Products You May Like
The world has been “slightly lucky” not to have already endured a super eruption, according to Professor Jonathan Rougier who lead the study with Bristol University.
Catastrophic volcanic eruptions, which can cover an entire continent with volcanic ash and block out sunlight for months, bringing on a mini ice age, were thought to take place about every 45,000 to 714,000 years.
However, now a new scientific study claims they happen much more frequently at between about 5,200 and 48,000 years.
Currently Mount Agung, on Bali, Indonesia, is fiercely erupting, with its power building.
More than 100,000 people have had to evacuate their homes as the threat grows.
The last known super eruption is believed to have occurred about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.
And there was one 74,000 years ago, also in Indonesia, when about 3,000 cubic kilometres of molten rock and ash was hurled upwards at Lake Toba on the island of Sumatra.
The new study published in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters journal suggests the “best-guess value” for super eruption frequency is every 17,000 years.
If correct, it would mean we are over due one from one of Earth’s larger volcanoes by 57,000 years.
Mount Agung has spewed toxic ash 3.7 miles (6km) into the air.
The ash cloud would be devastatingly bigger if a super eruption occurred.
Statistician and Professor Jonathan Rougier, and his team worked from a database of geological records to produce the new estimates.
Professor Rougier said: “On balance, we have been slightly lucky not to experience any super-eruptions since then.”
Dr Marc Reichow, a geochemist at the University of Leicester who was independent to the study, said the findings were based on “sound statistical analysis”.
He said: “The approach and assessment are robust, and certainly will help us understand and most importantly may help predict future eruptions.
“However nature, including volcanic eruptions, does not necessarily work as clocks work.”
Fortunately, Professor Rougier said the lack of super-eruptions in the last 20,000 years does not mean one is imminent, adding: “Nature is not that regular.”
He said smaller volcanoes like Mount Agung could devastate a whole nation on a full eruption, but not a continent.
He added: “What we can say is that volcanoes are more threatening to our civilisation than previously thought.”