There is a one in six risk of a major volcanic eruption this century that could dramatically change the world’s climate and put millions at risk.
When the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Haapai submarine volcano erupted off the coast of Tonga in the South Pacific in January, the blast was so massive that the resulting tsunami hit the coasts of Japan, North and South America, and Tonga itself suffered damage equivalent to nearly one fifth of its entire GDP.
Analyzing ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica, scientists from Copenhagen have found that a magnitude 7 volcanic eruption is entirely possible within this century. It will be 10 to 100 times greater than that recorded in January. Eruptions of this size have caused drastic climate change and the collapse of entire civilizations in the past.
One of the leading volcanologists in the United Kingdom, Michael Cassidy, commented that NASA and other agencies receive hundreds of billions of dollars in funding to plan “planetary defense” – preventing an asteroid or other space object from hitting Earth. But there is no global program dedicated to protecting against the devastation of a large-scale volcanic eruption—something hundreds of times more likely to occur than an asteroid and comet strike combined.
The last magnitude 7 eruption occurred in 1815 in Tambora, Indonesia, killing more than 100,000 people in a few days, but the effects were felt worldwide by millions. The volcano spewed such massive amounts of ash into the air that 1815 became known as “the year without a summer” as the Earth’s average temperature dropped a full degree. It ruined crops in China, Europe, and North America, while torrential rains and floods helped cholera spread to India, Russia, and many other Asian nations.