A Geology Lesson for Bobby Jindal
by Charles Lemos, Tue Feb 24, 2009 at 09:38:44 PM EST
How is it that the GOP continues to shoot itself in the foot with its anti-science crusade? Back during the general election, Governor Sarah Palin, in a moment of horrific ignorance, wailed against fruit flies, not realizing the role that the humble fruit fly plays in scientific research. Then there is Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma who believes that global climate change is "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."
Now it's Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's turn to demonstrate a profound ignorance of the country he lives in with yet another flippant anti-science remark. The United States ranks third, behind Indonesia and Japan, in the number of historically active volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes are found in the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest. The remainder are widely distributed in the western part of the nation from California to Colorado. The entire Western United States sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire. A part of this ring of fire is the Cascade Volcanic Arc which includes nearly 20 major volcanoes. Seattle and Portland are both firmly at least until the Earth shakes within the Cascade Volcanic Arc.
In total, there are 169 volcanoes in the United States. Eighteen of them have been designated as "Very High Threat Volcanoes" by the United States Geological Survey. Twelve of these have been active or erupted within the last 200 years and eight since 1984. Here's what the USGS has to say on the dangers posed:
These volcanoes have devastated large areas with volcanic blasts, invaded their surroundings with lava flows, produced large mudflows that have swept over hundreds of square miles, emitted noxious gases that have caused lung ailments and produced ash clouds that have brought down passenger jets and blanketed thousands of square miles.
And yet the Governor of a state that was devastated by a natural disaster just three and half years ago thinks that it is too much to spend $140 million, as he put it, "for something called `volcano monitoring.'" Well, let's buy the Governor a clue:
Monitoring volcanoes for signs of activity, another vital component, is carried out by USGS earth scientists at three volcano observatories, which were established to study active volcanoes in Hawaii (1912), the Cascades (1980), and Alaska (1988). These researchers record earthquakes, survey the surfaces of volcanoes, map volcanic rock deposits, and analyze the chemistry of volcanic gas and fresh lava to detect warning signs of impending activity and determine the most likely type of activity that will affect areas around a volcano. During the past 10 years, several warnings of eruptions were issued by the USGS and monitoring of recently active volcanoes in the United States was expanded.
The question in my mind is can ever we trust the science illiterate GOP with our lives? The answer is a firm and resounding no.[Update] More from Scientific American