Volcanic ash is the ash produced when an eruption is about to or is taking place. There are several negative effects of volcanic ash on the people that live in the area and even those that are nowhere near the volcano. This type of ash can have problems as far as different continents with several instances in which it has actually dropped the overall temperature of the planet. The amount of problems that the ash will cause depends greatly on the size of the eruption but even a smaller eruption could have measurable effects on an area.
When a lot of people hear about volcanic ash they may think that it will be mostly a problem that has to do with cleanup. In fact, the problems could be a lot worse. In some cases the problems that can arise from the ash could be deadly. In some instances when ash has fallen it has destroyed plant and animal life. That is because plant life can get buried under volcanic ash while the animals that depend on that plant life will starve to death. Another problem could be that the animals in the area will be inhaling the ash which can interfere with their respiratory system, not allowing them to breathe properly and therefore killing them.
Another problem which volcanic ash can create in an area is when it falls on the roofs of the people who live in the area. The problem with that would be the fact that it can weigh down on weaker structures and therefore cause them to collapse under their own weight. The problem can get even worse if rain were to fall at the same location, because the rain would solidify the ash and therefore make it heavier. Finally the people in the surrounding area could suffer the same fate as the animal life. If they don’t take good care of themselves and breathe in the ashes, those ashes could solidify inside their lungs, making it a potentially deadly situation.
One of the very real dangers of volcanic ash is the possibility of pyroclastic flow. That would be a mass of gas, ash and rock that could travel at speeds close to 125 miles per hour. The problem with this type of situation is not only the speed of the gas and the magnitude but also the temperature of it. It has been calculated that the temperature inside a pyroclastic flow is anywhere between 752 to 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that anything in its path would cook almost immediately. Signs of this type of event were found by archaeologists who were studying the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
Effects On Airplanes
Airplanes can be greatly affected by volcanic ash, especially because engines and ash do not mix. If ash goes into a plane’s engine it can stop the engines and cause the aircraft to crash. When the ash solidifies in the engine it will create crystals that will damage the engine and that is what stops it all together. Pilots who have flown into volcanic ash have reported the plane’s throttle system fails and as they apply more throttle the situation tends to get even worse because that is what cools down the ash, solidifying it.
Impact On Everyday Life
Volcanic ash can be as dangerous as to cause a drop in worldwide temperatures. If the eruption is big enough then that drop in temperature could impact crops and communications and cause food shortages.
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Volcanoes can be both very impressive and highly destructive. While most people are used to watching the big shows of lava spewing from volcanoes on TV and some while volcano watching during their vacations, no one can possibly be prepared to the amount of disaster that a supervolcano would cause. In recorded history no one has experienced the fury of a supervolcano first hand but it is believed the impact that such an eruption could have would be deadly not only to people in the vicinity, but even for people on the other side of the world.
Known Supervolcanoes (Yellowstone)
There are six supervolcanoes which are currently known by most people. The many visitors of Yellowstone Park may not realize it, but they are walking on top of one of the biggest threats to humanity. To understand how massive an eruption from one of these volcanoes can be, we can look at what took place in the Yellowstone Caldera volcano that erupted 2 million years ago. The size of the eruption was so big that the amount of ash ejected was over 8,000 times the amount ejected by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
Long Valley Caldera
The Long Valley Caldera is located in the eastern side of the state of California and it is second only to Yellowstone. It’s last eruption, though not as massive as the one in Yellowstone supervolcano could still cause tremendous damage to the population in the world; that eruption took place close to 760,000 years ago, and the result was 2,000 times the size of the eruption of Mount St Helens.
The Valles Caldera is located northern of New Mexico and its last supervolcano eruption happened over a 50,000 years ago. The effects of the supervolcano eruption at the Valles Caldera were felt as far as Iowa as some ash and rock landed all the way there.
Lake Toba in Indonesia is big; in fact it is actually bigger than the Yellowstone caldera. The last time this supervolcano erupted was 74,000 years ago. The eruption that was presented was 5,000 times larger than the Mount St. Helens eruption and it has been suggested by several scientists that this event was so massive that it changed the trajectory of humanity and resulted in what we see today.
The Taupo Caldera is located in New Zealand and though now the view that you get is that s a spectacular lake, that lake was created by an eruption 26,500 years ago; the basin which was left after the eruption is what became the lake you see today. This massive monster is not a dead supervolcano. Volcanic activity can be observed in the area in the form of venting and hot springs.
This Caldera in Japan is pretty close to the city of Kagoshima. This is not a sleeping giant; in fact there are several earthquakes in the area caused by it and the Sakura-jima volcano is still active. Those are clear signs that the caldera is still active and it is a reason for concern for scientists.
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There are events that take place throughout the history of the world that are so massive that they are ingrained in our heads from the moment that we hear of them. The places in which those events took place become a tourist spot for many people to visit but at one point they were the site of disaster. One such place is Yellowstone Park. The site where many people in the US visit every year as one of the national parks in the country is also the site of the Yellowstone Volcano. This is what is called a supervolcano which means that its eruptions have been categorized as a VEI8 (volcano eruption index).
There are three calderas in the Yellowstone Plateau. The first one is the Henry’s Fork Caldera which is located in Idaho and it was formed 1.3 million years ago. The Island Park Caldera is oval shaped and it is much larger. It extends very much into the Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone Caldera can also be found within the park but the only one to be visible currently is the Henry’s Fork Caldera. The Island Park Caldera is much older than Henry’s Fork and its dimensions are close to 80 by 65 km. That should give you an idea of how big a Yellowstone Volcano explosion could be.
The Yellowstone Volcano has erupted in the past and it will erupt again. It has been calculated that this supervolcano erupts every 600,000 years with the last recorded eruption happening 640,000 years ago. Today there have been four recorded VEI8 eruptions recorded at Yellowstone, with the oldest taking place 2 million years ago and the most recent one 640,000 years ago.
Where Will The Eruption Take Place?
The massive size of the Yellowstone Volcano means that there are different areas where the next eruption could take place. More than likely an eruption of the Yellowstone Volcano would be centered in a parallel fault zone out of three possibilities. The two areas with the largest flow of lava are always a possibility but in recent years a third area has been displaying frequent tremors. Because scientists know these areas they can monitor them closely. While the massive eruptions don’t take place often, small ones do take place a lot more frequently but they are not of the explosive kind.
What Happens When The Yellowstone Volcano Erupts?
The Yellowstone Volcano is known to be a supervolcano because in the past (2 million years ago) it released over 600 cubic miles of lava and ash in one single event. When the last eruption took place about 640,000 years ago it is believed that it caused the last ice age. The reason the ice age took place after the eruption is that the ash went up to the atmosphere blocking a lot of the heat the planet receives from the sun. That led to many species dying because vegetation could not survive and therefore animals had no food. Another supervolcano explosion which happened in Indonesia about 74,000 years ago is believed to have killed close to 60% of the human population.
What Would Happen Today?
If the Yellowstone Volcano were to erupt today the consequences could be even greater than the Sumatra supervolcano which killed close to 60% of the population. The number of people in the world is a little over 7 billion already and if an ice age were triggered and animals and vegetation were to die then even fewer people would be able to survive. Food shortages would take place almost immediately and they would affect people even on the other side of the world. Those who live in the nearby area, especially those in Wyoming and the surrounding states, would stand no chance. The lava would kill most of the people in the area and those unlikely survivors would asphyxiate when they breathe in the ash. In other words, a Yellowstone Volcano eruption could mean the extinction of life on the planet.
What Are The Chances?
Despite the fact that some believe that an eruption at Yellowstone is overdue the chances of seeing an eruption on any given day are very small. Those chances have been calculated to be less than 1 in 10,000 of it happening in a given year and that is including the smaller eruptions. That is not to say that an eruption will not take place sometime; eventually the volcano in Yellowstone will erupt. Today magma is accumulating and tremors can be felt on the ground at Yellowstone. This serves as a constant reminder that this supervolcano could go off at any time.
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