Planet Gore

Unsettled Science: Super-Volcanoes Erupt Faster Than Previously Suspected

ABC News:

Are you worried about the end of life as we know it? Then don’t just look to the sky for that catastrophic asteroid that could be heading our way. The end may come from right beneath your feet.

Super-volcanoes have probably caused more extinctions than asteroids. But until now it has been thought that these giant volcanoes took thousands of years to form — and would remain trapped beneath the earth’s crust for thousands more years — before having much effect on the planet.

But new research indicates these catastrophic eruptions, possibly thousands of times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, may happen only a few hundred years after the volcanoes form. In other words, they may have a very “short fuse,” according to researchers at Vanderbilt University.

Such an event could make thermonuclear war or global warming seem trivial, spewing untold tons of ash into the atmosphere to block sunlight. The result would be many years of frigid temperatures, wiping out millions of species. A super-volcano that erupted 250 million years ago is now believed to have created the greatest mass extinction the world has ever seen, wiping out up to 95 percent of all plant and animal species. Some renegade scientists believe it was a volcano, not an asteroid, that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and a super-volcano will create years of “nuclear winter” and save us from a catastrophic warming of a few degrees?

Obligatory link to NRO’s archival coverage of “Airborne-Laser Volcano Lancing” here.

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