The probability of super-eruptions occurring is much higher than the impact of asteroids and comets on Earth. Its effects could be devastating, scientists warn.
The violent eruption of the underwater volcano Hungarian Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai , in January 2022, it was captured from space as a huge cloud of gas, steam, and ash. The noise was so great that could be heard in New Zealand2,383 kilometers from Tonga.
Minutes later, the small nation began to quantify the damage. A tsunami with waves up to 1.2 meters high flooded towns, telephone and internet lines fell, leaving the island isolated. The dust contaminated the water flows, and by that time, the ash had already covered the sky, which prevented the arrival of aid by air.
Tsunami alerts went off in several countries such as Chile, the United States and Japan, and the waves rose in level in several beaches around the Pacific Ocean.
The probability of it happening a rash 10 to 100 times larger that of the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apa volcano is increasing. According to scientists, it is estimated at 1 in 6 in this century, and humanity seems not ready for these catastrophes.
The energy of the underwater volcano explosion was estimated by NASA to be about 10 megatons, and 500 times greater than the nuclear bomb that destroyed Hiroshima during World War II. The islet that housed the volcano, about 1,800 meters high and 20 km wide, was destroyed.
Super eruptions, more likely a meteor
A magnitude 7 eruption could paralyze the entire civilization, leave losses, famine and damage unidentifiable. The most recent occurred in 1815 on Mount Tambora, Indonesia, killing about 100 thousand people.
“Over the next century, large-scale volcanic eruptions are hundreds of times more likely to occur than asteroid and comet impacts combined. The climatic impact of these events is comparable, but the response is very different”, the authors of the research concluded. Huge volcanic eruptions: time to prepare.
Michael Cassidy and Lara Mani, authors of the study, affirm that the eruptions that have occurred in modern times are small compared to that of supervolcanoes that come into activity every 15 thousand years, with a magnitude of 8 (supereruptions). The last of its kind it happened about 22 thousand years ago
They also found that the intervals between catastrophic eruptions are hundreds or even thousands of years shorter than previously thought. Magnitude 7 events could occur once every 625 years, and those of magnitude 8, approximately once every 14,300 years. Previously, the former were believed to occur in 1,200 year intervalsand the second in about 17 thousand years.
“The frequency of rashes could also increase as geophysical forces change on the planet’s surface due to melting ice, changes in precipitation, and rising sea levels,” they mention in another excerpt.
Research published in Naturedocumented that some 1,300 volcanoes have erupted sometime during the last 10 thousand years, which means that they are active. To these would be added others that have not been studied, or that have been inactive.
Humanity needs to look towards the volcanoes
The human population has tripled since the beginning of the 21st century, and many cities and communities live in their surroundings with colossal volcanoes What Taupo, in New Zealand, the supervolcano of Yellowstone in the United Statesand Aira in Japan.
Cassidy and Mani considered an urgent more complete monitoring of volcanoes, from land, to aerial and satellite observation; as well as new research on ice cores and the identification of potentially active volcanoes.
They also see the need to increase resilience among communities and implement the real time monitoringto prepare people living in vulnerable regions.