Apocalyptic mega-volcano ‘has a 1 in SIX chance of erupting in this century’ as scientists warn of ‘global devastation’

ALL too often we are warned of huge asteroids heading our way and the tremendous effort that is required to dodge them.

But few people realize that there is already an even greater threat here on the ground.

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An underwater volcano devastated Tonga last yearCredit: Getty

And that’s much more likely to happen than an asteroid hitting Earth.

That forgotten threat is none other than volcanoes, which experts say don’t get enough attention to prevent large-scale death and destruction.

Looking back through history, these fiery masses have wreaked havoc time and time again.

Yet the world is “woefully underprepared”, according to Dr Michael Cassidy of the University of Birmingham and Dr Lara Mani of the University of Cambridge.

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They say the catastrophic risk of a giant eruption is similar to that of a 1 km wide asteroid crashing into us.

But the shocking difference is that volcanic catastrophe is hundreds of times more likely to occur compared to the odds of an asteroid or comet collision combined.

If that’s not alarming enough, scientists predict there’s a one in six chance of an eruption occurring this century, with a magnitude of 7.

If you’re wondering how bad a magnitude of 7 is, that’s 10 or 100 times bigger than the terrible Tonga eruption that happened in December.

Tonga should be ‘a wake-up call’

Hunga Tonga – Hunga Haʻapai, as the underwater volcano is called, resulted in the death of six people, and not all of the victims were on the island itself.

Two victims drowned in Peru due to a deadly mega wave on the beach.

In Japan and the United States, hundreds of thousands of people have been told to stay off the coast due to fears of a tsunami.

Meanwhile, the nearby Pacific islands were left shrouded in ash, power outages and protracted communication problems.

It took an entire month to repair a crucial undersea cable that Tonga needs to make calls and access the internet.

So you can imagine the severe disruption and loss of life that a 10 or 100 times larger eruption would cause.

After an ash-covered eruption

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After an ash-covered eruptionCredit: © Daniele Volpe

Last magnitude 7 eruption killed 100,000 people

Just look in the history books to see how bad magnitude 7 could be.

“Such gigantic eruptions caused abrupt climate change and the collapse of civilizations in the distant past,” Dr Mani said.

The last one occurred in 1815 in Indonesia and it is estimated that around 100,000 people perished.

The deadly event dropped global temperatures by an average of one degree, so it became known as ‘the year without a summer’.

Crops did not grow properly, leading to famine, as well as violent uprisings and epidemics.

“We now live in a world with eight times the population and more than forty times the level of trade,” Dr Cassidy warned.

“Our complex global networks could make us even more vulnerable to the shocks of a major eruption.”

The financial cost of such a disastrous magnitude today could also run into the trillions.

“Reckless”

Experts say the current lack of planning is “reckless”.

They want more detection technology sorted.

“Each year, hundreds of millions of dollars are injected into asteroid threats, but there is a serious lack of funding and coordination at the global level for volcano preparedness,” Dr Mani continued.

“This needs to change urgently.

“We completely underestimate the risk that volcanoes pose to our societies.”

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Dr Cassidy added: “We may not even know of relatively recent eruptions due to a lack of research on marine and lake cores, especially in neglected regions such as Southeast Asia.

“Volcanoes can lie dormant for a long time, but still be capable of sudden and extraordinary destruction.”

Lava erupts in the Meradalir Valley, Iceland

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Lava erupts in the Meradalir Valley, IcelandCredit: Getty

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