Active geology can be scary

A post that caught my eye this morning …

There are some impressive lava fields near Reykjavik, but the lava fields of the south are simply vast, and produce hours of the most boring driving imaginable, with nothing but gray moss and distant mountains to look at.  This was all laid down in the eruption of Laki in 1783, in which a 25-kilometer gash opened up in the earth, and poured out lava for five months, and intermittently for the next 11 years.  Most of Iceland was covered by ash and cinders contaminated by fluorine, which killed most crops and maybe half the livestock.  …

The eruption was so vast that it had enormous geopolitical consequences.  A sulphur dioxide fog settled over much of Europe, so thick that ships could not leave port.  As people are not equipped to breathe sulphuric acid, thousands died.  The freezing winter of 1784 caused widespread famine, notably in France, where it probably contributed to the French Revolution.

In America, the Chesapeake froze over.  In Asia the monsoon cycle was disrupted, and the Nile failed to flood, resulting in the starvation deaths of a sixth of the population of Egypt.

Active geology can be pretty damned scary.

Human memory is so short. No one remembers this now. I wonder whether this might be because we prefer to believe that human activity is REALLY IMPORTANT, because that gives us a sense of control, when in fact at any moment we might suddenly find out that active geology is waaaaaay more important than we thought and boom, we’re facing a huge catastrophe we could not really anticipate and cannot affect.

If I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel, I would almost certainly start with active geology.

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