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Super Volcanic Eruptions that SHOOK the World!

Supervolcanoes are usually not on your radar unless you have got a special interest in them. If you are in North America, more than likely the supervolcanoes that are within your awareness include Yellowstone, Valles Caldera, and Long Valley Caldera. If you are in Europe, Campi Flegrei, if you are in Italy, would more likely be of interest. Moreover, if you are in Australia or New Zealand, you have more than likely heard of Lake Taupo been talked about as a supervolcano in the region.

But are these volcanoes the biggest, are they even on the list?

5.Whakamaru Eruption

At number five is the Whakamaru eruption, the Whakamaru supervolcano eruption is the largest known eruption from the area known as the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The VEI 8 super eruption ejected approximately 2,000km3; it was believed to have erupted around 254,000 years ago. The supervolcano is located on the north island of New Zealand.

The Taupo eruption is notable for its volume – in all, probably about 100cu km of pumice and ash, including that now concealed beneath the lake – and its extreme vigour and violence. At one point, the plume probably reached 45-50km in height and laid down pumice deposits over an area about 160km wide that stretched over to the east coast and out into the Pacific Ocean. During the final stage, something happened, and the vent area was ripped open in an enormously powerful blast-like event, the deposits from which form the Taupo ignimbrite. Scientists suggested that the material erupted in only about 400 seconds, so it travelled at speeds exceeding 200m a second or 700km/h and travelled about 80km in all directions across all obstacles.

The flow travelled so fast that it flattened the forests, and these have been investigated by botanists as examples of pre-human flora.

Taupo is one of the world’s five young supervolcanoes. Its earlier super explosion 25,500 years ago reshaped the North Island and changed the course of the Waikato River.

The result of this eruption was a red sky over Rome and China according to historical records. Chinese records even attest to hearing the explosion. Imagine that. Look at a globe and see how far away New Zealand is from China and Rome. This was truly a global event. There were no local population in New Zealand at the time, it was only reporting from humans in other countries that we know of what happened at Taupo.

A Lake Taupo eruption would cause issues both nationally and internationally, affecting global air travel, air quality and so forth. If you visit Taupo today, you can find pumice on the edges of the lake, a type of light volcanic rock that was formed during the Lake Taupo eruptions thousands of years ago. The chances of Lake Taupo of erupting today is low but still possible and if it did would cause massive economical pressure to New Zealand and perhaps lead to a global strain.


4. Yellowstone Huckleberry Ridge Eruption

In the ancient past, the supervolcano at Yellowstone led to some of the largest-known continental eruptions in Earth’s history. Each of the world’s roughly one dozen supervolcanoes can spew up to thousands of times more magma and ash than any eruption ever recorded in human history.

Scientists now find that the biggest Yellowstone eruption – the fourth-largest is known to science, which created the 2-million-year-old Huckleberry Ridge deposit – was actually at least two different eruptions that occurred about 6,000 years apart.

The new ages for each Huckleberry Ridge eruption reduce the volume of the first event to about 530 cubic miles (2,200 cubic kilometres), making this eruption a VEI8, roughly 12 per cent less than previously thought. A second eruption of about 70 cubic miles (290 cubic km) took place more than 6,000 years later. In comparison, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens produced just about a quarter of a cubic mile (1 cubic km) of ash.

The first Huckleberry Ridge eruption still deserves to be called “super.” By itself, it is the fourth-largest known to have occurred on Earth, darkening the skies with ash from southern California to the Mississippi River, said researcher Ben Ellis, a volcanologist at Washington State University.

“The big eruptions from Yellowstone are certainly still big,” Ellis told OurAmazingPlanet.

 More frequent eruptions by knowing how this supervolcano behaved in the past, scientists can now better predict what it might do in the future.

“This research suggests explosive volcanism from Yellowstone is more frequent than previously thought.”

3. Atana Ignimbrite Eruption

Atana Ignimbrite located in Chile erupted about 4,000,000 years ago, ejecting 2,500 cubic kilometres making the eruption a VEI8.

The Atana Ignimbrite is a voluminous rhyo-dacitic ash-flow tuff composite sheet that consists of at least four flow units, forming a single cooling unit, which was erupted almost simultaneously at a time only loosely constrained by the radiometric age data to lie between about 3.8 and 4.5 Ma ago.

La Pacana is a supervolcano and is responsible for the eruption of the giant Atana ignimbrite, which reaches a volume of 2,500–3,500 cubic kilometres and constitutes arguably the third-largest explosive eruption known.

2. Lake Toba Eruption

If you have not heard of Lake Toba, you soon will. Located on the island of Sumatra, in Indonesia, Lake Toba is a beautiful caldera lake, measuring 100 km by 30 km. Its odd elongate shape is a result of the interactions between the magma chamber and the shearing forces of the Sumatran Fault along the west that has stretched it out. In the centre of Lake Toba is an island called Samosir Island. 

This first eruption left a big depression in the ground, a caldera, and the subsequent two eruptions, at 0.8 million years ago and 0.5 million years ago, just enlarged the depression. The most recent eruption was around 74 thousand years ago, created the large caldera depression that we see today (that has since filled up with rainwater and runoff to form the lake) and produced a massive outflow of ash and rock and debris, known as ignimbrite. This 74-thousand-year-old ignimbrite has since been named the Youngest Toba Tuff and is one of the most widely studied ignimbrites in the volcanology field.

This mega-bang caused a prolonged worldwide nuclear winter and released ash in a huge plume that spread to the north-west and covered India, Pakistan, and the Gulf region in a blanket 1–5 metres (3–15 feet) deep. Toba ash is also found in the Greenland ice-record and submarine cores in the Indian Ocean, allowing a precise date marker. In our story the Toba eruption is the most accurately dated, dramatic, and unambiguous event before the last ice age.

Toba is also regarded by some as having caused worldwide population extinctions because of the ‘nuclear winter’ that followed.

India bore the brunt of the massive ashfall and may have suffered mass extinction since the Toba plume spread north-west across The Indian Ocean from Sumatra. This event may explain why most Indian maternal genetic sub-groups of the two founder lines M & N are not shared elsewhere in Asia and the dates of their re-expansion are paradoxically younger in India than elsewhere in East Asia and Australasia.

According to the Toba catastrophe theory, modern human evolution was affected by a recent, large volcanic event. Within the last three to five million years, after human and other ape lineages diverged from the hominid stem-line, the human line produced a variety of human species. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, a massive volcanic eruption changed the course of human history by severely reducing the human population. This may have reduced the average global temperature by 3 to 3.5 degrees Celsius for several years and may possibly have triggered an ice age.

Researchers estimate some 2,000-3,000 cubic environmental of rock and ash were ejected from the volcano when it exploded. Making this the second biggest eruption earth has ever seen making the eruption of Toba the largest VEI 8 eruption.

The time that has currently passed since the last super-eruption (74,000 years) is too short in comparison with the periodicity of large volcanic events at Toba. The critical mass of the molten magmas and volatiles in the upper crust has most likely not yet been achieved and the next super-eruption may be expected only in some dozens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years. “Toba magma-generating engine continues to be active at present and, despite its current period of inactivity, this volcano system may generate strong eruptions in the future.”


Bonus volcanoes:

Wah Wah Springs

The VEI 8 eruption with the greatest volume of ejecta known is the Wah Wah Springs eruption that occurred in what is now the state of Utah, about 30 million years ago. It is estimated to have produced over 5500 cubic kilometres of magmatic ejecta in about a week.

This is massive and maybe the largest and most threatening supervolcano on the planet.

Campi Flegrei

In 1538, an eight-day eruption in the area deposited enough material to create a new hill, Monte Nuovo. It has risen about 2 m (7 ft) from ground level since 1970. It is a volcano capable of producing VEI 7 eruptions, larger than that of Tambora in 1815.

Campi Flegrei is a huge caldera—a crater that often forms after the mouth of a volcano has collapsed following an eruption—that sits to the west of Naples. Close to a million people live within the city’s administrative limits, making it one of the most densely populated areas in Europe.

The last time Campi Flegrei erupted was in 1538, but this was a relatively minor event. Around 40,000 years ago, it produced a “super-colossal” eruption, ejecting an estimated 48 cubic miles of magma. This event has previously been linked with the extinction of the Neanderthals. However, other factors have been known to play a major factor. However, this eruption would have easily affected the world’s climate affecting the biodiversity of the planet 

In the 1980s, the volcano started rumbling back to life. At this time, it produced a series of earthquakes under the city of Pozzuoli and the ground rose by 1.8m (6 feet), raising concerns of an imminent eruption. To this day Campi Flegrei is closely watched and monitored for any change in its behaviour.

In terms of the scale of any future eruption, we cannot say, but there is no doubt that the volcano is becoming more dangerous. The question we must answer now is if it is a big layer of magma that is rising to the surface or something less worrying which could find its way to the surface out at sea.

1. La Garita Caldera Eruption

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey use the Volcano Explosivity Index (VEI) to measure the magnitude of volcanic blasts. It is a logarithmic scale that runs from 1 to 8. A magnitude 1 eruption spews less than 350,000 cubic feet (10,000 cubic meters) of volcanic tephra, which consists of ash and rocks; a magnitude 8 eruption on the volcanic explosive index scale puts out more than 240 cubic miles (1,000 cubic kilometres) of ash and rocks. To help understand that scale, the recent eruptions at Mount Merapi and Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland were both 4s. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was a magnitude 5.

According to the USGS, it is the largest known eruption since the Ordovician era, between 504 and 438 million years ago. It was so large, in fact, that in a 2004 report in the Bulletin of Volcanology, scientists recommended adding a ninth level to the volcanic explosive index scale and declared the La Garita eruption a magnitude 9.2. Although this ranking is of some debate – the scale of any ancient volcanic activity is partly based on estimates, after all – La Garita is the only known magnitude 9 eruptions.

Currently, the massive, circum-Pacific “Ring of Fire” the seismic belt is home to more than half of the world’s active volcanoes above sea level. This is because the Ring of Fire is a belt of convergent plate margins, or subduction zones, that surround the Pacific plate. Areas of tectonic plate subduction, where one plate is forced under another, produce powerful earthquakes and volcanic activity.

If any of these volcanoes erupted the way they did all those years ago earth the climate would most definitely change and life would be close to unbearable to survive. This would be an apocalyptic event threatening all life on our planet. Humans would struggle to survive and adapt quick enough to the ever-changing environment.

Have you visited any of these volcanoes if you have lets us know in the comments. Also, subscribe to our blog to never miss a post, keep up to date with the curiosities of the world.