A Yellowstone supervolcano eruption capable of wiping out the western half of the U.S. may be closer than previously thought. Scientists say the Earth is now in a “volcano season,” and a large volcanic eruption poses a significantly greater global threat than even the effects of climate change.
According to scientists from the European Science Foundation (ESF), the Earth is experiencing a 300-year period of increased volcanic activity, or a volcano season. Some scientists have speculated this increased activity may be due to rising sea levels, possibly related to global warming.
In the report, entitled “Extreme Geohazards: Reducing the Disaster Risk and Increasing Resilience,” experts predict a supervolcano eruption with the ability to kill millions has a five to 10 percent chance of happening within the next 70 to 80 years. Such an event would make it difficult for a global society to adapt and remain sustainable.
Researchers are particularly worried about active volcanoes in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, Mount Vesuvius in Italy, and Popocatépetl in Mexico. As reported by International Business Times, the environmental impact would go well beyond any damaging effects of climate change over a 1,000 year period, should any of these three erupt.
Measuring 35 by 45 miles, the Yellowstone caldera is one of the largest supervolcanoes on Earth. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, an estimated 90,000 people will die instantly, and the Earth’s atmosphere would be contaminated with ash and toxic gases, potentially blocking out the sun for decades, should a Yellowstone eruption occur.
Using new research, scientists can now take a deep look underground and digitally recreate what a supervolcano eruption in Yellowstone might be like.
The ESF report analyzed the possible implications of natural events that would significantly alter the environment. Looking at such events like droughts, tsunamis, wildfires, and avalanches, the authors concluded that these types of events have happened with great frequency in the last 2,000 years.
Yet, eruptions of supervolcanoes are extremely rare and pose a much greater threat than other natural phenomenon.
“Although in the last few decades earthquakes have been the main cause of fatalities and damage, the main global risk is large volcanic eruptions that are less frequent but far more impactful than the largest earthquakes.”
Scientists do have an idea of what a Yellowstone supervolcano eruption could do, as similar events have occurred in recent history. In 1815, the explosion of Tambora in Indonesia killed 100,000 people. Another event in Iceland killed 9,350 people, and emitted huge amounts of sulfuric gas and ash into the atmosphere occurred in 1783. The Icelandic eruption caused widespread famine, immeasurable livestock deaths, and extreme weather in Europe and North America.
Should the supervolcano in Yellowstone explode as scientists forecast, there will not be much society could do to escape the effects. Nonetheless, the researchers hope the report will be used by world governments to work together in preparation for such a rare, but inevitable, event.
“Due to their far-reaching effects on climate, food security, transportation and supply chains, these events have the potential to trigger global disaster and catastrophe. The cost of response and the ability to respond to these events is beyond the financial and political capabilities of any individual country.”
The authors of the report believe communication between global governments would be the key to creating a solid contingency plan should a Yellowstone supervolcano eruption or similar event happen. The report suggests using disaster simulation models to create plans that deal with the short-term and long-term effects on society. Additionally, a global monitoring system with prediction capabilities should be put in place that would provide a fair warning prior to such a disaster.
Whether by an asteroid, nuclear war, earthquakes, or climate change, scientists have been speculating how a natural disaster could wipe out the human race forever. With the release of their report, NSF researchers are warning an eruption of a supervolcano, like the one in Yellowstone, is a much more likely scenario than other Earth-destroying disasters.
[Photo by AP Photo/Diego Main]