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Supervolcanoes Present Massive Threat to Humanity

Posted on the 01 June 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Supervolcanoes present massive threat to humanity

A smoking vent in Yellowstone Park. Be afraid? Perhaps.... photo: Redeo

The background

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, a new threat has emerged: super-eruptions from enormous volcanoes with, apparently, the power to destroy humankind, reported The Independent.

Research published on the online journal Public Library of Science ONE suggests that there are only a few in the world, but if one went up, then the effect would be enormous. It was previously thought that it would take 100,000 to 200,000 years for enough pressure to build up from the huge magma pools that are required; but now it seems only a few hundred or thousand years is enough. Which is bad news for the Yellowstone Caldera, which formed after the last super-eruption, 600,000 years ago, and is above a massive magma pool.

Lead scientist Dr Guilherme Gualda, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, said: “Our study suggests that when these exceptionally large magma pools form they are ephemeral and cannot exist very long without erupting. The fact that the process of magma body formation occurs in historical time, instead of geological time, completely changes the nature of the problem,” quoted on The Daily Mail.

What would happen?

The sound would be heard across the globe; rain would turn black, and the sky would go dark. It comes second only to an asteroid hitting the earth. The Daily Mail reported that two thirds of the US would become “uninhabitable” if the supervolcano under Yellowstone erupted. It would be 1,000 times bigger than the eruption at Mount St Helens in 1980.

How many times has it erupted before?

In the last 2.1 million years, it’s gone up three times. And scientists think it will do so again.

When did a supervolcano last erupt?

Toba, 74,000 years ago, in Sumatra – which, reported the BBC, nearly wiped out humanity. Hold on to that, chaps. Nearly.

Should we be worried?

Well, said Slate. “The bad news: The new research doesn’t help with prevention—just prediction. The good news? The forecast for giant eruptions is clear at the moment, thanks to a dearth of giant magma pools. Even that Yellowstone puddle seems to be on good behavior.”

What else is there to worry about?

Listspress gave a list of the most impressively dangerous volcanoes. Mauna Loa in Hawaii, which is the world’s largest shield volcano – but it’s not that explosive. Vesuvius is potentially the most dangerous, given the amount of people living near it in Italy. But it’s Yellowstone that tops the list – and when it erupts, it might even cause all the other volcanoes to erupt. And it’s active. It’s 40,000 years over due to erupt…

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