Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) claim to have found the possible cause for super-eruptions in massive volcanoes on the Earth that occur every 100,000 years and are known to induce planetary climate change.
A model presented by researchers at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis suggest that a combination of temperature influence and the geometrical configuration of the magma chamber is a potential cause for these super-eruptions, OSU said in a news release Wednesday.
According to Patricia Trish Gregg, the lead author of the modeling study, the creation of a ductile halo of rock around the magma chamber allows the pressure to build over tens of thousands of years, resulting in extensive uplifting in the roof above the magma chamber and eventually causing eruption.
Researchers of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, said the super-eruption of major volcanic systems on the Earth could trigger climate change by inducing Ice Ages and other impacts.
Short of a meteor impact, these super-eruptions are the worst environmental hazards our planet can face. Huge amounts of material are expelled, devastating the environment and creating a gas cloud that covers the globe for years, Gregg said.
Huckleberry Ridge eruption of present-day Yellowstone Park was one such eruptions that happened about two million years ago and was over 2,000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington.
File photo from July 22, 1980 showing the eruption plume from Mount St. Helens. Credit: REUTERS
Gregg said that super-volcano eruptions had occurred from time to time throughout history and the magma reservoirs feeding the eruptions could be as large as 10,000 to 15,000 square cubic kilometers.
The Yellowstone eruption was one of the largest super-volcano events in history and it had happened several times but it didn't appear that Yellowstone was primed for another super-eruption anytime soon, though the slow process of volcanic uplift was taking place every day, she added.
Other super-volcano sites include Lake Toba in Sumatra, the central Andes Mountains, New Zealand and Japan.
Tourist photograph the Dragon's Mouth Spring in the Mud Volcano in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, June 23, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart