Scientists warn of the dangers of volcanic eruptions

Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland

Statistically, a magnitude 7 volcano erupts every 625 years.

(Photo: dpa)

Cambridge A massive volcanic eruption could plunge the world into a crisis of similar financial proportions to the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers from the Center for Existential Risk Research (CSER) at the University of Cambridge and the University of Birmingham are warning about this.

In a paper published by scientists in the journal Nature, they urgently urge people to take the dangers seriously and invest more money in volcano observation and preparedness for emergencies. The world is “pitifully unprepared” for a massive volcanic eruption and the likely consequences for global supply chains, climate and food.

According to scientists, there is a sixth chance of an eruption of a magnitude of 7 or more in 100 years. Analysis of sulfur concentrations in ice cores showed that such eruptions occur statistically every 625 years.

In the past, eruptions of this magnitude have caused rapid climate change and the collapse of entire civilizations, CSER risk expert Lara Mani warned, according to a statement. He compares the climatic consequences of a massive volcanic eruption with an asteroid one kilometer in diameter hitting the Earth.

The best jobs of the day

Find the best job offers now and
be notified by e-mail.

Although the combined risk of an asteroid or comet colliding with Earth is only one-hundredth of what occurs in a massive volcanic eruption, much more money is spent observing asteroids than on studying volcanoes, the researchers say. “This has to urgently change. We definitely underestimate the risk that volcanoes pose to our societies, ”said Mani.

hunger, riots and epidemics

According to scientists, the explosion on the South Sea island of Tonga in January this year should be a wake-up call. Scientists say if it lasted longer, emitted more ash and gas, or happened in a region with a more critical infrastructure such as the Mediterranean Sea, the consequences would be catastrophic.

The most recent magnitude 7 eruption occurred in Indonesia in 1815 and had dramatic climatic consequences that were also felt in Europe, leading to hunger, violent riots and epidemics. The year 1816 following the eruption of the Tambora volcano is also known as the “year without summer”.

“We now live in a world with eight times the population and 40 times more trade than then. Our complex networks can make us even more vulnerable to shocks from a large eruption, ‘said co-author Mike Cassidy and volcanologist at the University of Birmingham.

Experts hope to rectify this situation by better monitoring volcanic activity and studying ways to mitigate eruptions and their effects. For example, they are demanding a satellite designed solely to monitor volcanic activity.

Scientists warn that there may be dozens of dangerous volcanoes still unknown to mankind, especially in regions so far neglected by science, such as Southeast Asia. Less than a third of volcanic eruptions since 1950 had seismometers nearby to record ground vibrations, and again only a third of the recorded data was entered into the global database.

They also call for further research into geoengineering methods, for example to counteract aerosols emitted by volcanoes or to affect magma chambers beneath active volcanoes. The risk of a massive epidemic destroying global society is significant, Mani said, adding that the current lack of investment is “just irresponsible.”

More: One year after the Ahr floods: Many lessons learned – few resources

Leave a Comment