Super Mario, Superman, Super Soakers - we all know things that begin with the word 'super' are usually pretty awesome. Sure, that's common knowledge, but what about supervolcanoes? Well, they're something entirely different.
There are currently around six known active supervolcanoes on Earth, and one of these world-changing-ash-and-fiery-brimstone-belching-bad-boys is located right in the middle of the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. This probably isn't news to most of you, but recently the Yellowstone supervolcanco has been responsible for some pretty insane happenings.
According to park authorities, the Yellowstone volcano has heated up so much in the past few years it has started to turn roads into 'soup' - that's their words, not mine. Park spokesman, Dan Hottle explained:
It basically turned the asphalt into soup. It turned the gravel road into oatmeal.
Indeed, large portions of the famous nature reserve have been closed off midst fears that visitors could seriously hurt themselves. One major fear is that hikers and wanderers might stroll into pools of boiling hot water which appear on the surface to be solid ground - basically turning you into a boil-in-the-bag meal for one of Yellowstone's grisly bears.
At the moment only some areas of the vast Yellowstone Park are affected, including the road to arguably the area's most famous landmark, Old Faithful. However, another spokesman, Al Nash, warned visitors to stay away from the forbidden areas:
There are plenty of other great places to see thermal features in the park. I wouldn’t risk personal injury to see these [forbidden areas] during this temporary closure.
Supervolcanoes are defined as any volcano which is capable to producing an explosion equivalent to 1000 cubic kilometers of liquid hot magma - or in layman's terms, they are simply volcanoes which are f*cking massive. Indeed, these things aren't like those puny little lava-spitting tourist attractions that blow their top every now and then. These things are real-life world-enders, capable of throwing enough ash into the air to forever change the climate and render continents uninhabitable. If Yellowstone decided to explode, it would make Pompeii look like a kid's fire cracker.
The human species has never actually experienced one of these events in recorded history - and as far as we know, Yellowstone hasn't erupted for more than 640,000 years. We did, however, get a glimpse of what it might look like in Roland Emmerich's 2012 - a film which featured more global destruction than all of the 1990's disaster flicks combined. Here's how they thought the eruption would go down:
Of course, it's not just Yellowstone we should be worried about. There are also many other active supervolancoes which are counting down to an eruption. Indeed, experts believe one of the biggest, Lake Toba in Indonesia, could be due another burst as its floor has increased by half a kilometer in the last century alone.
The last time Toba exploded 70,000 years ago, it coated India (which was 2,800 miles away) in 15 centimeters of ash and reduced the human breeding population to less than 1,000 individuals - effectively wiping out 60% of the world's population and potentially changing the genetic makeup of humans forever. The eruption, which would have been the largest explosion within the last 25 million years, lasted two weeks and pumped 10,000 million tonnes of sulfurous acid and 6,000 million tonnes of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere - resulting in a "volcanic winter" which drastically reduced global temperatures for several years. Basically, it sucked. Big time.
Could that be about to happen again?
How do you think the world will end?