Volcanos, the ultimate natural force of destruction. They’re unforgiving, uncompromising and unstoppable.
About 1,500 volcanoes around the world are considered to be active, with more than 10% of them in the United States. Is there any way we could stop them before the destruction begins?
Could we literally fight fire with fire? What if we nuked an active volcano? Would it solve the problem? Or make it way, way worse?
Volcanoes are as cool as they are terrifying. They are an incredible force of nature, capable of destroying our lives on their path of destruction.
But could we give them a taste of their own medicine? How could we nuke such a fiery inferno? Well, we’d need to bring out the big guns.
The nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan during WWII was the equivalent of over 130 million kg (300 million lb) of TNT. That had plenty of impact! Could we use something like it to blow a volcano to smithereens?
First, we’d have to figure out the target. While it’s difficult to predict when a volcano will erupt, there are some warning signs. Watch for things like tiny earthquakes, releases of steam and other gases from the volcano’s mouth and bulging from the sides.
That being said, whether the volcano will erupt is still a massive educated guess. So, let’s say that our scientists locked on to an active volcano that’s ready to blow.
It would be a miracle if they could coordinate with the military fast enough to try and stop it. Ideally, we’d be able to predict it a few days before the volcano was about to explode.
This would provide more than enough time for people to pack up their belongings and evacuate without causing the kinds of highway traffic jams we see during hurricanes, tsunamis, and other disasters. With everyone out of harm’s way, geologists, volcanologists and weapons experts would determine any weak spots on a volcano’s sides that could be hit effectively.
Next, a highly-trained crew of pilots would fly over the volcano, drop their payload and get the heck out of Dodge. If things worked perfectly, as in they used the exact right amount of explosives, and hit the perfect spot in exactly the right way, the top of the volcano would crumble into itself, keeping the magma mostly underground.
There might still be some seepage around the base of the volcano, but it wouldn’t be anything like how the eruption would’ve played out naturally. But, if we’re being honest, it would be like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.
Geologists warn that trying to bomb a volcano might actually make things worse. A lot worse.
The explosion of the bomb mixed with the build-up of pressure inside a volcano could amplify the eruption. The force would release even more ash and lava, spreading it even further than it would’ve gone with the volcano’s own power.
And that’s if we managed to hit the target. If the nuke missed its target, there’s still a nuclear bomb being dropped in an area where people live, or at least near enough that they would feel the effects of the radiation.
If you had to pick which one, which would you choose? Death by lava or nuclear destruction?
We can’t bomb our way out of this problem, the same way we can’t stop magma from building up under volcanoes. Here at WHAT IF, we’ve tried throwing trash and pouring liquid nitrogen into volcanoes. Long story short – it doesn’t work. Don’t mess with volcanos!
As cool as it sounds on paper, nuking a volcano just won’t work. While man-made firepower can be impressive, nature isn’t quaking in its boots at what we can do.
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- “What would really happen if you nuked a volcano?”. Keith Veronese, 2011. Io9. Accessed March 11 2020.
- “Why do volcanoes erupt?”. 2020. cosmosmagazine.com. Accessed March 11 2020.
- “When The U.S. Army Bombed Hawaii’s Volcanoes”. Bressan, David. 2020. Forbes. Accessed March 11 2020.
- “What Would Happen If You Dropped A Nuclear Bomb Into A Volcano?”. 2020. Iflscience. Accessed March 11 2020.
- “Global Nuclear Waste Storage Facilities May Corrode Faster Than Previously Thought, Study Predicts”. 2020. Iflscience. Accessed March 11 2020.