An international team of scientists has calculated how fast supervolcanoes would engulf anything around them in hot rock and gas by analyzing Silver Creek caldera’s last eruption.
Surprisingly, the tides of hot magma and ash traveled not faster than 10 to 45 mph, though they were able to cover more than 100 miles in the wake of the eruption. The findings challenge the commonly held belief that the material produced by supervolcanoes would be expelled at neck-breaking speeds.
According to the recent research, anyone could easily outrun the material flowing from a supervolcano… by car.
“I wouldn’t recommend anyone try to outrun a volcano, but there’s a few of us that could,”
noted Greg Valentine, one of the researchers involved in the study and volcano expert at he University at Buffalo in New York.
Scientists explained that supervolcanoes are ancient volcanoes that can undergo an eruption that is hundreds of times more violent than the most violent volcano eruption humanity has so far witnessed.
Researchers are interested in monitoring these dormant volcanoes since the majority are located in densely populated areas across the globe, including the western parts of the U.S.
The research team analyzed one such volcano which lies beneath California, Arizona, and Nevada: the Silver Creek caldera. During its last eruption, the supervolcano spewed hundreds of tons of volcanic material across all three states. But the “rivers” of hot rock and gas scientifically known as “pyroclastic flows,” traveled at relatively moderate speeds, rather than moving super-fast in an initial phase.
Researchers based their analysis on 30-year-old field data and modern-day lab experiments. Olivier Roche another researcher involved in the experiments noted that most people and scientists assume that the tides of hot magma and gas must have traveled very fast to cover such an extreme distance. But lab experiments have failed to confirm the scenario.
A research paper on the findings was published Monday in the journal Nature Communications.
Valentine noted that the recent study results may help people better prepare for a supervolcano eruption. If scientists can predict how fast pyroclastic flows travel, people will know for sure how much time they have left to get out of the way.
Nevertheless, volcanologists advise people in the vicinity of a volcano of any type to evacuate the area BEFORE the flows start.
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