Have an account? Please log in.
Text size: Small font Default font Larger font
Radiology Daily
Radiology Daily PracticalReviews.com Radiology Daily

Earth ‘X-ray’ Sees Doom—In 100 Million Years

February 7, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging
  • Comments

Imaging of the Earth’s core has revealed the possible early stages of what could be a cataclysmic volcanic eruption.

Michael Thorne, PhD, an assistant professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, has used seismic waves—data from earthquakes—to image the Earth’s interior, just as X-rays image the interior of a body. “What we may be detecting,” Dr. Thorne said, “is the start of one of these large eruptive events that, if it ever happens, could cause very massive destruction on Earth.”


Fortunately, he added:

This is the type of mechanism that may generate massive plume eruptions, but on the timescale of 100 million to 200 million years from now. So don’t cancel your cruises.

Dr. Thorne is principal author of a study detailing the findings, which is to be published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. He was quoted in a university news release.

Various types of seismic waves travel through different materials at different speeds. That allows scientists to create pictures, like CT images, of structures inside the Earth. Dr. Thorne’s research focused on two continent-size “thermochemical piles” of rock along the boundary between Earth’s molten core and the warm but mostly solid mantle, 1,800 miles below the surface. The piles, one under the South Pacific, the other under Africa, underlie most of the planet’s volcanic hot spots.

Dr. Thorne and his colleagues found evidence that the Pacific pile actually consists of an ongoing slow-motion collision of at least two piles. At the place of collision, two smaller blobs of partly molten rock have merged to create a larger blob the size of Florida. That larger blob may, eventually, generate a gargantuan eruption that, Dr. Thorne said, could take one of two forms:

  • A supervolcano eruption like those that have occurred periodically at Wyoming’s Yellowstone caldera, covering North America with volcanic ash in the process
  • A flood basalt eruption like the one that created the Columbia River basalts in the Pacific Northwest 15 to 17 million years ago, burying vast areas beneath basalt lava

Either would cause tremendous destruction and, Dr. Thorne said, could lead to mass extinctions.

Again, yikes. At least we’re getting plenty of warning.

Related seminar: Radiology Review


Permalink: http://www.radiologydaily.com/?p=10228


  • No Related Posts
  • Comments

Would you like to keep current with radiological news and information?

Post Your Comments and Responses

Comments are closed.