What is a supervolcano?
A supervolcano is usually defined as a volcano that spews at least 1000 m³ of magma
Supervolcanoes do not form mountain peaks, butform massive craters called calderas. When the magma chamber below the surface throws huge amounts of gas, ash and molten rock upward through the seams in the earth's crust, the earth sinks downward, filling the empty cavity below.
3D illustration of a supervolcano. A huge pillar of magma under the volcano. shutterstock
How is a supervolcano different from an ordinary one?
A supervolcano differs from a volcano in that itsthe eruption will lead to global climate change. The latter is associated with huge emissions of matter from the lithosphere and mantle, more than a trillion tons, into the surrounding space. These substances, entering the atmosphere, change its chemical composition and block the access of sunlight, and create so-called magmatic traps on the planet's surface (a typical example is the Putorana plateau in Siberia).
One of the largest such events happened252 million years ago in the area of modern Norilsk, which provoked the great Permian extinction. It is the greatest mass extinction of all time and one of five mass extinctions. It is it that delineates the border between the Permian and Triassic geological periods. It also separates the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras.
Where are the supervolcanoes?
When we hear "supervolcano", the imagination drawsa huge fiery rock that rises for many kilometers. Supervolcanoes differ from ordinary stratovolcanoes in the absence of pronounced cones.
So, the largest known and mostThe "ripe" for eruption Yellowstone supervolcano, the caldera of which is 55 × 75 km, geographically can be described as a slightly hilly area surrounded by mountains. Although the craters of these giants may exceed the area of all of Moscow, in appearance they do not pose any threat and generally do not look like volcanoes. Therefore, when scientists talk about the most dangerous supervolcanoes, they mean the territories in which they are located.
This map shows major volcanic eruptions known in the past. Those marked in red have at least 8 on the Volcanic Explosive Index. Photo
On the planet, according to research by scientists, forOver the past 2.5 billion years, 15 supervolcanic eruptions have occurred, leading to the formation of the same number of large trap provinces. There are 15 of them on the map, while several of them are still active. According to the US Geological Survey, these volcanoes are some of the most dangerous supervolcanoes in the world:
- The first is located in Japan, on the island of Kyushu. This is a volcano Ira, which exploded 22 thousand years ago. Now in its place is the city of Kagoshima with a population of half a million people. And the young active volcano Sakurajima.
- The second supervolcano - Taupo... Now it is a lake in the caldera of the eponymous volcano on the North Island of New Zealand. In 200 A.D. he released a record amount of lava into the atmosphere.
Image courtesy of Dougal Townsend / GNS Science / EOS.
- Volcano Toba on the island of Sumatra.It exploded 74,000 years ago, leaving behind a huge caldera. Its depth reaches 500 m, and its dimensions are 90x25 km. It is the largest volcanic lake in the world. There is still a magma chamber under it. The eruption of the supervolcano Toba was the largest in the last 20 million years.
Henrik Hansson Globaljuggler CC BY-SA 3.0
- In the United States, there is a supervolcano in the state of New Mexico Valles, the length of the caldera of which is 22km. This supervolcano was formed more than one and a half million years ago; today the area around it has been declared a nature reserve. Last erupted during the Pleistocene.
- The largest supervolcano in North Americalocated in the Yellowstone National Park. The volcano has not erupted for over 600 thousand years and, according to volcanologists, has recently begun to show signs of activity. If this giant still wakes up from hibernation, at best, its power will be enough to arrange another Ice Age on the planet. At worst, an eruption Yellowstone supervolcano will wake up all other active volcanoes on Earth and cause a real apocalypse.
Consequences of supervolcanic eruptions
In the spring of 2021, scientists studied the consequencesthe explosive eruption of the Los Chocojos supervolcano in the Guatemalan highlands, which occurred 75 thousand years ago. Today, in its place is the giant Atitlan caldera, which has turned into a lake, the height of which is 1563 m above sea level. There are three cone-shaped volcanoes around the caldera: Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro.
After analyzing sediment samples in geologicallayers, scientists found that when the eruption occurred, huge amounts of sulfur, chlorine and bromine entered the Earth's atmosphere. Volcanic ash after the Los Chocoyos eruption was found in several places in the highlands of Guatemala and in marine sediments from deep-sea cores in the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and even in the Atlantic Ocean.
The research team put forward a hypothesis aboutthat such large emissions from the outbreak would have long-term effects on the atmosphere and global climate. Wind disruptions were the result of aerosol heating of the air and the cooling effect caused by ozone depletion after the eruption.
One of the most dire consequences of such an eventcan be called a mass famine, since the volcanic winter (the ash will cover the sun for a long time) will not provide humanity with the necessary amount of food. During an eruption on the territory of modern Wyoming 600,000 years ago, the supervolcano located on the site of what is now Yellowstone Park, emitted more than 1000 m³ of lava and ash into the atmosphere.
According to estimates made by the UN in 2012, there will be enough food for people for 74 days.
And as some NASA scientists argue, the threat is even more dire than a collision with a giant asteroid or comet.
Moreover, 66 million years ago, an asteroid with a diameter of 10km in diameter fell into the territory of modern Mexico. The power of the explosion was 100 million megatons. After that, shear and longitudinal seismic waves went around the entire planet and formed in the opposite, eastern hemisphere. Even before the asteroid, volcanoes began to erupt far in the East, creating the Deccan traps. Immediately after the impact, the influx of magma from the mantle into this area increased sharply. The impact of the Chicxulub asteroid intensified volcanism around the world - including Hindustan. More than 70 percent of the Deccan ladders poured out immediately following the asteroid impact.
Should you worry?
There is no evidence that anythe supervolcano will explode over the course of your life or your children and their children and so on for centuries. But if they were, the authorities would have to evacuate entire countries. A cloud of ash from an explosion, for example, Yellowstone will darken the sky and cover the entire continental United States with poisonous dust. This will cause catastrophic climate change that will cripple ecological systems for centuries. As if there weren't enough of them on the planet.
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