Scientists shed light on supervolcanoes, which could lead to catastrophic ‘volcanic winter’

As one of the researchers explained, learning how supervolcanoes work is “important for understanding the future threat of an inevitable supereruption, which happens about once every 17,000 years.”

Researchers from several countries say they have discovered more about the mechanics of supervolcanoes eruptions, writes on Friday (3) the portal EurekAlert.

During the course of their study, which was published in Communications Earth & Environment, the researchers focused on magma from the Toba supereruption, which occurred about 75,000 years ago at the site of present-day Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia, and analyzed minerals such as feldspar and zirconium, which “contain time-independent records based on the accumulation of argon and helium gases as time capsules in volcanic rocks,” details EurekAlert.

As Martin Danisik, associate professor at the John de Laeter Research Center at the University of Curtin, Australia, explained, the team of scientists was able to show “that magma continued to flow out into the caldera, or deep depression created by the magma eruption, for 5,000 to 13,000 years after the supereruption, and then the solidified leftover magma carapace was pushed up like a giant tortoise shell”.

“The findings challenged existing knowledge and the study of eruptions, which typically involve looking for liquid magma under a volcano to assess future danger. We must now consider that eruptions can occur even if no liquid magma is found under a volcano – the The concept of what is ‘eruptible’ needs to be re-evaluated,” suggested Danisik, pointing out that the threat of this happening persists for thousands of years.

“Learning when and how eruptible magma accumulates, and what state the magma is in before and after such eruptions, is critical to understanding supervolcanoes,” he also noted.

The scholar noted that “super-eruptions are among the most catastrophic events in Earth’s history”, as they “ventilate huge amounts of magma almost instantaneously”, and can “impact the global climate to the point of bringing the Earth into a ‘winter volcanic weather’, which is an unusually cold period, which can result in widespread famine and population disruption.”

“Learning how supervolcanoes work is important to understanding the future threat of an inevitable supereruption, which happens about once every 17,000 years,” added the associate professor, whose research was carried out in conjunction with Oregon State University, USA, the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and the Geological Agency of Indonesia.