Thursday, April 23, 2015

All Life on Earth in Danger of Extinction by Massive Volcanic Exodus

""The world is woefully unprepared for a massive volcanic eruption that could kill millions of people and destroy much of modern society, a leading group of scientists have warned.

In a new report on the risks posed by natural disasters, experts at the European Science Foundation concluded that large volcanic eruptions posed the greatest risk human survival.

They calculated that there is between a five to 10 per cent probability of an explosive eruption large enough to cause huge numbers of deaths, alter the climate and poison the atmosphere occurring by the end of the century.

The ash cloud thrown out from this eruption reached more than 26 miles (43km) into the atmosphere and triggered temperature changes that led to widespread famine and epidemics.

The summer following the Tambora eruption is known as 'the year without summer'.

The scientists warn, however, that rising population levels and increasing reliance on global travel could mean the impacts of a similar eruption could be far more severe.

Writing in their report Extreme Geohazards: Reducing the Disaster Risk and Increasing Resilience, the experts warn that there needs to be an international response to prepare for such a disaster and to monitor for similar events.

They estimate that it could cost between £340 million ($500 million) and £2.3 billion ($3.5 billion) a year to increase the level of monitoring for catastrophic volcanic eruptions, but the benefits that an early warning could give would be ten to hundreds of times greater.
The report states: 'Although in the last few decades earthquakes have been the main cause of fatalities and damage, the main global risk is large volcanic eruptions that are less frequent but far more impactful than the largest earthquakes.

'Due to their far-reaching effects on climate, food security, transportation, and supply chains, these events have the potential to trigger global disaster and catastrophe.

'The cost of response and the ability to respond to these events is beyond the financial and political capabilities of any individual country.

'An international geopolitical response will be required, where science has a unique and key role in preparation, response and mitigation.'

The report, which was presented at the general assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna on Tuesday, examines the main geohazards facing the world including earthquakes, drought, asteroid strikes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, avalanches and wildfires.

It said that large to extreme earthquakes and tsunamis had been more common in the past 2000 years and this had focused the world's disaster response resources onto this threat.

But it concluded that the risk posed by volcanic eruptions is potentially far more serious.

Pointing to recent eruptions like the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull, which caused widespread disruption when it threw clouds of ash into the atmosphere.

It created the highest level of air travel disruption in Europe since the second world war and cost the European economy around $5 billion.

However, the researchers said that this eruption was relatively minor - rating between three and four on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI).

By comparison, the volcanic eruption in 79AD of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii in Italy was around VEI5. Mount St Helen's explosion in 1980 was also VEI5.

The report states that there has been around 20 eruptions greater than VEI5 since 1500 with only the Tambora eruption reaching VEI7.

However around 75,000 years ago the explosion of a supervolcano at the site of Lake Toba on Sumatra in Indonesia was one of the world's largest known eruptions - rated VEI8.

It caused a global volcanic winter that lasted around 10 years and has been linked to 1,000 years of cooling.""

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