Sunday, 29 April 2018

Super Volcano


A few years ago I was sitting at a café in Sorrento overlooking the Gulf of Naples in Italy watching the sun set. As I watched the golden sky, my eyes drifted across the water to the city of Naples.

Towering over the city was one of our planet’s most impressive natural structures almost as if standing guard like a silent sentinel.

Vesuvius 

Vesuvius From The Air
Unfortunately Mount Vesuvius isn’t exactly a sentinel, more of a dormant threat. It’s easy to admire nature’s handiwork but when the people who live around the Gulf of Naples see the volcano, surely they must wonder whether the volcano will ultimately destroy them just as it did centuries ago in perhaps the most famous volcanic eruption man has ever witnessed.
On August 24th AD79, the area saw the power of the volcano when it erupted and hurled molten rock, ashes, stones and noxious volcanic ashes into the atmosphere, with the nearby cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum being totally destroyed by pyroclastic surges. 
I visited the remains of Pompeii and I can only imagine how terrifying this assault of nature was. You can still see the remains of bodies of people who  were killed in the disaster in positions that showed the agony the people must have suffered in their last moments.

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Mount Vesuvius is an impressive sight and you can only wonder what would happen if a similar eruption were to occur today. In fact, there have been eruptions in the 20th century, both causing significant damage and killing people.
What is even more frightening is that relatively speaking Mount Vesuvius is just a normal volcano. There is something on our planet that can wreak havoc on a global scale – a super volcano.
Super volcanoes are huge and while they erupt far less frequently than their smaller brothers, when they do erupt, chaos ensues. Typically super volcanoes only erupt every few hundred thousand years.
Thank goodness for that.
However, we are actually overdue such an eruption. And that is very bad news.
How does a super volcano compare to a normal volcano, I hear you cry?
In general, a normal volcano hurls about a cubic kilometre of matter. A super volcano erupts over anything from one thousand times that amount to five thousand times that amount (and I think that experts are only guessing because we haven’t experienced such an event as human beings).
How many of these enormous monsters are out there, I hear you scream?
I did some research and discovered that there are twelve of them!
TWELVE!
One of the most famous ones you might have heard of is the Yellowstone caldera in the United States. Here are some facts about it.
The Yellowstone caldera measures 35 by 45 miles.
It last erupted 630,000 years ago and experts say that we shouldn’t get another for at least 30,000 years. Let’s hope not.
The Yellowstone park contains 60% of the world’s geysers.
There are 1000 to 2000 earthquakes per year in and around Yellowstone.
So what would happen if a super volcano were to erupt? Taking Yellowstone as an example, an eruption would be a complete and utter disaster that would cause some serious damage, although scientists are convinced that such an event wouldn’t necessarily lead to life on Earth being wiped out. It is thought that the last eruption led directly to the Ice Age.
Here’s what would happen.
Anybody in the vicinity would be killed. 
Any surrounding cities would be destroyed. 
The resulting ash cloud would be huge and falling ash would choke people in a huge radius when it fell back to Earth. In the case of Yellowstone, all the US states surrounding Wyoming would be devastated.
The ash cloud would cause global temperatures to fall by at least 20 degrees, with the long term effect of slowly killing vegetation and plant life, something we as humans need for our own food and the food of the animals we breed to nourish us, leading to widespread famine on a global scale.


The good news is that scientists are constantly monitoring volcanic activity throughout the world, so the eruption of a super volcano would not come as a massive surprise. The question is, even if scientists were to predict that a super volcano would erupt in a year, what on Earth could we do about it? 
The short answer is nothing, but world governments might be able to take steps to mitigate the effects on humanity, though to me personally, I’m not altogether sure how we would prepare. 
Let’s just hope that we’re not around when it eventually happens – and believe me it will.

2 comments:

Pandora Behr said...

I had the chance to go to Pompeii or Capri when I was in Naples - Capri won - something I have lived to regret - might get back there one day.

Good post.

Pand

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

I managed to go to both.. Capri is beautiful but Pompeii is something else. I recommend them both.

:o)

Cheers

PM