Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Mail removes scaremongering article about volcano

At the start of the year, the Mail turned its attention to the Laacher See volcano in Germany and asked, in a scaremongering headline:


As ever when a question is asked in a headline, the answer appears to be no.

Erik Klemetti, an assistant professor of Geosciences at Denison University, wrote a response for Wired in which he described the Mail's story as 'tremendously terrible'. He pointed out: 

The article in the Daily Mail is about as substance free as you can produce – it starts off with the usual doom claptrap: “a sleeping super-volcano in Germany is showing worrying signs of waking up.” Now, you have to look carefully for what their supposed signs are – all two of them.

1. "This monster erupts every 10 to 12,000 years and last went off 12,900 years ago, so it could blow at any time.” No source for this recurrence interval and we all know that using poorly constrained recurrence intervals like we have at Laacher See is no way to say a volcano is (ugh) “due for an eruption”.

2. “Volcanologists believe that the Laacher See volcano is still active as carbon dioxide is bubbling up to the lake’s surface, which indicates that the magma chamber below is ‘degassing’.” Which, of course, Laacher See has been doing for centuries. There are stories of monks dying from asphyxiation due to carbon dioxide hundreds of years ago. I personally saw carbon dioxide bubbling when I was at the Laacher See 5 years ago.

He added:

This is the volcanic equivalent of the Daily Mail going out and saying “Massive hurricane to hit London?” because they looked out the window and saw a cloud. Irresponsible, lazy journalism at its finest.

Sarah Simpson, writing for Discovery News, said the Mail's:

sensational assertion is based on nothing more than a sparse smattering of old facts that sound tantalizingly apocalyptic when you string them together. Read the full story, and you'll find no mention of new science, no expert named...

The Daily Mail story, in stark contrast, is a catchy idea whipped out of thin air.

But Erik says we should be prepared for more such articles as it is 'clearly pandering to the 2012 Apocalypse crowd'.

A complaint was made to the PCC about the Mail's article:

The complainant considered the assertion that the volcano was about to erupt had not been supported by sufficient evidence or expert opinions.

And a few days ago, the PCC published the result:

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the article.

So the Mail has simply deleted the article, without providing any explanation.


  1. i love that guy's comment about the hurricane! class!

  2. Complaining to the PCC is pointless. They don't even tell the papers not to do it again. They just acknowledge the paper was at fault and then forget about it.
    "Oh yeah, that paper was wrong to print that....kthxby"


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