Rapidly Inflating Volcano Creates Growing Mystery

Russ Steele

The geological record tells us that the earth has experienced the eruption of Supervolcanoes in the past. Yellowstone was one in the Northern Hemisphere. The Yellowstone Supervolcano produced three supereruptions eruptions from the Yellowstone hotspot. The three super eruptions occurred 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago, 

How there is one of interest to vulcanologist in the southern hemisphere. Uturuncu is a 20,000-foot-high volcano in southwest Bolivia. Scientists recently discovered the volcano is inflating with astonishing speed. Details at Our Amazing Planet.

It is surrounded by one of the most dense concentrations of supervolcanoes on the planet, all of which fell silent some 1 million years ago.

Supervolcanoes get their name because they erupt with such power that they typically spew out 1,000 times more material, in sheer volume, than a volcano like Mount St. Helens. Modern human civilization has never witnessed such an event. The planet’s most recent supervolcanic eruption happened about 74,000 years ago in Indonesia. [Related: The 10 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History]

“These eruptions are thought to have not only a local and regional impact, but potentially a global impact,” de Silva said.

Uturuncu itself is in the same class as Mount St. Helens in Washington state, but its aggressive rise could indicate that a new supervolcano is on the way. Or not.

De Silva said it appears that local volcanoes hoard magma for about 300,000 years before they blow — and Uturuncu last erupted about 300,000 years ago.

“So that’s why it’s important to know how long this has been going on,” he said.

To find an answer, scientists needed data that stretch back thousands of years — but they had only 20 years of satellite data.

A supervolcanoe could have a much larger impact than a grand minimum on the climate. Stay Tuned.

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About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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