No sign of 2012 supervolcanoes, NASA says

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 22:24

Washington: Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre have found no evidence to support claims that there could be volcano supereruptions in 2012.
The geological record holds clues that throughout Earth’s 4.5-billion-year lifetime massive supervolcanoes, far larger than Mount St. Helens or Mount Pinatubo, have erupted.

However, despite the claims of those who fear 2012, there’s no evidence that such a supereruption is imminent.

The terms “supervolcano” and “supereruption” are fairly new and favoured by the media more than scientists, but geologists have begun to use them in recent years to refer to explosive volcanic eruptions that eject about ten thousand times the quantity of magma and ash that Mount St. Helens, one of the most explosive eruptions in recent years, expelled.

Volcanologists continue to seek answers to many unanswered questions about supervolcanoes.

But there’s one thing that all experts agree on: supereruptions, though they occur, are exceedingly rare and the odds that one will occur sooner are vanishingly small.

The most recent supereruption occurred in New Zealand about 26,000 years ago. The next most recent: the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Toba happened about 50,000 years earlier. In all, geologists have identified the remnant of about 50 supereruptions, though teams are in the process of evaluating a number of other possibilities.

That may sound like a large number. However, when one group of scientists used the count of all the known supervolcanoes to calculate the approximate frequency of eruptions, they found that only 1.4 supereruptions occur every one million years.

That’s not to say that a supervolcano will occur every million years at regular intervals.

Many millions of years could pass without a supereruption or many supervolcanoes could erupt in just a short period.

The geological record does suggest supervolcanoes occur in clusters, but the clusters are not regular enough to serve as the basis for predictions of future eruptions.

Scientists have no way of predicting with perfect accuracy whether a supervolcano will occur in a given century, decade, or year – and that includes 2012.

But they do keep close tabs on volcanically active areas around the world, and so far there’s absolutely no sign of a supereruption looming anytime soon.

ANI



First Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 22:24

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