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Earth’s Super Volcanic Eruptions

The largest volcanic eruption recorded by humans occurred in April 1815. The peak of the explosion was Mount Tambora. The eruption ranked 7 (or “super-colossal”) on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), which goes from 1 to 8 and is somewhat akin to the magnitude scale for earthquakes. The explosion is said to have been so loud it was heard on Sumatra Island, more than 1,200 miles (1,930 km) away. The death toll from the eruption was estimated at 71,000 people, and clouds of heavy ash descended on many far-away islands.

Volcanic Explosivity Index of 8 are colossal events that throw out at least 1,000 km3 Dense Rock Equivalent (DRE) of ejecta. Eruptions so powerful that they often form circular calderas rather than cones because the downward withdrawal of magma causes the overlying mass to collapse and fill the void magma chamber beneath.

Volcanic Explosivity with Index of 8:

  1. La Garita Caldera’s super eruption in Colorado, USA is the greatest mega-colossal eruption of all. This enormous eruption of the Fish Canyon Tuff that created the Garita Caldera occurred 27.8 million years ago and created a 5,000 km³ Dense Rock Equivalent of ejecta. The scale of La Garita volcanism was far beyond anything known in human history. The resulting deposit has a volume of about 5,000 km3, enough material to fill Lake Michigan. La Garita eruption’s was approximately 100,000 times more powerful than the most powerful human-made explosive device ever detonated, the Tsar Bomba that yielded 50 megatons.
  2. The super eruption of Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia is one of the largest in the world. This mega-colossal eruption occurred 74,000 years ago with a 2,800 km³ Dense Rock Equivalent of ejecta.
  3. Island Park Caldera super eruption occurred at Huckleberry Ridge Tuff between Idaho and Wyoming, USA. This massive explosion occurred 2.1 million years ago with a 2,500 km³ Dense Rock Equivalent of ejecta. This super eruption produced 2,500 times of ash as much as the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption.
  4. Lake Taupo is located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone in the center of North Island in New Zealand. The super eruption of this supervolcano that occurred 26,500 years ago is known as Oruanui Eruption. This eruption had a 1,170 km³ Dense Rock Equivalent of ejecta.
  5. The super eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano or Caldera created one of the largest on Earth. This volcanic eruption occurred in Lava Creek Tuff in Wyoming, US. It is estimated that this mega event occurred 640,000 years ago. Its Dense Rock Equivalent of ejecta was 1,000 km³.
  6. Glen Coe is a glen located in Scotland, UK. Its enormous explosion occurred 420 million years ago. The location of Glen Coe is often regarded as one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland.
  7. Pacana Caldera is located in Chile. Its super eruption occurred 4 million years ago with a 2,500 km³ Dense Rock Equivalent of ejecta.
  8. Heise Volcanic Field located in Kilgore Tuff, Idaho in the US. Its super explosion occurred 4.5 million years ago with Dense Rock Equivalent ejecta of 1,800 km³.
  9. Heise Volcanic Field in Blacktail Tuff, Idaho, United States created one of the most enormous eruptions in the world approximately 6.6 million years ago with a 1,500 km³ Dense Rock Equivalent of ejecta.
  10. Cerro Galan is located in Catamarca, Argentina. Its super explosion about 2.5 million years ago created a 1,050 km³ Dense Rock Equivalent of ejecta.

One of the world’s most dangerous supervolcanoes appears to be closer to erupting than once thought. Campi Flegrei in southern Italy has been showing signs of reawakening over the past 67 years, and new research indicates the volcano has been building energy throughout this period, increasing the risk that it will erupt.

Campi Flegrei is a huge volcanic field that sits about 9 miles to the west of Naples, a city home to over a million people. It is made up of 24 craters and edifices, and appears as a large depression on the surface of the land.

While it is impossible to predict exactly when a volcano will erupt, there are tell-tale signs that can help scientists work out the risk. When the ground around a volcano has been stretched so much it reaches breaking point, the magma is able to escape—the surface splits and an eruption can take place. However, this does not always happen. Sometimes the magma stalls before reaching the surface.


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