What's happening? A subterranean volcano lies dormant for thousands of years as a vast reservoir of magma builds up, before eventually erupting with apocalyptic force, capable of obliterating continents. Earth's magnetic field has declined in strength by 10% since monitoring began 150 years ago and could collapse completely, causing a reversal of the magnetic poles. A big asteroid may collide with Earth. On 13 January, 2004 some scientists believed that a 30m object, designated 2004 AS1, had a 25% chance of hitting the planet within 36 hours. Fresh water from the melting polar ice caps flowing into the northern Atlantic shuts down the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe and North America warm, and brings about an ice age. Deaths in South East Asia prompted fears that Avian Influenza A(H5N1) may mutate into a form that could be easily transmitted between humans, triggering a pandemic. Oil production follows a bell curve. Plentiful on the up slope, oil becomes increasingly scarce and expensive after production has peaked and demand outstrips supply.
Who says? "We don't want to be sensationalist about this, but it's going to happen. We just can't say exactly when," says Prof. Stephen Self, a geologist at the Open University. 'It is not a matter of whether it will happen, but when,' declared scientists who presented the latest research at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. "A catastrophic asteroid impact is quite probable in any one year and inevitable in the long run," according to Duncan Steel, author of Rogue Asteroids and Doomsday Comets. 'It's not a question of if, only when. One day you'll wake up... buried beneath nine stories of snow,' says Robert Felix, author of Not By Fire But By Ice "It's a matter of when, not if, the flu will strike. We don't want to cause panic, but we have to take it seriously." Prof. Pat Troop, Health Protection Agency "The glass starts full and ends empty. There are only so many more drinks to closing time. It's the same with oil. We have to find the bar before we can drink what's in it." Dr. Colin J.Campbell, ASPO.
Isn't that a movie? Supervolcano (2005) is a TV drama about a super-eruption at Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, US: 'A true story of global disaster... it just hasn't happened yet'. The Core (2003): Earth's core has stopped rotating, but boffins manage to get it going again, using a nuclear device! Incoming asteroids and potentially catastrophic comets, respectively, inform the scenarios of Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998). The Day After Tomorrow (2004) is a special-effects-filled look at what the world would look like if the greenhouse effect abruptly precipitates the onset of the next Ice Age. Outbreak (1995) imagines what would happen if a deadly airborne virus found its way into the USA and started killing off people at an epidemic rate. The End of Suburbia (2004), an apocalyptic documentary, concludes: 'We're literally stuck up a cul-de-sac in a cement SUV without a fill-up.' Literally...
What will be the immediate effect? Experts say the occurrence of a super-eruption would have severe environmental effects and might threaten global civilisation. Many aspects of life today would be literally turned upside down, both for humans and for migrating animals that use an inner compass. A 1km wide asteroid could hit Australia at 20km per second, throwing huge lumps of rock into orbit. Forty-five minutes later, blazing fragments would begin to reduce Britain to ashes. If the Gulf Stream stopped flowing today, the result would be sudden and dramatic. Winter would quickly set in over the eastern half of North America and all of Europe and Siberia, and never go away. The UK Influenza Pandemic Contingency Plan includes quarantine measures and arrangements for the emergency services. Once a pandemic has started, it could take up to six months to develop a vaccine. During the 1970s, shortfalls in production as small as 5% caused the price of oil to nearly quadruple, with devastating economic consequences.
Has it happened before? Explosions of this magnitude "happen about every 600,000 years at Yellowstone," says Chuck Wicks of the U.S. Geological Survey. "And it's been about 620,000 years since the last super explosive eruption there." "Reversals happen every 250,000 years or so, and as there has not been one for almost a million years, we are due one soon," says Dr Alan Thomson of the British Geological Survey. A six mile wide asteroid may have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago, when it smashed into the Caribbean Sea, forming a crater about 180 kilometers in diameter near the Yucatan Peninsula. When the Gulf Stream abruptly switched off about 12,700 years ago, it brought about a 1,300-year cold period, known as the Younger Dryas. Britain froze in continuous permafrost and icebergs travelled as far south as Portugal. 'Flu pandemics occur every 20 to 30 years, but the Hong Kong pandemic which killed 1 million in 1968 was nearly 40 years ago. So, by this measure, an outbreak is overdue. Peak Oil is also called "Hubbert's Peak," after Dr. Marion King Hubbert, who accurately predicted the peak of US domestic oil production in 1970. He also predicted global production would peak in 1995.
Does this mean the end of the world? 74,000 years ago, a massive volcano in Sumatra filled Earth's atmosphere with dark clouds and reduced the world temperature by 8 to 10 degrees Celsius, killing close to 80% of living beings, including humans. According to the Hyderabad Computer Model, when a polar reversal of the Earth coincides with the eleven year cycle of the Sun's polar reversal, catastrophic problems arise that could terminate human civilization. Kinetic energy equals one-half of mass times velocity squared, and asteroids and comets typically impact at between 25,000 and 156,250 miles per hour. A big impact could carry the energy contained in all the nuclear weapons ever made. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age within three years. Civilization as we know it probably couldn't withstand the impact of such a crushing blow. Once the virus gained the ability to pass easily between humans, the results could be catastrophic. Even in the best case scenario, a 'flu pandemic will cause a massive public health emergency. As we slide along the down slope of the global oil production curve, we may find ourselves slipping into what some scientists are calling a 'post-industrial stone age'.
What will be the long term consequences? The fallout from a super-eruption could cause a 'volcanic winter', with plummeting temperatures and acidic rain devastating global agriculture and causing many plant and animal species to disappear forever. We would be more exposed to intense busts of solar radiation, from which Earth is normally protected by its magnetic field. Particle storms in the upper atmosphere could cause dramatic climatic changes. Low-orbiting satellites would get battered. An asteroid the size of two football fields would carve a crater two miles wide and the resulting earthquake would be of a 6.4 magnitude. A rock this size hits the planet about every 14,000 years. An ice age lasts at least 700 or so years, up to around 100,000 years. Worldwide, experts predict anything between 2m and 50m deaths and the possibility of more than 50,000 additional deaths in the UK. 'The next tough oil shortage, even if it is not acknowledged as a post-peak oil extraction phenomenon of diminishing supply, will cripple the globalised economy' reckons Jan Lundberg.
What are the chances of it happening? A super-eruption would have a similar effect to a 1.5km-diameter space rock striking Earth, but such an eruption is five to 10 times more likely to happen than an asteroid impact. The shortest interval between flips is between 20,000 and 30,000 years, and the longest is 50 million years. The dipole reversal pattern is erratic but the most recent one occurred 780,000 years ago. The chance of a civilization-ending impact within our lifetimes is around one in 5,000. "None of the known near-Earth objects will be threatening in the next century," assures Donald Yeomans at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It's almost certain that, if nothing is done about global warming, it will happen sooner rather than later. "There is no doubt there will be another pandemic," declares Klaus Stohr of the WHO Global Influenza Program. 'Peak Oil is no longer on the way. It is here... There is no changing course for us.' An Important Announcement by Michael C. Ruppert, March 10, 2005
When is it liable to happen? The frequency of super-eruptions is estimated at about once every 100,000 years. "These are minimum estimates. Super-eruptions could be even more frequent; we just don't know," said Prof. Self. According to Professor Ronald Merrill of the University of Washington, "Polarity reversals... seem to occur randomly in time". About once every 100,000 years, we can expect an impact somewhere on Earth by an asteroid big enough to cause a global catastrophe, killing a quarter to half of all mankind. But we don't know when that might be. Computer models and scientists willing to speculate suggest the switch could flip as early as next year. Or it may be generations from now. The influenza pandemic could occur anywhere from next week to the coming years, WHO said. Estimates from the oil industry indicate "a seemingly unbridgeable supply-demand gap opening up after 2007," which will lead to major fuel shortages and increasingly severe blackouts beginning around 2008-2012.
Does this have to do with 2012? According to India Daily: 'some geologists' predict the next super eruption will occur 'around 2012'. In The Orion Prophecy, Geryl and Ratinckx interpret prophecies of the Maya and Ancient Egyptians to indicate a cataclysm in 2012, when the Earth's magnetic field will flip. In The Bible Code, Michael Drosnin tells how the Torah predicted the Holocaust and Hiroshima. In 2012, a comet is predicted which will crumble into pieces and/or 'annihilate' the earth. Will Hart postulates: 'There are short and long term fluctuations in solar output and, as a result, great ice ages, little ice ages and warm interglacials, like the one which we are nearing the end of now." European Community contingency plans assume that a pandemic will have to be faced before 2012. Some theorists speculate that the diminshing supply of oil will increasingly lead to military confrontation that will eventualy escalate to nuclear warfare.
What can we do? Geologists feel that the issue of a catastrophic eruption, which is ultimately inevitable, is being ignored by elected politicians. Patrick Geryl suggests survivalists hole up in the Drakensberg mountains, in Southern Africa. 'From that point,' he reckons, 'civilization can be restarted'. The JPL Sentry System continually scans the most current asteroid catalogue for possibilities of future impact with Earth over the next 100 years. Even if a tremendous reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was achieved immediately, the process of Global Warming would still continue. Vaccination is expensive and may be counter-productive, but it's imperative to establish best practices in raising animals for food. The coming oil peak is substantially constrained by physical geological limits. But timing of the peak depends on human socio-economic behavior.
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