Season 1 Episode 3 - Mission #854 - A New Feed

Season One - Episode Three – News Feed



An unprecedented number of volcanic eruptions around the world in the past twenty-four hours has placed thousands of lives in danger and left leading vulcanologists scrambling for an explanation. "Our top minds are reviewing all of the data we've collected," said Dr. Emilia Bell, head of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol, England. "Conclusions will be released as soon as they're available.

"Officials with the Volcano Research Center – Earthquake Research Institute at the Aerial view of a village outside Baitoushan, University of Tokyo – are searching for answers as well.  "It almost seems like a domino effect, with a new eruption in each time zone, exactly one hour apart," said Dr. Setsuya Watanabe, Professor of Geophysics. "It's unheard of, but clearly not impossible. We had no prior warning for today's events, so we must carefully study what has happened and learn from it to make sure we're prepared in the future. Meticulous scrutiny of this event could yield new insights into our world's ever-changing interior."

Regarding the eruption chain's consistent one-hour interval and bizarre eastward progression, Bell said, "We have no information as yet to indicate a clear cause or pattern. The circumstances of this momentous geological event are staggering and uncanny, but in time they will be explained. The cause of an event of this magnitude can't evade us forever." When asked to confirm that the chain included several volcanoes previously believed to be extinct, Bell declined to comment.

Bell's careful statement was the topic of much debate during last evening's edition of Common Ground, the latest prime time commentary show dominating the Neilsen ratings. Among the guests were noted vulcanologist Stephen Peters of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who vehemently discounted non-traditional theories about the eruptions. "Leaping to conclusions at this point would not only be rash but destructive, hindering the scientific thinking needed to determine the truth behind this remarkable event." 

Counter-panelist George Wabashaw, known as "Profundo" among his fledgling religious sect, "The Armchair Apocalypse," was predictably reactionary. "This has nothing to do with science!" he declared. "Revelations speaks of the Sixth Seal unleashing earthquakes and turning the sun as black as sackcloth. These are the End Times, friends, and they are beyond our understanding or control! We must take stock and brace for the liberating fury of Judgment! The Armchair Apocalypse is ready to help anyone through this precarious time.  You can reach us to volunteer your time and money at ..."

The first volcanic eruption was recorded at 6 A.M. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) within the Eldgja Fissure System in Iceland, an explosive force that blasted through part of the Myrdalsjokull ice cap. It was the first eruption there since 935 AD. Exactly one hour later, a second eruption occurred at Montanas del Fuego on Isla de Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Another eruption followed in the next hour at the Isola Vulcano in the Aeolian archipelago off the coast of Italy. Nine more eruptions occurred over the next nine hours.Nisyros in Alexandros, Harrat ad Dakhana in Saudi Arabia’s Harrat Hutaymah volcanic fiel, Barren Island in the Indian Ocean, Baitoushan on the border between China dn Korea, Me-Akan in Japan, Zhelotovsky in Kamchatka, Russia, Raoul Island in Kermandee, Mageik in Alaska, and Volcan de las Tres Virgenes in Baja California.

"It's like one of those disaster movies," said Della Edell, a missionary for the Church of the Divine Word and witness to the eruption at Raoul Island. "We saw a group of tourists making camp in the area last night and now, this morning, the whole area is Only God knows what happened to them."

Of the twelve eruptions, the largest by Baitoushan, with a Volcanic Index (VEI) of 6 and an estimated plume height of more than 25 kilometers. Only four other volcanoes have erupted with more violence in the last 10,000 years, one of which was Baitoushan itself in 1050 AD.  The last eruption to register a 6 on the VEI occurred in 1883, destroying the island of Krakatau.  The second most powerful eruption occurred in Iceland with a VEI of 4, the same force of the 1981 Mt. St. Helens eruption in Washington state. Yesterday's remaining eruptions each registered a VEI of 4, the same force of the in 1982 in West Java, Indonesia.

Though no major population centers are yet threatened by these eruptions, scores of rural communities have been destroyed or evacuated, leaving thousands homeless with hundreds or more dead or missing. Damage is conservatively estimated in the millions. Each nation affected by the eruptions is responding in its own fashion.

Mageik, Alaska has been declared a federal disaster area, and the Alaskan Governor has called in the Army National Guard to assist relief efforts. Similar overtures have been extended to victims in Kamchatka, but other regions may not fare as well. Unconfirmed reports indicate Chinese and North Korean military forces are deployed along their respective borders to prevent either nation from taking advantage of the Baitoushan eruption.

International relief organizations promptly responded to the catastrophes as well, principally coordinated under the United Nations' Phoenix provision (originally intended to provide global aid in the event of nuclear war).

According to some scientists, many more relief efforts will be needed to help with this tragedy's aftermath. "Not only must we contend with fires and lava flow, but the huge clouds of ash and water vapor being pumped into the atmosphere will alter weather patterns," said Richard Davidson, Assistant Administrator for the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). "Dramatic effects, from torrential rains to fierce lightning storms to showers of mud, are common results of ash particles acting as nuclei for raindrops."

Davidson added that the eruptions might have other ecological effects as well. "We know that small ash and aerosol particles are able to reflect incoming solar radiation, which can cause global cooling. The 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines caused a worldwide cooling of about half a degree Celsius. Such changes in temperature have effects on some large-scale high and low-pressure zones which, of course, affect weather patterns. Unfortunately, at this point, we can only guess at the total future environmental impact."