What If Every Volcano on Earth Erupted at Once?

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by Becky Oskin, Senior Writer Whether it's glowing lava snaking into the sea or lightning blooming in billowing ash clouds, the sight of an erupting volcano inspires awe and wonder. Now imagine 1,500 of these suckers all shooting off at once. That's how many active volcanoes dot the Earth, plus an unknown number hidden under the ocean. Every day, between 10 and 20 volcanoes are erupting somewhere on Earth, but scientists say the chance of every volcano on the planet erupting at once is so small that it's impossible. But what if it did happen? Would Earth as it we know it survive? Not likely, said Parv Sethi, a geologist at Radford University in Virginia. Even if only the volcanoes on land blasted in sync, the effects would trigger an environmental domino chain many, many times more powerful than a nuclear winter, Sethi said. "Things will become so bad that I wouldn't want to survive on an Earth like this," he told Live Science. The two big hazards from a worldwide volcanic cataclysm are ash and volcanic gases. (While the explosions and outpourings of lava would be deadly to people living close by, the number of deaths would pale compared to those caused by the ensuing climate change.) Plunged into darkness Sethi predicts that a thick layer of ash would blanket the Earth, completely blocking incoming sunlight. "The planet would be pitched into complete dark, and that is going to devastate photosynthesis, destroy crop yields and cause temperatures to plunge," Sethi said. The ash would linger in the atmosphere for up to 10 years, he added. Yet, not every volcano on Earth is primed to pump out large amounts of ash; some, like Hawaii's volcanoes, usually put out gentle lava flows. But the list of 1,500 potential active volcanoes, compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey, includes whoppers like the Yellowstone supervolcano, which could cover the contiguous United States in a thin layer of ash. More via Live Science.

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