On my daily Reddit-crawl in search of a nice, neat meme to wrap up this tumultuous year, I came across this article concerning the Yellowstone Caldera.
"Is A Volcan0 Big Enough To Cause An Ice Age Really About to Blow Its Top?"
There's the kind of headline that can really put some shit in your pants, you know what I mean? And then you read the article, which basically concludes well, we don't know for sure, but hey! it kinda looks like it (last line: "our civilization has now entered the geological interval of maximum eruption risk")...the shit just keeps on coming! Look, it's shit creek! Where's the padd--oh, shit!
Calm down, have some dip. Consider how odd it is that this isn't all over the news like an earthquake swarm. (I caught the coverage of the earthquake swarm last week, and thought humph, eruption comin' up. Didn't realize Yellowstone Caldera was quite that large.) Note that, while Yellowstone is considered a "high threat for volcanic eruption", it's far from the highest. That'd be Kilauea, which isn't surprising at all since Kilauea has been erupting continuously for 25 years now!)
Wonder why scientists, contrary to the alarming tone of that "breakthroughalert.com" article, don't seem to be overly concerned. I mean, earthquake swarms and caldera floor movement are generally considered reliable signs of impending eruption. The Yellowstone Plateau has shot upwards up to eight inches in the past four years...doesn't sound like much, but it's more than triple the norm.
Nobody's given me permission to PANIC!!! yet, so I'll just let this bubble away in the back of my brain. But in the meantime, curse the Internet for filling my pants this morning. And (hello?) I'd really like some sort of definitive answer here. Is it gonna blow? Or isn't it? And if it does, will it stamp us out like bugs? Or will it just parboil a few intrepid tourists?
It occurs to me that people were asking this all year about the stock market, about the economy as a whole, about the cataclysmic spike in oil prices...I even heard commentators likening the swelling of support for Barack Obama to a volcanic eruption. 2008: Year of the Volcano. Who saw all this coming? (Kunstler, put your hand down.)
And doesn't it feel like the eruptions are ongoing? It does from here. There's a tension, a what next? kind of thing, as we've left the comfortable behind and entered uncharted economic territory. The United States has never printed money at anything like the rate it did over the last four months. Companies large and small have imploded, or sit on life support. Some towns have more vacant, foreclosed houses than occupied homes. This isn't your daddy's recession.
The outlook for 2009 is decidedly mixed. Obama's inauguration will come early and be welcomed as the historic, euphoric triumph it is. He continues to impress me as a pragmatic centrist who will get stuff done, but I worry he'll be at the mercy of a confluence of events beyond his control, threatening to overwhelm him like a lava flow. Internationally, we seem to be regressing into nation-states and spheres of influence; several regions threaten to (there's that word again) erupt. India/Pakistan will only intensify, particularly if Obama follows through with a troop surge in Afghanistan. Iraq, contrary to the incessant crowing of the right wing, is still a mess: whatever good work that has been done there will swiftly be undone if Americans leave. I keep waiting for Israel to finally lose patience with the pinprick rocket attacks of Hamas and simply obliterate them. It hasn't happened yet, if only because of the blowback such an action ensures. (The world's sympathy lies overwhelmingly with Hamas, which sincerely perplexes me.)
And Russia also "bears" watching: the little skirmish with Georgia will not be its last. Look for them to consolidate, bit by bit, while the rest of the world tinkers with its broken economy.
Personally, this should be a good year ahead. The years ending in -9 have been the best of my life. In 1979, I was the most popular kid in my class, sought out for games of kissing tag that would get today's kids expelled and probably charged with something. 1989 was far and away my best year of high school. I met Eva in 1999. Something big and positive is just bound to happen in 2009, I can feel it.
Or maybe that's just a volcanic spasm.
Happy New Year.