January 7, 2014 – It won’t be a killer asteroid that wipes out humanity. Nor will it be an atomic war. Instead European scientists believe the trigger will be pulled by the eruption of a supervolcano. Could Yellowstone in Wyoming be the doomsday trigger that creates a scene like the one depicted below?
Their work is published in the January 5th, 2014 issue of the journal, Nature Geoscience. The scientists point out that the geological record indicates an abundance of what they call super-eruptions caused by magma buoyancy in the underlying mantle leading to incidents of such high pressure that violent eruptions result. A good analogy is trying to force an air-filled soccer ball or balloon underwater and then watching it explode upwards when released.
Some of these magma pockets are as large as 100 kilometers (62 miles) across and when they erupt they decimate land masses as large as a continent, filling the air with enough particulate matter to impact photosynthesis across the globe for months. The one depicted below represents the Yellowstone magma pocket.
The geological record shows that a supervolcano in Indonesia erupted 74,000 years ago wiping out as much as two-thirds of humanity. Today the geologists have identified as many as 20 supervolcanoes beneath the Earth’s crust with the potency of the one that struck Indonesia in the past. These tend to erupt about once every 100,000 years with the last occurring 26,500 years ago on New Zealand’s North Island. That event, known as the Oruanui eruption, produced the caldera which today is filled by Lake Taupo, southeast of Auckland.
The scientists came to their doomsday scenario by making magma in their laboratory and then testing it in response to pressure and heat. The magma was subject to 36,000 atmospheres pressure and heated to 1,700 Celsius degrees. Under such conditions it demonstrated rapid expansion capable of cracking the Earth’s crust wide open.