Could a volcanic eruption be more deadly than an asteroid impact today?

The risk of having a new volcanic eruption It’s more likely than we think. Just one year ago, on September 19, 2021, the La Palma volcano It erupted in the area of ​​Cabeza de Vaca, near the town of El Paraíso in the municipality of El Paso, on the Canary Island of La Palma. Its flows swept away hundreds of houses and forced the eviction of hundreds of families without knowing if they would be able to return to their homes.

A similar phenomenon is taking place in Iceland. Just over a month ago, the Fagradalsfjall volcano it erupted, spewing out rivers of magma just a few kilometers away from the country’s main airport. The last eruption in the area occurred last year and lasted more than six months.

Now, a team of volcanologists assures that the risk of a great volcanic eruption is growing, signaling that the world is not prepared to deal with such an event. The team led by Michael Cassidy and Lara Maní studies the massive eruption of Tonga volcanoin the southern Pacific Ocean, which occurred last January and which they describe as “the volcanic equivalent of an asteroid that almost grazes the Earth”.

A massive volcanic eruption could be devastating for humans

Volcanologists equate the risk of a massive eruption with asteroid impact of a kilometer on our planet, being totally devastating for humans. They assure that “unfortunately the world is not prepared for such an event and Tonga’s eruption should be a wake-up call“In fact, recent ice core data detail that the probability of an eruption with a magnitude of 7 (10 or 100 times larger than Tonga) or greater this century is 1 in 6.

In the past, eruptions of this size have caused a abrupt climate change and the collapse of civilizations, and have been associated with the rise of pandemics. However, little is invested in limiting eruptions of such magnitude. We live in a globally connected world and therefore, experts say that “impacts would cascade through transportation, food, water, trade, energy, finance and communications.”

Researchers have long known what impacts large-scale eruptions of this magnitude would have, but the likelihood of it actually happening has only recently been known. With this, they point out that “during the next century, large-scale volcanic eruptions are hundreds of times more likely happen that the impacts of asteroids and comets together”.

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