scientific community in the future not only in terms of probability but effects as well, specifically climate effects including ecological effects.

I don’t think that large volcanic eruptions have lost a significant amount of respect (Yet) but it is my opinion that could change quickly.

What Tornadoes and Volcanoes have in common is that what they can produce at their worst is  poorly constrained and debated frequently. There is still a significant amount of uncertainty and mystery surrounding these events. For the longest time, people would hear fantastic stories about the power and effects of these events and with the rise of the internet and television. Grand portrayals and soulless, unscientific, and baseless gossip led to hyperbole and warped perception of these events. Look no further than the Yellowstone volcano for a surplus of examples.

Every action must have an equal and opposite reaction, and I believe we might be beginning to see that reaction with volcanoes. In response to constant hyperbole and doomsayers, a new breed of skeptics seems to have emerged. Lately confronting the VEI 8 eruption of Toba and the Deccan traps flood basalt. These eruption’s effects are very debatable and uncertainties exist that puts a wrench in understanding the potential effects on this event. It is possible that these volcanoes did not have a significant effect on the ecology or species of their time. However, this doesn’t invalidate Large eruptions as a threat. Some have already made this rash connotation with VEI 8 eruptions, and I worry that flood basalts will be next.

The effects of large eruptions are EXTREMELY variable and not consistent (Just like the worst tornadoes!) for evidence just look at this table I borrowed from Albert’s article. (The -44 eruption has since been associated with Okmok.)

Samalas had more than 3 times the forcing of El Chichon but produced a lesser climate anomaly. Why wouldn’t the same rules apply for larger eruptions? Some flood basalts likely kill through global cooling, some through warming, and for some even both! That shows some variable that is not considered or known.

I am not saying that the scientific community has completely raised its lip towards volcanoes but it could easily go that way. Just because 536 happened doesn’t mean that it is the average and equally for weak anomalies like Samalas.

I think volcanoes are the second thought for most geological events, for most events, it is usually only mentioned in passing in favor of other potential causes. Such as an asteroid(Younger Dryas), Gamma ray-burst(Ordovician–Silurian extinction event) and even more poorly constrained events such as a clathrate gun. It is especially sad when even a flood basalt, the largest eruptions possible, is more likely to happen than the 3 of these. The only reason why this hasn’t happened with the Siberian traps is simply that there is no other major event readily apparent to take some credit and some still desire another explanation.

Tornadoes and volcanoes despite not having remotely connected mechanics but are equally mysterious in terms of the worst that these events can produce. Toning down hyperbole of the volcanoes is very important but there should be no dismissal of volcanoes as a reasonable threat to humanity and the ecosystem.

An unreasonably high estimation of a mysterious event is no worse than an unreasonably low estimation. In fact, in my eyes, it is better. When a category 5 hurricane is heading towards your city whether you decide to ride it out or evacuate, it is better to overestimate and survive then it is to underestimate and die or be ruined.


Merging volcanoes with tornadoes: pyroclastic twisters from Sinabung in 2014. Taken from the video below

104 thoughts on “The Tragic Underestimation of Tornadoes and The Potential Dismissal of Volcanoes

  1. Thank you for the post Tallis.

    Personally, I always have wondered how the global food supply chain can handle a run of the mill VEI-7 eruption (something similar to Samalas).

    I personally really believe that there is a growing lack of attention around the constraints of food security these days. Part of that is a result of improvements in agri-tech in countries like Africa in the last 20 years, which has produced massive improvements in the availability of agriculture. But we also overlook the sustainability of these supply chains, a growing demand via population growth, other issues like climate change, and then some of the more simple non-sustainable farming practices that have enabled the boom in food supply.

    Food supply operates as a complex system with a ton of variables, many of which are non-linear, and thus hard to model and predict. I personally believe that like many of our other supply chain items, it has been created for efficiency, not for resilience. This is especially true since we have never really dealt with something akin to a large volcanic eruption during modern agricultural times.

    I find it rather fascinating how often major civilizational upheavals throughout history have been either caused by, or strongly influenced by volcanic activity. For most of us volcanoholics, volcanoes are well understood, but I can’t help but believe that even a run of the mill VEI-7 eruption in somewhere like Alaska could turn into quite a black swan for its effects on the global climate.

    • Society is more connected then ever, just this week after Laura, one of the counties near where i live had to do rolling blackouts and we didn’t even get hit by a single thunderstorm!
      One thing that is overlooked in Volcanic winter in my opinion is drought. A huge widespread drought compounded with smaller changes in temperature could cause famine in more vulnerable areas. Unlike most regional droughts, it could lead to a global food crisis akin to the one of 2011-2012, The droughts that caused the crisis would be small potatoes to that caused by a volcano.

      • That is a good point. The sulphate layer can suppress surface heat and convection, and this could lead to drought in some areas. Or not. A recent study suggests that climate variability in California can cause catastrophic floods on the scale of 1862 ( more often than once every 100 years rather than every 200 hundred years as in the past millennium. ( A volcanic eruption can increase climate volatility and it is not always obvious how that would affect different regions.

        • Volcanic changes to precipitation is probably more dangerous than the temperature changes. At least, with some superb modeling one could get an idea for the temperature anomalies but precipitation anomalies would be harder to predict as far as I know.

      • Droughts Yes and/or No

        In the year 1817 we had record high water level in one of the largest lakes in Switzerland, the “Bodensee” (lake Constance), the say on the German Wikipedia page, that was because of unknown (?) vulcanic explosion in 1809 and the Tambora “Hello Again” (VEI 7) and the year without summer 1816…

        Google translation:

        The flood of July 7, 1817 was due to the eruption of a volcano in 1809 in the tropics and Tambora in April 1815, which brought ash and sulfur particles into the atmosphere and thereby kept solar radiation off. This led to a lot of rain and snow in the year without summer 1816. In 1817, the accumulated snow from the years 1810 to 1817 melted. In addition, there was a thunderstorm that lasted for days from July 4, 1817 and caused this extraordinary flood of Lake Constance. In Konstanz the Tägermoos, the Briel, the Paradies (Konstanz) and well over half of the market place were under water. The painter Nikolaus Hug captured this in the picture Flood on the market place in the summer of 1817. A black plaque on the wall of Marktstätte 16 in Konstanz at Wadenhöhe reminds of this flood.

  2. Indeed the tiny eyes of ”pinhole hurricanes”
    Like Patricia when she was most intense.. are like giant F4 s
    If they go over land when pinhole eye they leave a local strecth of complete destruction. Very few hurricanes have made landfall with intense pinhole eyes.

    • Hurricanes don’t have the upwards motion of tornadoes, which stress structures far more but 215 mph hurricanes are not something we need!

  3. Even Nyiragongo should not be underestimated. 3 million persons live under this volcanos shadow.

    Talking about volcanic hazards…
    Nyiragongo is an infamous one!
    Located in the slow spreading continetal albertine rift. And feed by very small ammounts of partial melting deep down.
    Infamous for its permanent lava lake.

    Nyiragongo is unique: nowherelse in the world does a simple steep sided perfect stratovolcano, contain a magma column of souch extremely fluid hot, sillicate lava. Nyiragongo is an Nephelinite with 35% sillicon and perhaps 1200 C.
    The magma is extremely alkaline and very sillica poor.

    This makes nyiragongos lava extremely insanely fluid! also combined with the very steep slopes. As long as the magma remains as a lava lake in the summit all is fine.The dangers with Nyiragongo is the rifting and draining of the lava lake magma column.
    Dangerous with a high magma column almost 3 kilometers above sealevel: imagine the hydrostatic pressure it puts on the edifice.

    The 1977 Nyiragongo eruption.
    In 1977 Nyiragongo burst open and the Nephelinite came rushing out!
    Extremely fluid lava poured down through the flanks and minutes got to settlements kilometers away. Eyewitness suggest flowing of between 70 km/h and 100 km/h and the flow passed the forests at such a speed that it did not set fire to the trees and even left some thicker leaves with a thin glassy layer. Ground deposits were blue black glass at places only a centimeter thick. Many persons mostly the elderly or children, coud not escape from the flows. Exact numbers of victims cannot not be confirmed. Although the official count was 74, it is belived that maybe 400 people may have died. The lava flood covered persons with a thin glassy caparace including an elephant herd where all killed by the lava flood.
    Elephants encased in black blue lava glass.Around 20 million cubic meters of very degassed magma from the upper lava lake conduit were erupted in an hour, after which the eruption stopped instantly. An eruption rate around 6000 cubic meters per second was estimated. The driving force was primarily the hydrostatic pressure of magma in the upper 1000 m of the lava lake conduit located above the main vents. Lava spatter found in trees around the fissure vents testify to violent fountaining caused by the absoutley extreme pressure exerted by the magma column at the onset of the eruption.

    • Yes possible
      Nyiragongo is an extremely dangerous and an unique volcano with its effusive hazards.. maybe Albert will make a Nyiragongo post one day.

    • Can Tallis Rockwell
      ( doomsday master ) estimate when the next Nyiragongo drainout will happen?

      Today 3 million persons live in the shadow close to this volcano. Goma is becomming a very large city.

      The current lava lake grows higher and higher every year putting strong magmatic pressure on the volcanos side.
      It may rupture on the side.
      I feels that doom gloom is approaching very soon in a big drainout.

      But its still way to go before the lava lake reaches 1977 s levels in the caldera

    • Thats a very dangerous volcano, despite being completely effusive.
      Nyiragongos rift and fissure systems acually extends under Goma and into Lac Kivu.
      An eruption coud happen in the middle of that huge city, knowing all cinder cones in goma.
      Goma is built in a very hazadus region and grown into a millions population.
      Even a small lava flow like 2002 caused massive mayhem. The size of the deeper magma resovair in Nyiragongo is estimated at 50 km3 of Nephelinitic lava. Thats quite large and very impressive for souch an alkaline volcanic system. Highly alkaline sillicate magmas are made of Sio2 poor minerals and thats lower polymerization alot. Nyiragongos Sio2 is down at 35% compared to 49-50% for holuhraun magmas.The low sillica makes Nyiragongo very fluid, but the speed is mostly a result of the extremely steep slopes as well as low sillica. Among sillicate magmas, Nyiragongo is the most Sio2 poor and most rare. Nephelinite is never made in any large ammounts by the mantle.
      Its also very active for its extremely alkaline chemistry. Nyiragongos magmas are mostly made of nepheline, lecuite and pyroxene. Its quite diffrent from normal basaltic lava

    • Nephelinite is a very rare magmatic mineralogical compostion.
      Very little melting in the mantle is one requirment for it to form.
      In Europe it can be found in some tephras of the eifel volcanic field.
      And the oldest and dying hawaiian islands ( kauai and Oahu ) have also produced Nephelinite.
      It can also be found in outcrops in Gran canaria.

    • Nyiragongo is indeed a unique volcano, and its very young 25 000 years old is the older estimates for the current edifice, this is really nothing in geological time.
      The area haves a asthonishing magma production for its alkalinity and small partial melting.
      Nyiramuragira the sister volcano frequenty erupts large rift eruptions with basanitic magma, can reach more than 0,1 km3 per eruption. Its probaly not much older than Nyiragongo either.
      Nyiramuragira is now in constant eruption like Nyiragongo. Current activity is spatter cones in the summit and pahoehoe fillings of the caldera.

      Nyiramuragira is just 15 km away from Nyiragono, but its magmas are notifabley less alkaline and more rich in sillica. But even Nyiramuragiras basanite is very very low in sillica ( 42% ) compared to most other normal basaltic magmas. Nyiramuragira flank eruptions are far larger than anything Nyiragongo have produced recently. But to Goma Nyiramuragira is less hazardus than Nyiragongo.
      Viscosity-wise Nyiramuragira is quite alot more viscous than Nyiragongo, having more sillica

    • Its very rich in magmatic water Nyiragongo, lots of steam degassing.
      Nyiragongo seems to have a notifabley high water content in the magma.
      Since 2019 the sulfur outgassing been around 6000 to 8000 tons everyday.
      One of the highest numbers in the world for any constantly erupting open vent volcano.
      Mount Michael may have a similarly high sulfur output, having the secondmost largest lava lake on earth. Nyiragongo is the largest lava lake for now.

    • Spectacular video indeed! specialy in the later parts, these bubble burst are rad awsome.
      The higher the lava lake grows, the more pressure it will put on the volcano around it.
      A dyke intrusion can drain the whole column at an instant! as it did in 1977 and 2002.
      Nyiragongos main conduit seems to be pipe – cylinder like, the current lake was born in a hole that formed in 2002 after the january draing.

    • This is a hazardus volcano, with that lava column many kilometers above sealevel.
      Nyiragongo haves a zone of weakness running south – north that the magma escapes into when the conduit drains. Nyiragongo flank eruptions are rarely large, but they occur in densely populated areas and on steep slopes with phenomenal eruptive rates. The 1977 flowed at maybe 100 kilometers an hour at upper slopes, and 2002 similar at upper slopes.
      In Goma city lowlands 2002 it flowed at walking to fast walking speed, thats still very scary.
      Even a small eruption in Goma thats home to 3 million persons woud cause big distruption.
      Among effusive volcanoes Nyiragongo is kind of unique with its hazards. There are many cinder cones too in Goma areras, signs of large flank eruptions that involves high fountains. Goma is a relatively new city, most of the city have formed after 1970, and its still growing very fast.
      Lake Kivu is hazardus too with its big resovairs of toxic CO2 and methane. But its also an energy source, the goma city extracts methane in this lake and using it. The gas market brings alot of energy. I think around 65 km3 of methane is avaible in the nearby lake. There is also an estimated 256 cubic kilometers of carbon dioxide in Lac Kivu.

    • Beyond any doubt.. soon it will drain catastrophicaly.
      The magma column have alrerady reached 1994 s levels.
      The current lava lake is an open pipe and keeps growing higher.
      There will be human molds in the lava flows

      • Only if it drains towards Goma, and actually erupts close enough. The 2002 draining was probably caused by regional rifting because the crater was pretty low. Rifting like that probably doesnt happen very often so the rising crater floor probably has a long ways to go, and while recent flows have been mostly south Nyiragongo is very prominent and the lava could drain out anywhere, going north it would do little damage. Nyamuragira is probably a bigger threat, not to lives so much but its got a lava lake now too which is sitting high, and the last time that happened it ended with a draining event in 1938, lava reached lake Kivu in an area that is now densely inhabited and by the mid 2020s will probably be like Goma. These are flows big enough to potentially set off a limnic eruption too, which would be a megadisaster for sure.

        • A lava lake gas bubble quickly burst the surface in seconds.
          I think Nyiragongo haves the lowest viscosity of all sillicate magmas.
          The visocisty is very very low.

        • The Nyira sillica content is phenomenaly low ( 35% ) Iceland and Hawaii is 50%
          But temperature is just as important too.

          Many old Nephelinite flows in Oahu where viscous and taffy as the
          viscous Sugarloaf Nephelinite in Honululu where.
          That emerged in low temperatures around 1000 C

          Nyiragongos Nephelinites are far hotter ( 1200 C ) and the superlow sillica helps to make a very mobile melt. A hot Nephelinite is probably the most fluid of all sillicate lavas? Some sources say almost 1300 C for 1977 lava flood

        • Yes thats true, Nyiragongo haves a very very low viscosity, possible even lower than Kilaueas lowest. Look at this video when the lava spatter hits the ground it splash out like liquid aluminum. Sometimes lava ahves to hit things to show its viscosity.

        • Nyiragongo maybe the largest sulfur emitter for now.
          6000 to 8000 tons of sulfur dioxide everyday!

          GVP data
          In the December 2019 monthly report, OVG stated that the level of the lava lake had increased. This level of the lava lake was maintained for the duration of the reporting period, according to later OVG monthly reports. Seismicity increased starting in November 2019 and was detected in the NE part of the crater, but it decreased by mid-April 2020. SO2 emissions increased in January 2020 to roughly 7,000 tons/day but decreased again near the end of the month. OVG reported that SO2 emissions rose again in February to roughly 8,500 tons/day before declining to about 6,000 tons/day. Unlike in the previous report (BGVN 44:12), incandescence was visible during the day in the active lava lake and activity at the small eruptive cone within the 1.2-km-wide summit crater has since increased, consisting of incandescence and some lava fountaining (figure 72). A field survey was conducted on 3-4 March where an OVG team observed active lava fountains and ejecta that produced Pele’s hair from the small eruptive cone (figure 73). During this survey, OVG reported that the level of the lava lake had reached the second terrace, which was formed on 17 January 2002 and represents remnants of the lava lake at different eruption stages. There, the open surface lava lake was observed; gas-and-steam emissions accompanied both the active lava lake and the small eruptive cone (figures 72 and 73).

          21:11 – 21:23 mystery lava lake!
          I think this coud be Nyiragongo? and a bit of crater wall falls into the lava lake and a nice lava wave. This coud be Kraftt footage or Hauron Tazieff video of Nyira.
          The lavas steamy water vapour and kind of dull colour makes me think this coud be Nyiragongo. Its also very fluid. I think this is Nyira.

        • Chad all the steam… Nyiragongo seems to be rich magmatic water.
          Nyiragongo haves a very large CO2 content too in the magmas.
          Highly alkaline magmas tends to be very CO2 rich.
          Do you know why gas chemistry is so diffrent for alkaline and subalkaline melts?
          But Nyiragongo shares Kilaueas and Icelands massive sulfur content, around 7000 tons of sulfur from the lava lake everyday from Nyiragongo.
          Nephelinite seems to have a relationship with carbonatite too. Nephelinites often occur togther with carbonatie melts. Lengai is mostly made of Nephelinitic sillicate rocks like Nyiragongo. carbonaties are a new development.
          Nyiragongo is anyway the most sillica poor sillicate magma on Earth.

          But do Nephelinite haves an strong relationship with Carbonatite?

        • Jesper knows alot about volcanoes : ) Nyiragongo is a Jesper favorite

        • Viscosity at Nyiragongo is low among magmas, but probably not lower than typical hot basalt like Hawaii or Iceland. It is more just there arent many lava lakes of that scale to compare it to very often so features look smaller than they really are. Halemaumau was the same size in 2017-2018, it also looked the same, possibly even more so despite being a typical basalt instead of an exotic ultramafic alkaline basalt.

          The extreme flow speed in 1977 is probably because of massive eruption rate and locally steep slope angle more than viscosity, otherwise the 2002 flows would have been the same high speed flows more like a liquid metal, when all pictures show rather normal looking lava flows. The slopes in Hawaii are mostly shallow, only Kilaueas south flank has slope angles comparable to Nyiragongo but vents are at best 6 km away so there really isnt a fair comparison. Some of the breakouts at Pu’u O’o were frighteningly fast though, the August 2011 flow advanced a full km in a few minutes when it started and that was on gentle slopes, fed by rapid lava lake drain. That last part is the common factor.

        • Yes thats likley true: both are very fluid. Halemaumau sometimes reminded me of liquid aluminium, it was very fluid. But Nyiragongo haves a much lower sillica content, its down at 35% and the minerals are very sillica poor. It should have lower polymerization than a normal basalt. Viscosity as low as 1 Pa.s have been estimated for 1977 and 2002 at upper vents.
          Nyiragongo haves much smaller crustal plates and bubbling in its lava lake than halemaumau had, but it coud be result of faster convection in Nyiragongo rather than viscosity.

        • This upper link shows well how very low Nyiragongos viscosity is.
          But as you say, coud be the steep slope and high eruptive rates.
          But the thin glass shells on the twigs, are signs that visocsity is very low.
          The Kilauea tree molds I search in google earth, does not look like this.
          But Mauna Ulu where very fluid with nice drainbacks in pits.
          A very intresting nerdy disscusion it is.
          Thanks to JS for finding these photos!

          rest of photos from 2002.

        • Thats right as watcher say, Nyiragongo haves a very low sillica content and very low polymerization. But temperature is important too.
          video- wise I cannot see much difference between Nyiragongo and Kilauea lakes
          More than that Nyiragongo haves smaller bubbling and more crustal plates.

        • A beautyful photo of the lava lake edge in 2011
          Nyiragongos lava lake generaly haves this apparence, with many small crustal plates and small bubbling. Coud be because of faster convection than in Halemaumau or it coud be because that Nyiragongo haves a bit lower viscosity.
          Time for me to fly off for the weekend

        • Nyiragongos sillica is around 15% lower than Iceland ( ex holuhraun
          Basalt is already a low sillicate magma… so Nyiragongo is expectionaly low in sillica, its a Nephelinite mostly made of Nephelinie and Lecuite and Pyroxene minerals. But its an intresting discussion here.
          This daylight photo shows the extremely low viscosity of Nyiragongo.

          Nyiragongo also seems cooler than most normal basalts, being very dull in daylight, perhaps beacuse its result of very small ammounts of partial melting that forms the Nephelinites of Nyiragongo. But it coud be camera exposure too.
          But I think chad is correct…. not much diffrence from Hawaii in viscosity.
          Time for weekend here

      • This is an amazing volcano the lava is so fluid. The viscosity have been estimated as low as below 1 Pa.s for 1977. And as low as 30 to 60 Pa.s for the summit lava lake during very recent years. This is as low as lowest viscosity for Hawaii and even more fluid than Hawaii.
        Nyiragongos lava lake always have a broken up crust, with many small gas bubbles.
        Coud be beacuse of the very low viscosity. Ultrabasic lava in action.
        Nyiragongos viscosity is so low that volcanologists that sampled the lake reports that chains and hammers are coated in glas shells.

  4. Thoughtful and well researched – fascinating read. Thanks Tallis! It is also nice to meet another tornado chaser on the Cafe. (Not that I chase, I just watch the chasers and their videos; Pecos Hank being a particular favourite).

    • Pecos Hank is a favorite of mine as well. I’ve done some plains chasing, unfortunately no good tornadoes the days I went. Good to know of other weather weenies.

      • I could chase…but here in the UK it’s like driving through traffic-filled spaghetti. Our crowded roads go everywhere but where you want to go to.

        • I wish I could chase but I can’t drive…and I don’t have a car, I could chase on my bicycle and kill two birds with one stone.

      • I chased for about 5 years with Reed Timmer and the Dominator crew from the 2013 season on. We drove into at least 4 tornados in the Dominator. Talk about getting a adrenaline rush.

  5. Enjoyed this having been too close to both volcanoes- St. Helens April 1980
    (USGS/Batelle survey flight) “Can we get closer?” “NO ” as i shove the throttles to the stop. DC-7 airtankers- Thunderstorms- in May of 1996 New Mexico. Lead Plane (as we go into the fire run) “Its a bit sinky in here.” (she didn’t tell us she used max power to stay in the air. )So we line up is ee a downburs toff to starboard and yell “Downburst.!” again Max power, jettison the load and we were kicking up sagebrush and sand. We slowly pulled out of that the aerodynamic stall(airspeed was showing 95 kts. Stall is 95 clean.
    The approach flaps were down and ground effect was what save our lives.
    we milked the flaps up, and got to 110kts the plane stopped shaking.Then saw a funnel cloud off to the north-yes it was a tornado.
    We went back to Winslow. Quit for the day…
    Yes we do underestimate the power of Nature..

  6. Great to hear and read another met-freak brimming with passion….there are many of us here. After 55yrs. of living in the boring Bay Area (Wx-wise), I retired to the far northern Sacramento Valley (locals call it “Tornado Valley”), where our unique geographical surroundings are conducent to some wild weather due to convergence lines setting up with lots of windsheer (warm, up-valley southerly winds at the surface collide with cool NNW winds riding over the surrounding mountains). I mention this because it was at the beginning of the massive and deadly CARR fire (that clipped much of western parts of Redding and torched Whiskeytown) that I was imaging some scattered Cu that were developing well upwind of the fire. The clouds were indicating a convergence line was present above 3,000′, though with surface temps near 113F, the CL was hardly noticeable. As the fire grew, it formed a pyro-Cb that, coupled with the inherently unstable air aloft, threw a tower (reportedly) up over 60,000’….high enough to penetrate the tropopause. Then, due to the orographically-driven sheer right over the fire, a bonafide F3 (F4?) tornado (i.e. “firenado”) materialized that turned the fire into a death-trap with fire moving at speeds over 120 mph.
    The point is, there was a combination of extraordinary factors present that produced this near unheard of event… is highly unlikely that either a tornado or massive thunderstorm would have happened purely from the fire alone without help from ambient atmospheric setup….. and I wonder about similar collateral circumstances on a global scale that could affect the measured climate impacts of a particular volcanic event? I think it may help explain why various volcano eruptions, somewhat independent of size and power, have such wildly variable impacts on Climate. For instance, while Pinatubo threw up a prodigious amount of SOx and particulate into the stratosphere/Junge layer that reduced insolar heating, one other result was to alter the already unstable circumpolar flow that eventually resulted in a SSW/PV disruption later on. As you know, SSW/PV disruption events in itself can have major, hemispheric-wide impacts. So, was the cooling after Pinatubo (-0.6C) purely a result of the eruption, or was the inherent makeup of the atmosphere (at the time) already primed for change and the eruption was the trigger for a cooling period that would have happened anyway from “natural” forcing?
    And one final note about the Pinatubo eruption: The eruption occurred right before a typhoon hit with very unstable air present, and I have little doubt this also helped in the vertical transport of Pinatubo’s ejecta…so another example of climate + eruption interplay.

    • Maybe you should write an article! Thick comment!
      Fire whirls are one of the events that I am absolutely terrified of. While I am sure that orographical shear plays an important role for fire whirls but I think variables are important such as surface vorticity, Areas of strong vorticity would only require a a little rising motion to spin up a tornado.
      Wildfires can trigger thunderstorms, as the fire provides lift and the smoke can gather moisture for clouds.
      I am sure that some atmospheric enviroments are more favorable for volcanic plume but i am not sure what they would be exactly.

      • I remember watching the lighting from St.Helens on TV. There were some reports-I didn’t see it of lighting as far east as Yakima. Wash.

      • Just to clarify, the CARR firenado was not a fire whirl on steroids…but a bonafide massive rotation underneath a well defined, rotating super-cell….complete with a wall cloud and a well defined shelf structure. Also, there were reports of the funnel being seen dropping down from above…while a fire whirl would start at the surface then progressively grow in height.
        As for the atmospheric conditions needed to maximize volcanic transport of ejecta into the stratosphere, location plays maybe the biggest role. The tropopause is much lower (elevation) up near the poles than near the equator, so a lower power eruption can punch through easier than a similar type of eruption near the tropics.
        Secondly, the winds aloft need to be relatively calm. As you know, upper level winds routinely exceed 200 mph, which if present, can disperse the plume sideways and limit upward motion.
        Lastly, the stratospheric wind streams need to be oriented correctly in order to distribute the plume hemisphere-wide. Note that winds aloft typically flow from the equator to the poles (i.e. General Circulation of the Atmosphere) , so an eruption plume in the tropics will get distributed more effectively than an eruption nearer the poles where the Polar Vortex essentially “confines” the ejecta to just the highest latitudes.

        • Dug this up from an old article for you.

          And for the humour…

          • Thanks, GL! I remember the thread….many moons ago. It’s amazing what I have retained from all the info that get’s disseminated on VC.

        • I have mentioned it in one of my older articles,(don’t read it. I want to revamp it later this year. I believe fast upper level winds, in the stratosphere specifically, extend sulfuric aerosols and fine ash life time within in the atmosphere.
          I don’t think that fast upper level winds would limit an eruption plumes upward motion. similar things happen with updrafts within thunderstorms and that doesn’t seem to have a detrimental affect on their vertical ascent. It is possible though.

        • Those are amazing facts. The first time I heard of the great Kanto Earthquake and firenado I was amazed, it seemed impossible but a young survivor told of having his little sister torn from his hands and lifted up into the flaming whirl, he only survived because carcasses fell on him. just imagine the power of a fire storm that could do this ” The single greatest loss of life was caused by a fire tornado that engulfed the Rikugun Honjo Hifukusho (formerly the Army Clothing Depot) in downtown Tokyo, where about 38,000 people were incinerated after taking shelter there after the earthquake. I just can’t imagine the horror.

  7. I like your posts and personality alot
    You are our little prophet of doom.
    Tallis ”The Caldera Man”

    I haves two questions

    What silic explosive system do you find the most worrysome or most potential?

    What gentle effusive system do you find the most worrysome or most potential?

    • I like that title, very fitting for my works and interests.
      Corbetti caldera is on the top of my mind for a VEI 7 eruption. It’s area gives the potential for phreatomagmatic eruptions and has almost 10 million people within 100 km of the volcano. It is currently undergoing an intrusion supplying 10+11E m3 of magma per year.
      I have already mentioned Chiles-cerro negro (Too much)
      Weishan looks to have some potential but not a lot of information on that.
      There are the usual suspects (Laguna del maule, Ischia, and Uturnucu but I am sure I’ll find some others.
      For effusive eruptions, Iceland and east Africa rift zone, Iceland for size and Africa for fatalities.
      I don’t know too much about large effusive eruption mechanics but I’ll get there eventually.

      • How about Rabaul? I’d like to know more about the magma chamber. Multiple Calderas,though..

        • Rabaul?

          Big. Also sits near a group of other equally large but older calderas…. so large calderas seem to be a habitual process of that geologic setting.

      • I wonder how often, if at all, large eruptions like skaftar fires happen in East Africa. Its a similar tectonic setting and the magma is of very similar composition to Hawaii and Iceland in the Afar region, and both of those have done large scale flood basalt effusive eruptions in the last 1000 years. 1861 eruption of Dubbi in Eritrea is the biggest historical eruption at about 1.5 km3 of basalt and <1 km3 of trachyte DRE which is still pretty far off.

        Corbetti caldera is getting 0.1 km3 of magma per year? I know the area is understudied but that sounds rather extraordinary for a volcano that doesnt erupt frequently and is silicic, this must be a very recent change or it would be a shield volcano erupting all the time like Erta Ale. Maybe future post? 🙂

        • I must apologize if my comments are a bit muddled, I am currently not in a good state of mind. In my response to Capondo, I mentioned orographical shear as an important role to the genesis of firewhirls when they happen without it! Newb mistake… I should have specified my opinion that they help STRONG firewhirls.
          I am not aware of any large effusive eruptions at East African rift on Laki-scale but I am sure it’ll happen eventually.
          Corbetti is having a massive intrusion that the compressive nature of the geological setup has been hiding, but it’s so understudied that I don’t think I have information to make a good article on it. maybe though.

        • In East Africa these rifts cut through silicic continental rock, when basaltic magma rises from below, it melts the silicic crust, more evolved magmas are formed and are stored in large magma chambers. That causes explosive eruptions.

    • What about the effusive silicic eruptions that turn explosive (Katmai / Novarupta)? Anything that has a large silicic lava dome can turn nasty.

  8. Nice post, gives much food for thought. I too love both meteorology and volcanology (though for me volcanoes edge out tornadoes by just a bit), maybe it’s the raw unconstrained power of Nature combined with the mystery behind their manifestations that is so alluring?

    The problem with catastrophes and their effects is that for humans, we tend to underestimate what we have not experienced (Yellowstone Hyperbole aside, of course… that just makes someone money). Many can’t imagine that a fiery eruption of lava flows like what they see in Hawaii could have a long lasting worldwide impact, so they try to find something more elaborate (impactor, disease, famine, oceanic upheaval, dino-covid, whatever) that contributed to a drop in species in the geological record.

  9. I think the food supply issue is becoming apparent to the everyday American. I shopped today and lamented to my husband our usually well stocked store was missing many things I usually buy and the prices are sky high. Being on a fixed income means less and less can be afforded each month now due to covid interruptions. As a horticulturist, I have set up a huge area of the basement to grow produce during the winter and found lettuces and other veggies do just fine using a lighting system. Now here is where my feeling will anger many. I see GMO tech as a way to solve some of the issues of climate change and desertification and therefore food shortage. If we stop to learn about it we can assuage the fear. It is a way to fast forward years of interbreeding to get a result. After a broken back in an accident I had to switch to a desk job as a commercial seed sales manager, my territory included the South West, including Arizona,Texas, California, Nevada all the way up to Alaska and over to Hawaii, Most of those states have special growing issues and many were in a sever drought,so I did a lot of research into ways to grow in drought conditions and poor soils. Israel, does amazing work as do other arid countries. We are headed toward unprecedented climate change if we were to get a large eruption it could push us over the edge and into famine we need to think smart, use all technology that we can and hope for the best but assume the worst may happen.

    • GMO has amazing potential! I love it’s positive elements and I think it has poor placed hatred in it as concept and a tool
      I don’t trust the people who would do the modifying however. I am going to get into prepping when I get some money, I am not remotely familiar with plants so I am gonna go for fishing and hunting for the short term.
      Regardless of what would bring it on, famine could break the pampered civilians of the west unless some strong leaders emerge (I vote me!) but don’t expect people to tend to ecological catastrophe going on now and the politicians are more slimy then a hagfish!

    • GMO can be very helpful. The problem is in how it is being used. The technique at the moment is centred around pesticide resistance, and is used to promote particular proprietary pesticides. That is only going to benefit one company. I also think GMO should not be patentable.

      • I agree it is highly centered on herbicide but the potential is there to add genes from tough varieties that can survive drought. NASA has long range models that speak of 50 year droughts, those are civilization altering numbers. As for the patents, we have gone full on foolish with them, they stifle research and benefit big Pharma and farms. For those in America did you know that there is a clause that vacates those patents in the case of drought, famine and survival? Yep, your survival supersedes a businesses profit.

    • Hi Ellen,

      I do also see the benefit of GMO crops and how they may support the feeding of the human population over the next few decades. They will be important as climate change continues.

      However, in my view they will not solve the issues of climate change. Climate change, as stated and confirmed by NOAA, UK MET & Japans Met office is caused by the continued pollution of the the atmosphere.

      Climate change will continue until we as humans change. GMO will allow us to adapt but until we stop polluting climate change will continue.

      Kind Regards


    • Fellow horticulturist here, with a really soft spot for the Protaeceae family.

      I know there’s research going atm in getting cereals to use less phospherus, results are far away right now though. But by potentially using genes from the Protaeceae family, a family which is well known for hardly using any phospherus(it’s just super effective at using what it gets).
      By getting cereals to use 1/35-40 of their current phospherus, a massive burden would be lifted, at least for the time being. China is estimated to have dug up all their P in aprocs 30 years, the US reached peak production in the 80’s.
      There are still quite massive reserves in Morocco, but it is still a finite resource which increasingly has to be handled with more and more care, and GMO can absolutely help on that front.

      • Of course protaeceae are also very good at not being eaten. They make sure any nutrition in their leaves is inaccessible to plant predators and the seeds are even fire proof. The only edible product I am aware of are macademia nuts, and they are hardly healthy food. They are good if you need fat. No matter what the ‘health food’ lobby claims.

        • Never tried macademia nuts, I’m more into plants on a “What can survive in our harsh northern climates?”(Faroes) basis, the three/shrub flora here is a real mixmatch of all the far of corners of the world, that for a decent part can’t really be experienced down on the continent.
          If it’s edible, it’s a bonus.

          I have no particular knowledge when it comes to nutritional stuff of the various plants, I just know that there’s research going on(with no real results to show on the horizon yet) mainly with barley and a few other cereals at increasing the efficiency of phosphorus usage, by using protaeceae as “inspiration” for lack of better word.

          Side story, since we are on the climate change page today. Elleven years ago, bumblebees weren’t able to survive on the Faroes, today we they are everywhere, with four species registered. And you can really notice that various flora is seeding and spreading on its own now. And for sure it is anecdotal with everything that entails, but things are a changing.

          As for “health food” folks, I’ve had enough encounters with those that I would considering it unhealthy if I started ranting on that subject.

      • There is plenty of phosphorus around, but the poor quality ores will eventually make it very expensive. Note that phosphorus isn’t lost from the biosphere, it doesn’t leach and farmers only apply the amount that leaves in the crop. This gets eaten by humans and animals and should be mostly recycled. Hmm, looking at a report from the UK, surface water is incredibly sensitive to minute levels of P, circa 200ug/l being able to cause eutrophication. The main sources were sewage works (about 75%), and runoff from yards and fields (implied contaminated with fertiliser or more likely animal manures). Groundwater levels are about 50ug/l so if arable systems lose say 500mmH2O/annum (UK) into groundwater that would be about 5000m^3/Ha containing .25kg P and typically about 100kg would be applied in fertiliser. I have no idea the quantity being lost to the sea via run off but its going to be similar to groundwater so perhaps a total of about 1kg/Ha (some sewage is due to water softeners for washing machines etc). I don’t know about the USA but these days in the UK most of the phosporus is supposed to end up in sewage sludge which is mostly spread back on the land (some is burned, mostly in Holland). This should mean that eventually the UK will require very small amounts although the problem is that much of what is applied gets converted in soils into very insoluble calcium phosphates and ceases to be available to plants. Hmm, never done that set of sums before and the results were very interesting.

    • WHAT! The US has food supply issues? I don’t remember seeing any reports of significant growing condition problems outside the southwest, which apart from south california isn’t that productive anyway from what I saw. Certainly in the Uk there have been no problems I’ve noticed.

      • I have been told that there are some food supply issues caused by a lack of migrant workers. Covid restrictions have made it much harder to bring in farm workers from outside the area or country.

        • From what I’ve heard they are not having any trouble getting across the border. Heard through the grapevine (a California hospital nurse via a friend) that many of the COVID patients came from Mexico. Also the price of meat has gone up where I live but no shortages of late. There might be regional issues.

          • I have no local knowledge. What I heard is that farm workers have no problems (so far) getting into the US, but farms have to cope with covid restrictions which make it hard to get people in to the farms. Farm workers are a very high risk group because of the cramped, crowded accommodation

          • Meat supply isn’t as bad as many claim, but the ” 6 feet of spacing between workers” programs that are in place to control the Covid outbreaks have lessened the number of workers on the line – hence the amount of protein going out the doors has been cut down somewhat.
            Also “supply and demand” economics is playing a part – folks hear that there is a meat shortage, so they go out and buy caseloads of meat products. This “demand” creates a temporary shortage at the market, which in turn causes the prices to go up when the suppliers see there is more demand for their products. Vicious cycle.

      • Myself I advocate the cleanest energy of all. The earth. Steam plants where-ever possible. Germany, France, Spain could well tap into this free, nonpolluting energy. All of the Pacific rim, Africa, the middle east even Australia. Build plants and the problem becomes mute.

        Drastically edited. You have the right to make your case, but VC is not in the business of insulting people. There were too many to remove by editing a few sentences. You are free to resubmit but please keep it respectful -admin

        • Right my abject apologies to all that are offended. I do get carried away at times. I shall self distance from the keyboard as a punishment for awhile less I spread my disease of dissatisfaction at the pace of change in policies and what I see as a mistake in direction to achieve the desired end results.
          My point being if we follow the proposed narrative that is being presented blindly we are doomed. Currently there is an energy war going on. Nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, fossil fuels all have there disadvantages. None are perfect. I shall not name them, they are well known. Carbon sequestration offers the easiest and fastest way to address the problem of climate change. I have travelled widely and there are countries that will not or cannot possibly comply to the any restriction of fossil fuels. Humans are humans and do as they think best. It is ostrich thinking to wish it otherwise.The fact that western societies seem doomed to follow a expensive and un-neccessary path seems silly to me. I cannot help think that these competing energy groups have their own agenda that is not necessary in the planets interest. Watch the latest Michael Moore movie and you see the veneer peeling. None of these groups can be trusted, there is money involved. Sequestering flue gases as a absolute minimum would do wonders. Countries buying into small plants that can scrub the co2 and make fuel from the atmosphere. It would free those countries of the need for anything else but carbon and hydrogen to make their own fuel and not rely on the oil exporting nations, turbine exporting nations, solar panel exporting nations. A country the size of Andorra could probably afford to build such a plant. It becomes in affect a carbon cycle that can be regulated.This course is much easier on the planet then more dams ( 7gorges ) choking rivers or birds by the millions killed by blades or heaven help us another Chernoble and where do we put all the solar panels that stop functioning. This too should be a stop gap till the above is pursued. A Manhatton project or a Marshall plan could well accomplish this is a short time span. There is nothing at all special about the technology. No magic. The narrative seems more of a sales pitch for one or the other group than a way forward. It is presented as this is it. WE must do this, don’t think.
          I merely would like to point out that there are people that don’t necessary buy the end game as presented. That do think of solutions

          they are called ENGINEERS

          It is simply time to think outside the box

          • For perspective.
            UK total energy usage 1660 TWh/year
            To go carbon neutral the UK needs:
            286 Ave sized nuclear plants or
            47% of the entire UK under windfarms or
            16% of the entire UK under PV cells
            This really isn’t going to happen. Even worse is that Wind and PV need huge storage to achieve this, wind for 60 days, PV for 6 months due to variability of supply.
            Electric vehicles are much less efficient so we need a lot more energy produced to cover this as well.
            This is the elephant in the room everyone is avoiding.

          • Not sure about the energy efficiency of electric vehicles. The engine itself is far more efficient, by a factor of 3 to 4. The weight of the battery counters that to some degree but only partially. The electricity itself can be generated far more efficiently. Electric cars are a very good use of electricity (far more so than electric heating, at least when not using heat pumps). The problem comes when you generate the electricity from a fossil fuel plant. Much of the inefficiency of the engine is just transported to the generator. It is all in how you get your electricity. You will now point out the problems in how long batteries last. Yes, that needs improvement. But electric cars last much longer because the engine is so much simpler. You should be able to double the miles you get out of the car. (Anyone wants to argue that it is good for the economy if things break fast?)

            As for the area required: wind farms are out at sea so don’t count against our land area. Solar farms do but we have a lot of usable area in roofs and roads. McKay made the point that if you go carbon-neutral, you have to do things on a massive scale. He was right.

            CO2 capture is possible and should be developed, but in my opinion will be a stop-gap. However, the problem we have is one of CO2 (unless you burn coal: then you have a whole lot of other problems to worry about. See China.) Anything that helps to bring our CO2 under control is helpful.

          • As you say the last thing to electrify is transport because its so efficient (modern diesels get ~45%) compared to gas turbine then long transmission through several transformers inverter charger and in and out of battery and then the electric motor. However you calculate it it comes out to 22-25% overall. I don’t know how the person calculated 40% for windfarms, I struggle to get to 100% and although offshore helps its still never going to get near enough area. We need to cover most of the country and have some massive storage (itself inefficient so needing yet more electricity).
            Of course even if the UK (or even europe) went c-neutral the effect would not last for long because the rest of the world won’t.

          • 45% is reached in commercial vehicles (large engines) only, I believe. Passenger cars do not reach that. But it is purely the efficiency of the combustion. You are discounting other losses. Only a little over half of the mechanical power actually moves the car. 30% of the produced mechanical power is lost in friction inside the engine, and an additional 13% is lost in the transmission. So the real efficiency is 20-25%. In electric cars, there is much less friction in the engine (which is why they should last much longer). There is some loss in charging. The overall efficiency of an electric car becomes around 2.5-3 times better than a fuel one.

            Of course, if you get the electricity from a fossil fuel plant, you end up with very similar efficiencies.

            Bottom line: if you were to design a car from scratch, you wouldn’t end up with a combustion engine.

          • Diesel with an ignition temp of 1800K and an exhaust of 400K has a max efficiency of 1800/2200 = 82%. Modern small diesels have been well honed for efficiency in recent decades and I have had quoted figures close to 50% on motive power (I presume at the shaft). Petrol has inherent design flaws that means it struggles to get high ignition temperatures (eg pinking) and high ignition temperatures and the low compression results in relatively higher exhaust temp (less expansion = less cooling). I think modern ship diesels get somewhere about 70+% at the shaft but weight is not a problem. In an automatic there are probably transmission losses of the order you suggest but any green user will of course have a manual box and should achieve better than 10% because gears are very very efficient indeed. So lets say 40% for a diesel and 20% for electric. Anyway its of that order.

          • I dont know where you get those figures from, diesel is not magic and not even H2 or CH4 fuel cells are 70% efficient, only metal/air batteries are able to get that sort of electrical conversion from a chemical reaction involving an external component. Electric is about 75% efficient in total from energy source to motion, and that is after everything, batteries are also technically equivalent to both petrol/diesel and the weight of the engine and transmission together, the direct equivalent to the fuel is the lithium that is in the battery. While on that figure the extraordinary energy of hydrocarbons is not so impressive adding in the heavy metal machine you need to make it do anything useful, hence why a tesla model s can drive as far as an ICE car the same size, more or less.

            Electric from fossil fuels is just one of the many ways of making heat to run a steam turbine, like nuclear and solar thermal. Those are all above 50% efficient because the only moving thing is a rotating turbine and a flywheel, no pistons that have to reverse direction a few thousand times a minute.

          • The thing to watch is where you start and where you end. I start from gas (for gas turbines) and diesel/petrol for hydrocarbons. The problem with electricity is that we are not even renewable (over the year) in electricity generation (far from it in fact) let alone total energy demand so switching from diesel to electric is from diesel to gas and although combined cycle gas generating sets are ~45% efficient they are so expensive few are in production because they need to be run more-or-less 24/7 which is why single stage ones are everywhere but only 35% at electricity generation.
            My stance is a simple one, I am for renewable sources and reductions of CO2 wherever possible. However much of what I see is for political advantage only and often results in a warm glow that something is being done when often its actually producing the opposite effect.
            I am also certain the humanity is running headlong into global warming because nobody wants to accept very much lower power usage but nor do they want vast areas covered by wind turbines (an eco-problem as well), or nuclear power stations, so they just hope all the inconvenient consequences all go away if they ignore them. In any case all the major populations are ignoring CO2 reductions anyway.
            I outlined what is required, its just a fact, can you face up to reality?

          • Lower power usage is essential. Our appliances/cars/airplanes/homes/offices need to become much more energy efficient. All studies agree on that: renewables only work if we also reduce energy usage. Electricity use in the UK is declining year on year, albeit slowly (this year is an exception: we are way down). That is achievable. Cars have doubled their mileage in two decades, after car manufacturers said it was not possible. The EU put its foot down and forced them to do so, and then it turned out to be perfectly feasible, it is just that no one wanted to be first. Lighting has been revolutionized with LEDs. Dryers use half the energy they did two decades ago. Vacuum cleaners are down by third.

            This year we have regularly produced 40-50% of the UK electricity demand by renewables (at this very moment it is only 34% – no sun). Private solar panels are not included in these numbers. We are on the right track. We are not fast enough but at least are making some progress.

          • Was not meant to be an attack, just pointing out something that was not entirely correct as someone with a great interest in the subject. You are correct we need to do renewables properly.

            To run the world on nuclear would not cover the world in energy generation though, not even close, but we dont build efficient reactors we build plutonium factories that also sometimes make electricity and are told the alternative technology in the area is far too expensive. Need more molten salt reactors, thorium is already a waste product of the rare earth mining process being the heavy partner to cerium that is the main component of monazite ore it is pretty much already mined at an industrial scale accidently anyway.

          • I want to endorse what Albert has said about low power usage being required.

            So much attention is given to the perceived need for increased generation. It’s a little similar to attempts to generate profit from commercial activity. You can increase turnover, increase the profit margin per unit sold, and you can reduce overheads. But people are most attracted by thoughts of increasing turnover… Which, it could be argued, is the most difficult of those options.

            I may have said before now that I was involved in the campaign that opposed the proposal to build a tidal power barrage across the Severn Estuary in the UK, and I submitted a paper to the Environmental Impact Assessment on the matter.

            As part of my research/studying to prepare my submission I looked at things like the viability and efficiency of various methods of generation. It seemed plain after a little reading that any and all methods of generation represented time wasted if anyone thought they could provide a long term solution to a perceived lack of generation capacity, because year on year our demand for energy increases.

            That clearly has to change. No method of generation can work to address the perceived energy gap unless we first learn to do whatever it is we need to do with less energy, and we’re nowhere near that state of affairs.

      • I had customers that were mine for years in California tell me they were purchasing land in South America during California’s last drought. It seem silly to me because much of that area is also suffering disruption of seasonal stability.Texas had an extremely difficult time as well. It is hard to explain to people that some areas may be colder or wetter or dryer as patterns change the thing is you won’t be able to count on a typical year, it will be all over the place.

        • I farmed for nearly 50 years and never had a typical season. Starting with the 1976 drought, there were years with late frosts, random months without rain, random months where it never stopped etc etc. Winters, though, have definitely become milder.

          • I always find this renewable vs (input any alternative) conversations slightly short sighted. All technologies improve with time. SV’s efficiency will improve, battery / super capacitors will improve etc. Any calculations on space required, efficiency etc., should factor in improvements as seen in mobile phone tech or computer power. The issue is clearly the time left to get from here to there. Unfortunately we wasted so much time thanks to fossil fuel groups. The thing that’s lacking is the political will power to invest enough resources to push the tech along quicker. This is Greta Thunberg’s argument. We need a ‘Manhattan’ project for renewable energy. Funny how there is always money for war projects but not much else.

          • Unfortunately there are the laws of thermodynamics that are immutable which interferes with ‘ever improving technology’. Generally we are mostly running industrial large scale processes at 90%+ efficiency which drastically reduces the ability to do much. Similarly chemical systems (eg batteries) are rather hard to get desperately efficient (eg 80% overall) which is why so many systems are mechanical as far as is possible. Many ‘major improvements’ only add the odd couple of percent azimtotically to an effective theoretical (which means actual) limit.
            As albert says, the real key is to consume less, trouble is for 80% of the world they have so little to start with consuming more is an imperative to their quality of life.

  10. My father flew a US Navy dive bomber from Henderson Field (near modern Honiara) on Guadalcanal in 1943. He talked about Savo Island which I recently learned is an active volcano (255070) with historical eruptions. Would Savo, or an overview of volcanoes along the Solomon Island chain (e.g. Kolombangara) be a worthwhile topic for a future essay?

  11. Shallow swarm with a star at Austmannsbunga / Katla, yesterday:

    03.09.2020 12:46:39 63.662 -19.092 0.1 km 1.3 99.0 8.1 km ENE of Goðabunga

    03.09.2020 12:41:44 63.660 -19.102 0.1 km 1.4 99.0 7.6 km ENE of Goðabunga

    03.09.2020 12:39:05 63.663 -19.085 0.1 km 3.1 99.0 8.5 km ENE of Goðabunga

    03.09.2020 12:28:59 63.662 -19.075 0.1 km 1.4 99.0 9.0 km ENE of Goðabunga

    03.09.2020 12:27:44 63.665 -19.071 0.1 km 2.7 99.0 9.2 km ENE of Goðabunga

    And the GPS suggests it’s risen by 60mm since June.

    We’ve speculated about icequakes in the past, but they are inconsistent with a rising glacier (where there isn’t an icefall), aren’t they?

  12. Taal

    The volcano on an island in an lake on a volcano island
    is still hot! At least some times…for example yesterday:

    According to MIROVA Detection System a high thermal anomaly (380 MW) was detected in satellite images yesterday at 02:40 local time.
    PHIVOLCS reported that weak fumarolic activity or passive emissions of steam occurred that rose approx. 5 m above the crater and drifted NE.
    The seismic station records 8 volcanic earthquakes.
    Volcanic Alert Level 1 remains unchanged.
    Source: Phillippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology volcano activity update 3 September 2020

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