Stanford Geologist Seriously Investigates Fictional Natural Disaster From Game Of Thrones

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A Stanford University geologist published a detailed analysis that’s out of this world, quite literally.

Dr. Miles Traer studied the most consequential natural disaster ever in the HBO fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”

The fantasy disaster, known as the “Doom of Valyria,” turned a 500-mile-wide, 700-mile-long peninsula into a series of smoking islands. Traer relied on “Game of Thrones” and its accompanying book series for clues on what might have caused the disaster.

Traer suspects that a giant volcanic eruption is to blame for the Valyrian disaster, based on what he’s seen in the show and read in the books.

“Fortunately for us, we can use the tools of the geologist to uncover what really happened to Valyria nearly 400 years ago,” Traer wrote Thursday on his popular science blog. “Details suggest that the Doom began with a volcanic eruption near Slaver’s Bay similar to the 1883 Krakatoa eruption on Earth.”

Krakatoa’s eruption sent a 130-foot tsunami throughout the South Pacific region, killing 36,500 people. The eruption was so violent it produced the loudest sound in recorded history.

A similar event in “Game of Thrones” would have triggered numerous secondary disasters in Valyria, including massive landslides and earthquakes.

But even a Krakatoa-level eruption wouldn’t break up the peninsula. Only a large asteroid or comet could break up a large peninsula, according to Traer. A comet or asteroid could have created deposits of obsidian that the fantasy books claim were located in Valyria.

“The ruins of Valyria share many similarities with the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum on Earth, suggesting that a similar fate must have befallen Valyria,” Traer wrote.

“Both Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed, buried, and preserved during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Scalding hot clouds of superheated air and ash, called pyroclastic flows, overran the cities and buried the buildings and citizens in a matter of seconds. Later, those deposits would cool into a low(ish) density rock, called tephra, that eerily preserved the cities until they were later dug up by archaeologists,” Traer wrote.

However, even a Krakatoa level volcanic blast wouldn’t be large enough to actually break up the peninsula.The only force large enough to shatter such a large peninsula is the impact of a large asteroid or comet, according to Traer. Such an impact in the ancient past could have created deposits of obsidion that the book claims were located in Valyria.

Geologists have been studying the fictional world of Game of Thrones since at least April of 2015, when Stanford University held lectures on the subject.

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