Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Death From Below?

What happens when molten magma or lava hits a natural gas deposit?

Huge Tunguska Explosion Remains Mysterious 100 Years Later (Hat tip: Bill)

Death from below?

Instead of a cause from above, in the last decade some researchers have suggested the Tunguska explosion actually came from below. Astrophysicist Wolfgang Kundt at the University of Bonn in Germany and others have suggested that an eruption of natural gas from kimberlite, a kind of volcanic rock best known for sometimes holding diamonds, could be to blame.

"It would have come from the molten earth, some 3,000 kilometers deep (1,864 miles)," Kundt said. "The natural gas would be stored as a fluid that deep, and when it reaches the surface it would become a gas and expand by a factor of thousand in volume, for a huge explosion."

For support, he cited the pattern the trees fell in, as well as chemical anomalies.
Tunguska trees look exactly like the trees after the Mount St. Helens eruption.


Quantum_Flux said...

A five megaton natural gas explosion from a point source.... I can't see that happening unless the natural gas was already mixed with oxygen in explosive proportions when it was coming up from the ground, which would be highly unlikely. I'll bet the natural gas would be much more likely to deflagrate really high though. I think an explosive rock from space is a better hypothesis for getting the bent tree pattern that is observed.

Although, it would be interesting to know how much oxygen would be required to fuel a 5 megaton methane explosion.

john a. bailo said...

Gold's book goes into great detail about the San Francisco earthquake. It seems likely that the post earthquake fire was mainly caused by the enormous amount of methane spewing from the ground. Imagine a situation where methane is released and built up and then something sparks and KER-BLAMMO!

Anaconda said...

To John A. Bailo:
Your point is well taken.

To Quantum_Flux:
I appreciate your working through the problem and even conceding that this senario is possible. As they say, "fact sometimes is stranger than fiction."

And I note "your working through the problem" in spite of the fact, that you may be more inclined to accept the "extraterrestial body" theory, in light of your mentioning the "Theia" idea in an earlier comment to an earier post.

The ability to follow out the scientific evidence in spite of previous inclinations is the sign of a strong scientific mind.

You need to be applauded for your ability.

Sadly, too many geologists don't demonstrate the same strength as you do.

Anaconda said...

To Quantum_Flux:
I see you have withdrawn your comments "working through the problem."

Does that mean I may have spoken too soon?

Anaconda said...


In reviewing Abiotic Theory, there is multiple evidences in the geologic record that hydrocarbon emanations have been central to cataclysmic events, even extinction causing events:

The Siberian Traps (availble by link at side-bar) has been suggested as a suspect in a mass extinction event. Is it coincidence that this explosion in 1908 happened in the same area?

And is it also coincidence that Russia's major oil & gas fields are roughly in the same area?

Coal emanations also have potentially played a role in climate disruptions by massive 'outpourings' (see Infinite Oil at side-bar under Introduction To The Science Of Abiotic Petroleum Origin).

Obviously, volcanoes have played a major role in "Earth shaking" events.

Isn't it only "natural" that hydrocarbon emanations would also play a major role in "Earth shaking" geological events?

The History Channel on cable T.V. features "Mega-disasters" almost weekly.

Maybe, the History Channel should make a "Mega-disaster" about the
La Brea Tar Pits in the urban heart of Los Angeles going berserk.

Pumping out gigantic blobs of tar roiling down Sunset Blvd. swallowing everything in its path.

Sorry, Los Angeles has had enough mega-disasters, both imagined and real happen -- time to pick on someplace else.

Why is it that Los Angeles always gets picked on?

But Arnold 'the Governator' can come out of retirement to save the day -- the plot could get real thick...

Quantum_Flux said...

Unless the methane were rapidly leaking out of the ground for an amount of time prior to ignition....that could cause methane-oxygen ratios in explosive proportions. But still would need the info on how much methane-oxygen at STP you would need for a 5 megaton explosion though.

By volume the ratio is 2(O2)-1(CH4)

1 megaton = 4.184x10^15 Joules

5-15% methane in air is considered the explosive window (not too rich or too lean)

Energy released by methane = 802 Kj/mol = 802x10^3 J/mol

20.92 |TJ| / 802 |Kj/mol| =2.608x10^10 mols of CH4

5.217x10^10 mols of O2

Oxygen in air is 20%, and assuming that 5-15% ratio displaces only the nitrogen (that's an understimate for volume).

2.608x10^11 mols of air molecules is involved.

If that is uniformly spread out, then assuming 41.4 mol/m^3 for dry air

You end up with an explosion requiring approximately 6.301x10^9 m^3 of air/fuel mixture at STP. That’s a cube of about 1.847 kilometers in all directions in order to give you 5 megatons of energy from this reaction.

Tungunska was an area of 2000 km^2 = 2x10^9 m^2

So the amount of methane/air mixture in such an explosion would have been about 3.15 meters high off of the ground and spread out at the speed of sound from the ignition point(save for all the imprecision in my assumptions)....anyhow, that seems reasonable for the damage done.

(sorry about all those other deleted posts, I kept on rechecking my math there because I was using a small pocket calculator instead of my TI-89, plus I’d never done a problem like this one before and must have gotten incorrect information out of SciTech dictionary… Anyhow, it seems to make sense that 1625 metric tons of methane gas needs to be combusted to yield 5 megatons energy equivalent of TNT or Operation Ivy Mike)

Quantum_Flux said...

Yeah, I think it probably could be a methane explosion or a space rock. Since somebody did a chemical analysis on the subject and determined it possible for a methane explosion, well, that does give some credence to that hypothesis.

However, am I correct in thinking that somebody measured the area with a geiger counter before? I suppose that data would be something to look up.

Anaconda said...



Russia, the leader in applying Abiotic Theory to the exploration & production of oil & gas has taken the extraordinary step of "Milking the Earth."

Reversing the observation that certain oil wells, upon production, can trigger earthquakes, Vladimir Putin has taken a 'Mad' gamble to increase oil production to maintain its commanding geo-political power.

Publically, "nyet" is the word. But anonymous sources claim a group of scientists have been working on the concept for some time.

Dubbed simply, the "Mad scientists," this group of visionaries believes the Earth can be "milked" of it's oil with deep massive explosive charges implanted in dormant faults in the remoteness of Siberia.

Legend has it, a previous attempt at realizing this theory may be behind the famous 1908 Tunguska explosion in Siberia.

But things went a little haywire -- obviously with such a cataclysmic result -- everybody involved was sworn to secrecy -- then silenced in the confusion of the 1917 Revolution.

The "Mad Scientists" are said to report, "things will be different this time."

That hasn't reassured some members of the Russian government. Some are said to be worried about the prospect of "runaway" 'outpourings'. But Prime Minister Putin is said to be backing the "project" 100%.

Rumors have been circulating in the remote Russian oilpatch that inordinately large shipments of TNT, carried in trucks with their headlights ominously turned off, have been seen racing across the tundra in the dead of night.

Last night seems to be the culmination of those fevered efforts: A low "booming" sound was heard for miles around a remote abandoned oil well. The ground shook and a "100 mile high torch" lit the night sky.

These reports could not be confirmed...

But anonymous sources cite small scale "experimental explosions" that were reputedly able to increase oil pressure in oil wells in the immediate vacinity of these blasts.

And that is the "hope" of the Mad Scientists working on the project: Increase 'barrels per day' oil production.

Prime Minister Putin reportedly has been seen uncontrollably grinning and "rubbing his hands" in the Kremlin....