By: Nick Swafford
With the multiple hurricanes filing through the Southeastern region of North America and the raging fires to the Northwest, some are conspiring that it’s the end of the world. Who knows, it could be. In the theme of “world ending”, I feel the need to express my fears on something that’s frightening yet awe inspiring: supervolcanoes. If you google the definition of supervolcanoes you would find, “an unusually large volcano having the potential to produce an eruption with major effects on the global climate and ecosystem”, and, quite frankly, that’s the dumbed-down version of it’s dramatic reality. In my knowledge of this topic, I know that once these volcanoes erupt, lava isn’t the only issue; in fact, that’s probably the last thing you need to worry about. Smoke is the big killer, just like in housefires, the number of beings that die in a fire is less than that of smoke, so hundreds of animals will die due to smoke inhalation. Ash buildup in the air will also file into your lungs and choke you with its concrete-like substance.
The damage caused by ash would be not only catastrophic to the surrounding areas, but it will also lead to the loss of billions of dollars worldwide. The ash will spread hundreds of miles through air currents and block out sunlight, killing the agriculture wherever the ash is thick enough. Lack of crops leads to monumental damage including severe lack of food. Not only will the ash kill the plants, but the water supply will receive no mercy either. The ash will plug rivers and pollute both large and small bodies of water. The polluted waters will lead to large amounts of chaos looking for a new water supply. Lack of water will lead to even more agricultural failures, leading to even more famine.
This would most likely not even be the worst effect of the eruption. Let’s go back to the initial explosion: lava, ash, and smoke won’t be the only things that will come out of the volcano; trapped underground are dozens of different types of gasses that would be released into the atmosphere, including sulfur dioxide, which is a pungent and toxic gas. The sulfur dioxide will mix with the pre-existing gasses in the atmosphere and create a sulfur aerosol which will effectively deflect sunlight back into space from the atmosphere. Of course, this would be temporary, but for about a decade, rainfall patterns will be different, causing severe frosts which, in turn, will cause–as you guessed it–mass famine.
The last time a supervolcano exploded was 74,000 years ago in Sumatra, Indonesia. In its devastation, the volcano left a 62-mile divot in the earth, and after countless years of rain, the hole become Lake Toba.
The volcano at Lake Toba is actually set to erupt again, but it probably won’t erupt for several thousands of years.
As for all of us in America, there’s a substantial supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park. You could fit the entire city of Tokyo inside of Yellowstone’s magma chambers. Now this may all sound scary, but there’s no need to worry. Although the volcano at Yellowstone is overdue, experts don’t think it will erupt for another few thousand years. It’s still scary, however, to think of the fallout that will affect not only the United States, but maybe the entire world.
In the event of the Yellowstone volcano erupting, the immediate surrounding area of Yellowstone will receive over 1,000 millimeters of ash cover, and unless you are at the southern tip of Texas or at the southern tip of Florida, you will still receive substantial amounts of ash coverage. Pretty much everything I previously stated will happen. America and parts of the world would be crippled, maybe even permanently.