Will a Volcanic Eruption Beat Out Climate Change?

Eyjafjallajökull Volcano
Image: Screenshot/YouTube
Eyjafjallajökull Volcano Image: Screenshot/YouTube

In a new report, scientists have warned that there is a probability of 5 to 10 per cent of a significant volcanic eruption occurring. Experts from the European Science Foundation have said that such an eruption would be massive enough to cause large numbers of deaths.

An eruption of this scale would alter the climate, as well as poison the atmosphere.

Scientists believe such a scenario will play out by the end of this century.

The ash cloud of an eruption of this size would be thrown more than 26 miles (43km) into the atmosphere. The summer that followed the Tambora eruption was called “the year without a summer.”

Screenshot 2015-04-18 22.44.01

Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, creating havoc around the world. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Scientists are warning that rising population levels and increasing global travel may contribute to a far more severe impact if a similar eruption occurs.

In the report, called Extreme Geohazards: Reducing the Disaster Risk and Increasing Resilience, the experts are warning that there is a need for an international group to prepare for such a disaster, and to monitor for similar events.

Mount Tambora eruption—The year without a summer:

The report said: “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 impactfull than the largest earthquakes.

“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.

“An international geopolitical response will be required, where science has a unique and key role in preparation, response, and mitigation.”

Eyjafjallajökull 2010 eruption Image: Screenshot/YouTube

Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 in Iceland. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The report was presented at the general assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna. It examines the main geohazards facing the world. The report also said that due to fact that large earthquakes and tsunamis have been more common in the past 2000 years, the world’s disaster response resources are focused on these threats.

With recent eruptions like the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull, which caused widespread disruption when it threw clouds of ash into the atmosphere, the scientists future believe volcanic eruptions are potentially far more serious. It cost the European economy around $5 billion and created air travel disruption in Europe not seen since the World War II.

The Eyjafjallajökull 2010 eruption:

Around 75,000 years ago, a supervolcano at Lake Toba on Sumatra in Indonesia was one of the world’s largest known eruptions. It is believed to have caused a global volcanic winter, which lasted around 10 years and has been linked to 1,000 years of cooling.

In the report, it states that eruptions on this scale happen once every 45,000 to 714,000 years, but such an eruption could kill up to a tenth of the world’s population. “Events on the scale of the Toba eruption 74,000 years ago could return humanity to a pre-civilization state,” warned the scientists.

Sumatra’s volcanic crater Toba:

“Volcanic eruptions can have more severe impacts through atmospheric and climate effects, and can lead to drastic problems in food and water security, as emphasized by the widespread famine and diseases that were rampant after the Laki 1783 and Tambora 1815 eruptions.

“Hence, extreme volcanic eruptions pose a higher associated risk than all other natural hazards with similar recurrence periods, including asteroid impacts.”

They have also warned that smaller eruptions, like the Laki eruption in Iceland in 1783, could have global impacts. While this eruption caused 9,350 deaths in Iceland, it was the eight months of the emission of sulfuric aerosols, ash, and other gases that caused “one of the most important climatic and socially re-percussive events of the last millennium.”

Icelandic volcanic eruption of 1783:

The report said: “Why are we not prepared for extreme events? Reasons for this include the low perceived likelihood of such an event, low political sensitivity, and a disconnect between scientific communities and decision-makers. Reasons for the lack of socially acceptable strategies include the cost of preparing for an extreme hazard, and in some cases, the belief that consequences are so extreme that preparedness is futile.”

With the way things are going, something has got to happen. While we continue to look for world ending things, bad stuff just keeps happening.

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