Book Review: Super Volcano

Super Volcano:  The Ticking Time Bomb Beneath Yellowstone National Park, by Greg Breining

This book was an easy one to enjoy, but honestly, there was one aspect of the book that I found highly tiresome, and that was the way that the author felt it necessary to engage in gratuitous attacks on religious beliefs even as he admits that something like that explosion in the Yellowstone Caldera could be apocalyptic for contemporary society and that there is really nothing that can be done to prevent it given our lack of knowledge about the timing and our lack of ability to cope with the intense volcanism of hot spots.  This is not a book that gives a fair amount of cheer to the reader, but it is one of those books that reminds the reader of the dangers that we ignore about in our existence because we can do nothing about them and would rather not think about horrible things.  But for those who are willing to read about horrible things, this is an easy book to appreciate, and as someone who likes reading about horrible things I appreciated that this book not only talked about Yellowstone but also the context of volcanism in general.

The book begins with a discussion of the big blast in Yellowstone that took place about 2.1 million years ago (along with the two others that have happened since then (1).  After that the author looks at Yellowstone today and how it was shaped by the influence of the magma that lies so close beneath the surface (2), as well as the natural wonders that can be found in Yellowstone, of which there are quite a few (3).  The author then spends a chapter engaging in evolutionary just so stories as a way of trying to bolster the legitimacy of geology (4) as well as looking at the puzzle of Yellowstone and the different opinions that exist concerning shallow or deep magma plumes (5).  The author looks at a site in Nebraska to show the distant death that took place because of Yellowstone’s eruptions (6), and then looks at the biggest super volcanoes that have apparently ever existed (7).  After this the author discusses the deadliest volcanoes and what made them so deadly (8) as well as what will likely occur during the next big blast in Yellowstone (9), which is a truly harrowing scenario of around a billion deaths or so and a threat to civilization in the eyes of the author, after which the book concludes with a glossary, references, index, and some information about the author.

Aside from the author’s seeming insecurity about the view of geology in the world and his (all too common desire) to make fun of creationism, this book is an easy one to enjoy and it is one that soberly and seriously discusses the reasons why so many people are vulnerable when it comes to volcanoes, namely that volcanoes tend to be where human beings are concentrated and because volcanic soil is so easy to grow crops on, and because their eruptions are irregular and often with long periods of time, which tends to make people complacent.  In fact, that complacency is really what this book seems to be designed to counteract, which is definitely something that I can appreciate and understand the value of.  I will definitely have to keep my eyes open if there are any other books that discuss the existence of calderas and how they can form and the sort of supervolcanoes that may exist around the world.  Admittedly, this is not a subject that many people are going to be interested in but it is definitely something that I can see the importance of.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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