Could the Human Race Survive a Supervolcano?

Supervolcanoes have the power to trigger widespread climate change and global starvation. Bryan Walsh lays out the steps we can take to prepare.

Although they might occur infrequently, even on a geological timeline, supervolcanoes are by no means insignificant. Unlike isolated incidents of tragedy that affect different people groups around the world, one supervolcano could pose a threat to all life on Earth.

In his book End Times: A Brief Guide to the End of the World, bestselling author Bryan Walsh examines a variety of existential risks -- global threats so great they could trigger human extinction, or reduce the human population so drastically that there'd be no recognizable future.

In addition to cataclysmic asteroid disasters and superintelligent AI robots, Walsh's book considers the very real threat which supervolcanoes impose on the human race. He also uncovers what we can do to be better prepared to survive the aftermath of a supervolcano eruption.

Volcano Facts + A List of Volcanoes Today

There are approximately 1,500 active volcanoes around the world and about 169 of them are in the U.S.

Like the Richter Scale used to measure earthquakes and the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale that rates hurricanes, volcanoes are measured using their own unique scale, called the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI).

The VEI ranks volcanoes on a scale of magnitude, ranging from one (minor eruptions) to eight (biggest volcano eruptions) based on the volume of erupted materials. With each number, the volume of ejected materials increases by a factor of 10, and only volcanoes of "VEI 8" magnitude are considered supervolcanoes.

Although a VEI 8 and VEI 5 are only three points away from each other on the scale, they depict quite different events. For example, the VEI 5 eruption of Mount St. Helen's in May of 1980 didn't even spew one-percent of the volume ejected by the VEI 8 Mount Toba eruption.