Su­per-Erup­tion Takes Place More Of­ten Than Es­ti­mated

Science Illustrated - - SCIENCE UPDATE -

GE­OL­OGY Vol­ca­noes make up a ge­o­log­i­cal threat that could be de­struc­tive on a global scale. In case of a su­per-erup­tion, 1,000 gi­ga­tonnes of vol­canic ma­te­rial would be ejected, burying con­ti­nents un­der ash. Ma­te­rial will also rise into the air and po­ten­tially al­ter global weather sys­tems for decades.

Sci­en­tists from the Univer­sity of Bris­tol have gone through ge­o­log­i­cal data to find out how of­ten su­per-erup­tions have taken place. The fre­quency of the ma­jor erup­tions is higher than vol­ca­nol­o­gists used to think. “The pre­vi­ous es­ti­mate from 2004 was that su­per-erup­tions took place at in­ter­vals of 45,000714,000 years – longer than our mod­ern civil­i­sa­tion has ex­isted. But ac­cord­ing to our cal­cu­la­tions, it was rather at in­ter­vals of 5,200-48,000 years – with 17,000 years be­ing the typ­i­cal fre­quency,” says sta­tis­tics pro­fes­sor Jonathan Rougier.

The two most re­cent su­pere­rup­tions took place 20,000 and 30,000 years ago. So, we have been lucky, the sci­en­tists think.

How­ever, they also em­pha­sise that na­ture is hard to pre­dict pre­cisely, when it comes to vol­canic erup­tions. So a su­pere­rup­tion could be im­mi­nent... or it could still be thou­sands of years away. Let's hope for the lat­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to the sci­en­tists, the cal­cu­la­tion meth­ods are also to be used to learn more about other ge­o­log­i­cal threats such as earthquakes in the fu­ture.

Un­der the lakes of the Yel­low­stone na­tional park in the US, there is liq­uid magma, which might at some point cause a su­per-erup­tion.

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