Around 2,000 BC, the city of Akrotiri – built upon an island now known as Santorini, in the southern Aegean Sea – was a bustling sea port. They had multi-story dwellings, their interiors covered in elaborate frescoes, paved roads, advanced metalworking, indoor running water, and flush-toilets. We’d suspect that the natives of Akrotiri were time travelers, if not for the fact that they built their highly advanced settlement right beneath the most destructive volcano the world has seen in the last 10,000 years.
In 17th-century BC, a magnitude 7 earthquake reduced the town to rubble, then smacked the ruins with a few 30-foot tidal waves for good measure. There’s archaeological evidence that the survivors had begun cleaning up and rebuilding… when the island’s volcano, Thera, erupted.
The eruption was four to five times more powerful than Krakatoa, releasing hundreds of atomic bombs worth of energy in less than one second. When the dust finally settled, it perfectly preserved the ruins of the city for modern-day archaeologists to gawk at.
If widespread theories are correct, then Thera may have been Plato’s inspiration for the Atlantis myth – a destroyed island, a lost, highly advanced civilization – but, if anything, the myth downplays the reality. It didn’t just sink beneath the sea, it took a killer three-hit combo from nature, all but simultaneously crumbling, drowning, and exploding.
Isaac Cline was the meteorologist for Galveston, Texas, from 1889 to 1901. He was one of the first to provide reliable forecasts of freezing weather. He also provided some of the first available flood warnings on the Colorado and Brazos rivers. In the early 1890s, some residents became concerned about the possibility of hurricanes. They wanted to erect an expensive seawall in front of the city, to block high water in case a major storm came in from the Gulf of Mexico. Cline was not a fan. In 1891, he wrote an article in the Galveston Daily Newsin which he gave his official meteorological opinion that the thought of a hurricane ever doing any serious harm to Galveston was “a crazy idea.” The idea of a seawall quickly faded after that.
On September 8th, 1901, a hurricane came in from the Gulf of Mexico. Galveston was devastated. Between 6,000 and 12,000 people died, including Cline’s pregnant wife Cora. Cline’s stand in that newspaper, nine years earlier, is credited with being a large contributing factor to the devastation. Galveston remains the deadliest single-day event in United States history.
Interestingly, Cline remained with the Weather Bureau until his retirement in 1935. The regional forecasting center was moved from Galveston to New Orleans in 1901 – people were probably pretty upset with Cline and the Weather Bureau in Galveston. Cline cultivated a stellar reputation in New Orleans and successfully predicted major flooding in 1912, 1915 and 1927. He even received an honorary doctorate in 1934 from Tulane University!
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Earthquake Ruptures caused by the 1981 earthquakes in Corinth, Greece.
With pictures like this it’s easy to see just how and where the earth was ripped apart. A rupture like this would have happened in approximately 1 second and it caused a magnitude 6.7 earthquake across the area. The damage caused to nearby areas was awful, and it’s humbling to stand by a fault like this and realise just how powerful movement of the earth really is. This fault is still active and will cause another huge earthquake again - it’s just a question of when.
Judith Resnik was the second American woman in space, and the first Jewish American. She received her PhD in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. She was recruited for the space program while at Xerox Corp. by NASA recruiter, actress Nichelle Nichols. Resnik died during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The IEEE grants an award for space engineering in her name.
Number 152 in an ongoing series celebrating remarkable women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Tsunamis are caused by energy originating underwater from a volcanic eruption, a submarine landslide, or, most commonly, an earthquake on the ocean floor.
1. For example, the tectonic plates of the Earth’s surface slip, releasing a massive amount of energy into the water.
2. This energy travels up to the surface, displacing water and raising it above the normal sea level.
3. Gravity pulls that energy back down.
4. As a result, the energy ripples outwards horizontally.
Thus, the tsunami is born, moving at over 500 miles per hour.
Malaria, which is caused by the parasitic protozoa plasmodium, is the deadliest disease of all time. No disease, including the plague or smallpox, has killed more people. It has also killed more people than all wars, famines, and natural disasters combined.
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In 479 BC, when Persian soldiers beseiged the Greek city of Potidaea, the tide retreated much farther than usual, leaving a convenient invasion route. But this wasn’t a stroke of luck. Before they had crossed halfway, the water returned in a wave higher than anyone had ever seen, drowning the attackers. The Potiidaeans believed they had been saved by the wrath of Poseidon. But what really saved them was likely the same phenomenon that has destroyed countless others: a tsunami.
Deep magma reservoirs are key to volcanic ‘super-eruptions’, new research suggests
New study shows the importance of large reservoirs in creating Earth’s most powerful volcanic eruptions and explains why they are so rare
Large reservoirs of magma stored deep in the Earth’s crust are key to producing some of the Earth’s most powerful volcanic eruptions, new research has shown.
In a new study, an international team of scientists claim that the most powerful volcanic eruptions, dubbed 'super-eruptions’, are triggered by a slow and steady drip feed of magma from large reservoirs deep within the Earth’s crust into smaller reservoirs closer to the surface.
These large reservoirs draw in hot magma from the Earth’s mantle and exist as large volumes of partially molten rock that are able to store magma like a sponge.
By conducting a number of numerical simulations of this process, the research team showed that these large reservoirs are crucial to generating the largest volcanic eruptions on Earth.
The team also showed that these large reservoirs can take millions of years to form, hence why 'super-eruptions’ happen so rarely.
It is believed that these findings could help to understanding why some volcanoes erupt frequently and at certain magnitudes.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The amount of magma that is stored in the upper layer of the Earth’s crust determines the frequency and magnitude of volcanic eruptions. Small eruptions that erupt less than one cubic kilometre of material occur very frequently (daily to yearly), whilst the largest eruptions that erupt hundreds of cubic kilometres of material are infrequent, with hundreds of thousands of years between them.
Co-author of the study Dr Wim Degruyter, from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said: “Our current understanding tells us that hot magma can be injected from the Earth’s lower crust into colder surroundings near the surface. At this point, the magma can either erupt or cool down to such a point that the magma solidifies and an eruption does not occur.”
“Up until now, this theory hasn’t been able to explain how the magma can maintain its heat in these near-surface reservoirs and thus produce extremely powerful eruptions.”
“Our study has shown that the key to this is much larger reservoirs deeper below the surface that are able to slowly increase the temperature in the upper part of the crust such that it becomes more amenable to the storage of magma. When the crust has become fully mature, giant reservoirs are able to form in the upper crust and thus we see extremely powerful eruptions.”
Previous research has revealed that a deeper magma body connects to a magma reservoir in the upper part of the crust underneath Yellowstone - one of the world’s largest supervolcanoes. The deeper magma body sits 12 to 28 miles below the surface and it’s believed that the hot molten rock could fill the 1,000-cubic-mile Grand Canyon 11.2 times.
The last known eruptions from Yellowstone were 2m, 1.2m and 640,000 years ago, and it is believed that these were fed by the volcanic plumbing system that sits beneath it.
“Our calculations appear to agree with the observations that have been made at Yellowstone,” Dr Degruyter continued.
The study, Lifetime and size of shallow magma bodies controlled by crustal-scale magmatism, was led by researchers at ETH Zurich, and also included researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology.