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Supereruptions and Supervolcanoes


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Corvallis, Oregon
Many volcanoes that have had supereruptions are restless calderas, which means they have lots of seismic activity and can also host some ground deformation as their baseline.

Yellowstone does this. Remember all that talk about uplift at Norris several years ago and "she's gonna blow" sensationalism, as scientists kept saying this is normal?

Well, they knew. Nothing happened and the caldera has been subsiding now for years, per the current update (which YVO also does in video form):

YVO also has this Truth About Yellowstone page that is really good.

I mention all this because if Yellowstone was doing what the site of the world's last supereruption, more than 20,000 years ago, is doing, down in New Zealand, it would dominate the news cycle.

And yet, just as during the seismic-swarm coverage up here earlier this century, Kiwi scientists are reporting that it's not unprecedented:

While the observations beneath Lake Taupō to date represent an increase to the normal background activity, they do not stand out with respect to previous periods of unrest in 2008-2009 and 2019 (see Figure 2). We believe that the 2022 earthquakes and ground deformation are similar to those of 2008-2009 and 2019, which has helped to inform our view that Volcanic Alert Level 0 is currently appropriate for the Taupō Volcanic Centre. Therefore, the Volcanic Alert Level remains at 0.

It's a caldera, and it's restless.

Volcanologists not only can spot trouble ahead of time, they also help us stay calm and informed about these large volcanoes (which is all "supervolcano" really means).

I thought perhaps a thread about these extreme events might do that, too.

For instance, in the online clip I've seen, the movie 2012 seemed to model their supereruption on a nuclear blast, which is frightening and very unrealistic.

Using data from Taupo's big event (like Yellowstone and other supervolcanoes, it has "normal-sized" eruptions, too), they've modeled a real supereruption.

It's just like it sounds: an unusually large eruption series. And, incidentally, more impressive than 2012's blast.

It's awesome to watch but also reassuring in that monitoring will see this coming well before the big event hits (if things play out as they did back then at this one volcano).

Things like:

  • Ground uplift (the reason why that narrow body of water first closes in one point)
  • Temperature changes and fumaroles

When the screen is blotted out after the magma chamber unzips, watch the orange bar underneath to see the caldera collapse.

There's a nice followthrough with post-eruption Southern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, too.

I'm not saying Taupo is going to blow -- the people who know are watching it carefully and haven't even raised the alert level from 0 to 1.

I am saying that supereruptions in real life are cool -- as long as one isn't looming! -- and so are animations like that.

There are a slew of such volcanoes around, too. It could be an interesting thread.

I can't contribute much to it, other than occasional dibs and dabs like that video and news, but I'll be glad to use my lookup skills to put facts and reliable info links up to any sensational claims someone might come across online in tabloids or at clickbait sites.

For example, anything about Yellowstone or Taupo you can check through the YVO link up above and the GeoNet bulletin page, respectively.