The Yellowstone supervolcano is an eight out of eight on the Volcanic Explosivity Index but has only erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago.
Volcanologists predict an explosion could spread toxic gas all the way to the Midwest, ruining crops and knocking out power, according to Walsh. He adds that a toxic cloud blocking the sun could cause much colder temperatures in the United States for years.
The European Science Foundation said it would be “the greatest catastrophe since the dawn of civilization,” according to Walsh.
He says that supervolcanoes represent an “ultra-catastrophe” that “could lead to global devastation, even human extinction.”
Other examples are an asteroid, and nuclear or biological warfare. He suggests that although an eruption in our lifetime is unlikely, one could decimate the planet.
“There will probably never be a year in which no one dies in an aviation accident, but there will definitely never be a year in which 10 percent of the global population dies in a single plane crash,” Walsh writes for comparison, arguing that the government should spend more on volcano hazard programs.
The Federal Aviation Administration spends more than $7 billion each year on aviation safety compared to $22 million on volcano programs, “even though supervolcanoes, viewed over the longest of the long term, will kill far more people than plane crashes,” he writes.
Walsh closes by saying that we have the power to help prevent these catastrophic disasters but “because we remain confined to the brief human time horizons of our own experience, we treat them as unreal.”
“In doing so,” he writes, “we leave ourselves vulnerable to what we can’t imagine.”