Can you stop a volcano?

While researching the eruption of Cumbre Vieja, I asked myself “can you stop a volcano from erupting?”. The short answer is theoretically yes, but the longer answer is kinda but it’d take unfathomable effort, time, money, and resources with no guarantee of success.

Bill McGuire wrote a piece on how to stop a volcano based on Yellowstone Park’s supervolcano:

Yellowstone is no ordinary volcano. Three times in the last couple of million years, this so-called supervolcano, located in the western US, has blown itself apart in some of the biggest explosions ever known.

The last, which happened around 630,000 years ago, pumped out enough ash to cover most of the country, and left behind a giant crater – the Yellowstone Caldera – more than 70km (44 miles) across.

The huge volumes of sulphur gas blasted into the atmosphere by the eruption would have blotted out the Sun, causing global temperatures to plunge and spawning a volcanic winter that lasted for several years.

But Yellowstone is still restless. Earthquakes are common, the ground repeatedly swells and sinks, and the area is peppered with boiling springs, mud pots and geysers.

A gigantic body of magma still lurks beneath the volcano, so another massive eruption could happen some time in the future. There are concerns that the resulting volcanic winter might destroy our civilisation, but not if we can take action to try and stop it first.

NASA have a plan to stop the potential eruption: drill a hole in it. The idea is that an 8km-deep borehole would allow for large volumes of cold water to flow down the hole and reduce the heat inside. This would theoretically cool the magma, make it harden and prevent it from feeding an eruption. Sounds good in theory but it comes with a large cost—NASA estimates the price of this work at $3.5bn (£2.57bn). It would also take hundreds, or even thousands, of years to do, by which we might all be forced to live in the metaverse anyway.

More on volcanoes: Volcano pizza and La Soufrière’s eruption: before and after photos

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