Planet is waiting for the largest volcanic eruption. Is humanity ready for this?

(ORDO NEWS) — Mankind spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to protect its planet from external threats – like collisions with asteroids and meteorites.

In October 2022, the Dimorph asteroid is supposed to crash into the Earth, but this will not happen thanks to NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) project, which will change the object’s trajectory.

More than $300 million was allocated for this event. However, humanity, having set itself the goal of protecting itself from space threats, pays too little attention to what is happening on Earth.

According to scientists’ calculations, the probability of large-scale volcanic eruptions is hundreds of times higher than the risk of collision with any space bodies combined.

Moreover, the climatic consequences of those and other events are comparable, but the level of preparation for them is very different. “Ribbon.

Constant threat

Since the beginning of the 21st century, there have been more than 50 volcanic eruptions worldwide with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of four or higher, as well as smaller explosions that have resulted in loss of life, significant damage and destruction. The chance of an eruption of magnitude seven or more this century is one in six.

In January 2022, a powerful eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Haapai volcano occurred in Tonga, which lasted 11 hours. It was the largest magma outburst since the 1991 Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines, and the most powerful ever recorded by instruments.

Ash fell over hundreds of kilometers, damaging infrastructure and agriculture. In addition, submarine cables were damaged, which disrupted the state’s communications with the outside world for several days.

In some regions, a shock wave formed that caused a tsunami that reached the shores of Japan, North and South America.

Experts estimated the total damage at 18.5 percent of Tonga’s GDP. In the case of a longer eruption, the consequences would be even more catastrophic for the entire planet.

In June 2011, there was a sudden explosion of the Chilean Poyahueu volcano in the Andes. At a height of more than ten kilometers, masses of ash continuously erupted, which covered all the nearby villages.

Due to the wind, many settlements east of the volcano and the local ecosystem were affected. In the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, they were forced to suspend flights and cancel flights. In rivers and lakes, the water temperature rose to 45 degrees, which led to the death of almost all fish.

Another well-known volcanic explosion in recent decades was the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in the spring of 2010.

Air traffic across Northern Europe was interrupted, and thousands of flights were canceled at airports. The height of the ash column reached 13 kilometers, and when the ash enters the stratosphere (to a height of over 11 kilometers), it can travel considerable distances.

According to statistics from the International Air Transport Association, airlines are losing at least $200 million a day from flight cancellations.

There are 200 volcanoes on the territory of Russia, 56 of them are active. For the most part, they are located in Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands, but there are also more ancient volcanoes – in the Caucasus, in the Krasnodar Territory, on Lake Baikal.

Some of them last erupted before our era, but there are also those in which magmatic processes are quite active today.

One of these is the two-cone stratovolcano Elbrus. Now there are research geological stations that record liquid magma in chambers at a depth of 7 to 13 kilometers.

On the southern slope there are fumarole fields, from which jets of volcanic steam escape to the surface, and there are thermal springs in the valley of the Malka River.

Based on the data obtained, Elbrus is considered as a potentially active volcano. In case of its eruption,

Destructive effect

As a result of the eruption, magma flows hot up to a thousand degrees Celsius break out to the surface. They are formed from molten rocks.

This process is carried out due to a local decrease in pressure, called decompression, and occurring due to tectonic faults.

In addition, the appearance of magma is influenced by the fluid regime, that is, the flow of gases, which sharply lowers the melting point.

Since rocks are composed of crystals of various minerals, the melting process occurs at their junctions, after which it unites and moves in the direction of decreasing pressure, most often upwards.

Eruptions occur due to an increase in gas pressure, and when it exceeds the strength of the rocks, an explosion occurs, similar to how a bottle of champagne is opened.

In the event that the growth rate of gas bubbles exceeds the rate of their rise in molten rocks, they break the magma and form ash, which is fragments of volcanic glass.

In addition to the obvious physical impact of eruptions in the form of magma, mudflows and the destructive power of the explosion itself, volcanoes carry consequences that are not obvious at first glance, which affect not only nearby settlements, but the entire planet.

During the eruption, tons of suspended particles are ejected, which, with a certain force of the explosion, reach the troposphere and stratosphere, and from there are carried by winds over long distances.

This can contribute to the absorption of part of the solar radiation, which leads to global cooling of the planet.

After the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, an amount of ash was thrown to a height of 24 kilometers, which led to an average decrease in solar radiation by 2.5 watts per square meter, which cooled the Earth by at least 0.5-0.7 degrees Celsius.

All processes on Earth are synchronized, and climate changes in the oceans and atmosphere may depend on the consequences of an eruption.

According to scientists, a large-scale volcanic explosion could cause 60 percent more cooling in the tropics in the next century compared to modern indicators.

The frequency of eruptions may also increase as a result of changes due to ice melt, rising rainfall and sea levels.

Information about the cooling of the planet as a result of the appearance of suspended particles in the atmosphere at first glance may seem positive, because in recent years climatologists have only been talking about global warming caused by the activities of human civilization.

However, this counteracting effect will be too sharp and powerful, which will only exacerbate the impact on the climate and lead to uneven temperatures and anomalous rainfall.

Planet is waiting for the largest volcanic eruption Is humanity ready for this 2
The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Haapai volcano lasted 11 hours. It was the largest magma ejection since 1991
Planet is waiting for the largest volcanic eruption Is humanity ready for this 3
Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption in 2010. The height of the ash column reached 13 kilometers
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Based on the latest geological data, Elbrus is considered as a potentially active volcano

The modern world economy is interconnected, and a catastrophe in one country can cause a crisis in others, which can be seen in the course of wars and epidemics.

These problems will affect the areas of transport, trade, energy, finance and agriculture. Statistics say that the economic consequences of a volcanic eruption with a large magnitude will be about eight trillion dollars. Timely preparation will cost much less than the elimination of sudden natural destruction.

What needs to be done?

At the moment, volcano monitoring systems are unevenly developed on our planet. They make it possible to record the characteristic parameters of changes some time before a major eruption.

An accurate forecast is difficult to form, but as the explosion approaches, geological processes occur, according to which their timing can be specified.

In places of frequent eruptions – for example, in Iceland – it is sometimes possible to make a forecast with an accuracy of up to an hour, but in most cases, scientists do not have much time to alert people who may be affected by this catastrophe.

Moreover, in the case of dormant volcanoes, it is even more difficult to understand the exact time of the eruption, since specialists may have too little data about the object.

Planet is waiting for the largest volcanic eruption Is humanity ready for this 5

It is also required to develop a public alert program and create emergency centers around the world. Awareness and prior training allowed 20,000 people to be evacuated during eruptions in 2021.

Strengthening critical infrastructure and new humanitarian agreements between countries will help reduce the impact in disaster regions and on trade networks.

Experts believe that it is necessary to take measures to develop a direct impact on volcanic processes. Technically, penetration into the magma chambers is already possible.

By 2024, volcanologists plan to drill such a chamber in Iceland to create a magma observatory to test sensor equipment for more accurate predictions.

They also want to conduct research to assess the possibility of manipulating magma or rocks in order to reduce the explosiveness of eruptions.


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