The last supervolcanic eruption to occur on planet Earth came 27,000 years ago when Stone Age humans were crafting flints and painting caves.
Back then, Taupo, located at the centre of New Zealand‘s north island, exploded in what was known as the Oruanui eruption.
It covered the island in as much as seven inches of ash, with material thought to have been deposited a staggering 620 miles away.
What makes supervolcanoes different is their magnitude the Volcano Explosivity Index (VEI) which comes in at an eight, meaning at one point in time they erupted more than 1,000 cubic kilometres (240 cubic miles) of material.
The US’s Yellowstone caldera is one such supervolcano and has for decades seriously concerned volcanologists who fear that humans won’t be able to do anything to prevent the fallout from a future eruption.
Located in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is as beautiful as they come, but beneath its surface hides the huge caldera home to a supervolcano.
It has remained dormant for more than 600,000 years, but some scientists fear that the sleeping giant might one day wake.
Pressure beneath the park’s surface has mounted for thousands of years and is occasionally released by the various geysers which have popped up from the ground.
In the event of an eruption, heat rising deep beneath the volcano would make its way upwards and melt the molten rock just below the ground surface, creating a mixture of magma, rock, vapour, carbon dioxide and other gases.
A dome will eventually build and cause the ground to rise, and eventually blow its lid, covering neighbouring states Montana and Idaho in volcanic magma and ash.
According to HowStuffWorks, the initial blast would “immediately” kill an astonishing 90,000 people — and that’s only the start.
The blast would send three metres of magma across 1,000 miles of land, preventing rescue teams from reaching certain areas and the blast site itself which would lead to loss of life.
Ash sent spiralling into the atmosphere would stop all travel within a few hundred miles radius, similar to what happened when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010.
This ash would travel around the world and lead to something known as a ‘nuclear winter’, with ash and debris blocking out sunlight and forcing temperatures to drop.
The climate would shift with massive amounts of sulphur dioxide being sent into the atmosphere which may form a sulphur aerosol that reflects and absorbs sunlight.
With a temperature drop of up to 10C, crops would fail to grow which would lead to famine in large parts of the world.
While the aftereffects of a Yellowstone eruption would undoubtedly change the way the world works, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates there is around a 0.00014 percent chance each year that the potentially catastrophic volcano could blow.
The agency previously said in a statement: “Fortunately, the chances of this sort of eruption at Yellowstone are exceedingly small in the next few thousand years.
“There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone is imminent, and such events are unlikely to occur in the next few centuries.
“Scientists have also found no indication of an imminent smaller eruption of lava.”