We’re all gonna die (maybe)

A couple years ago, it was fun to have all this talk bubble up about super-volcanoes, especially since it’s geologically known that two of the greatest of those literally earth-blowing events have taken place out here in the West, namely at Yellowstone and Mammoth lakes. The one that was getting most of the attention was Yellowstone, mainly because it’s guessed that the last time that swingin’ hot spot flipped its magmonic lid was about 675,000 years ago, and there were those opining that, since that particular region seemed to be on a bit of a 675,000 year cycle, and since its caldera was bulging in a measurable way, well, we could be due for round three any day now, give or take 25,000 years. And should round three go down, we would all very quickly find ourselves surrounded by the rushing waters of Excrement Creek, with nary a handheld motational device to be found.

I bring it up again because I saw a report a couple of weeks ago from a more sober set of scientists, who poopoo-ed the ultra-disaster scenarios as nothing more than a decent reason for the Discovery Channel to run a Suppose Yellowstone Killed Everybody? special. The white coat’s reasoning was that calderas such as Yellowstone rise and fall all the time, and there’s no real reason to think that just because Yellowstone’s caldera has been active lately, it’s getting ready to incinerate the western United States.

So let’s assume that the threat of a super-volcano ruining your water-skiing vacation for the upcoming summer is punier than the runt in that viral litter that just hatched in your throat. Let’s deal with more realistic potential in the realm of geological tantrums.

It was 53 years ago, on Dec. 16, 1954, that one of the nicer roadside attractions in this state was created. Well, nice if you’re a geology freak. On that date, not one, but two large earthquakes rocked the Fairview Peak area 35 miles east of Fallon, creating a locale that has come to be known, naturally enough, as Earthquake Faults. The first jolt measured a most respectable 7.1, followed four minutes later by a solid 6.8, which means both were stronger than the killer Northridge and Loma Prieta quakes of recent times.

Since then, Nevada has been quite quiet. In the last 53 years, nary a 6 has registered on the state Richter Scale. In the records of the last 150 years, Nevada has averaged a 6.0 quake every 10 years, and a 7.0 every 30. If past performance is any indicator, we’re due. For something. Sometime. When it does happen, may we be roaming the earth as desperado dust bunnies.

Correction: Mistakes were made in last week’s column. I wrote that the Nevada caucuses would take place on Dec. 19. Of course, that’s a steaming heap of flapdoodle. Those caucuses will occur on JANUARY 19th. If you want to participate, go to your party Web site—www.nvdemscaucus.com or www.nvgopcaucus.com for the two biggies.