Nothing reveals the lack of scientific knowledge of the average American like a news story related to science. Earlier this week, there were reports that a hurricane was on the path to hit the Big Island of Hawaii–where the Kilauea volcano continues to erupt. The comments sections following on-line articles were enough to make you cry–either from their unintentional hilarity, or out of grave concern for the future of our populace.
The “Hurricane versus Volcano” reactions fell along three lines: 1–The hurricane is going to “put out the volcano”. I believe it was a CNN News Facebook post that saw one woman comment “God is sending the hurricane to save the people of Hawaii!”–which would lead you to ask, why wouldn’t God just stop the flow of lava, instead of sending a storm with torrential rains and destructive winds? Those who see the rains “shutting down” Kilauea apparently have seen that Tommy Lee Jones movie where fire crews with water from hoses and helicopters–along with concrete road construction barricades–are able to redirect and stop giant lava flows that come from a new volcano that pops up in the middle of Los Angeles.
The second group of “scientists” predicted that the large amounts of rain water would seep through the porous lava rock until it struck the red-hot lava underground resulting in giant steam explosions that would cause large portions of the Big Island to fall into the sea–creating giant tsunamis that would wash over all of Hawaii and threaten to flood the Pacific Coast several hundred miles inland. There is some basis for this “theory”–as giant sections of both Oahu and Molokai broke off hundreds of thousands of years ago–creating what were likely the largest tsunamis in the planet’s history. But geologists doubt that much of the Big Island could be detached at one time to create any concern.
And the final “forecast” from our on-line “experts” was that the “heat and gases from the volcano could create a superstorm” that would rain toxic death from above wherever it continued on its path. Meteorologists say the small area of radiant heat generated by Kilauea would at most cause more ash to lift higher into the storm clouds–only creating more lightning–but not drops of chemical death. What’s more, the two giant mountains of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea would cause the Hurricane to weaken dramatically after making landfall.
A quick internet search reveals two hurricanes have passed over Kilauea already this century–neither of which created the type of doomsday scenarios some of our friends and neighbors now fear. It sounds like “Bill Ney the Science Guy” needs to appear before a Congressional sub-committee with a few other celebrities to “teach Americans some real science”.