Volcanoes Are Partially Responsible for Dinosaur Extinction. Will Supervolcanoes Cause the Apocalypse?

Where are the supervolcanoes of the world?

  • Wyoming’s Yellowstone Caldera
  • California’s Long Valley Caldera
  • Japan’s Aira Caldera
  • Indonesia’s Toba Caldera Complex
  • New Zealand’s Taupo Volcano
Photo: YouTube/National Geographic

To be considered a supervolcano, a volcano must have had at least one eruption that released more than 240 cubic miles of material. Such an explosion is classified as a magnitude of eight (VEI8), the highest ranking on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI).

However, some volcanoes have such powerful explosions that they’ve even resulted in the formation of deadly tsunamis, like Indonesia’s Krakatau, but experts still rated its historic eruption in 1883 as VEI6.

VEI8 eruptions, as described by National Geographic, are “very large eruptions, the impacts of which would be widespread — from avalanches of hot rock and gasses racing down the volcano’s flanks to global changes in climate.”

Photo: YouTube/National Geographic

The last VEI8 eruption in geological history happened about 27,000 years ago — when New Zealand’s Taupo Caldera exploded.

And yet, people remain in fear of a supervolcano eruption in the near future, such as the next eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, which, after all, already erupted three times with a VEI8 magnitude in the past.

However, the span of time when these large eruptions occurred must be considered before giving in to fear that the Yellowstone Caldera can cause an apocalyptic event. Based on studies, Yellowstone’s two super-eruptions occurred sometime between 2.1 million and 640,000 years ago, while a VEI 7 eruption took place about 1.3 million years ago.

Photo: YouTube/National Geographic

Further, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Yellowstone eruptions are likely in the future but “in the next few hundred years, hazards will most probably be limited to ongoing geyser and hot-spring activity, occasional steam explosions, and moderate to large earthquakes.”

No VEI8 eruption is to be expected in the immediate future, as far as the Yellowstone Caldera is concerned.

Moreover, during the last ten thousand years, there’s never been a volcanic eruption that ranked VEI8. And with all the eruptions that occurred in the last 36 million years, only 42 of these were ranked a VEI8.

Photo: YouTube/National Geographic

The fear of supervolcanoes causing the end of the world or some kind of an apocalyptic event is thereby unfounded. VEI8 eruption is extremely rare. And just because a certain volcano has erupted before with a magnitude of 8 does not mean it will surely explode with the same destructive force once more.

Supervolcanoes are a terrific theme for movies and fiction writing. But the truth is far from what we’ve seen on screen.

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