Supervolcanoes remain active for thousands of years after a super-eruption

The threat of further hazards exists for many thousands of years after.


The study of an ancient supervolcano in Indonesia reveals that such supervolcanoes remain active for thousands of years after a super-eruption. The study conducted by the International research team, including Curtin scientists, highlighting the need to rethink how these potentially catastrophic events are predicted.

Associate Professor Martin Danišík, lead Australian author from the John de Laeter Centre based at Curtin University, said, “Learning how supervolcanoes work is important for understanding the future threat of an inevitable super-eruption, which happen about once every 17,000 years.”

Associate Professor Danišík said, “the team investigated the fate of magma left behind after the Toba super-eruption 75,000 years ago, using the minerals feldspar and zircon, which contain independent records of time-based on the accumulation of gasses argon and helium as time capsules in the volcanic rocks.”

“Using these geochronological data, statistical inference, and thermal modeling, we showed that magma continued to ooze out within the caldera, or deep depression created by the eruption of magma, for 5000 to 13,000 years after the super-eruption, and then the carapace of solidified left-over magma was pushed upward like a giant turtle shell.”

“The findings challenged existing knowledge and studying of eruptions, which normally involves looking for liquid magma under a volcano to assess the future hazard. We must now consider that eruptions can occur even if no liquid magma is found underneath a volcano – the concept of what is ‘‘eruptible’ needs to be re-evaluated.”

“While a supervolcano eruption can be regionally and globally impactful and recovery may take decades or even centuries, our results show the hazard is not over with the super-eruption, and the threat of further hazards exists for many thousands of years after.”

“Learning when and how eruptible accumulates, and in what state the magma is in before and after such eruptions, is critical for understanding supervolcanoes.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Mucek, A.E., Danišík, M., de Silva, S.L. et al. Resurgence initiation and subsolidus eruption of the cold carapace of warm magma at Toba Caldera, Sumatra. Commun Earth Environ 2, 185 (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s43247-021-00260-1


See stories of the future in your inbox each morning.