6 Volcanoes That Could End the World As We Know It

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Cumbre Vieja, Canary Islands, an enormously dangerous volcano
Image: Reinhard Kraasch

These are the alarming findings of geological scientists Steven N. Ward, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Simon Day, of University College London, who observed that “at least a dozen major collapses in the past several million years” have involved volcanoes in the Canary Islands. Moreover, they explained, when Cumbre Vieja last erupted in 1949 an “ominous” rupture materialized in the western flank’s surface, which could signal a “catastrophic” landslide resulting from that flank giving way. The sheer power generated by such an event would be equivalent to all the electricity used in the U.S. over a half-year period.

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Sakurajima, Aira Caldera, across from the city of Kagoshima
Image: Kimon Berlin

1. Aira Caldera – Kyushu, Japan

Within the next century, a massive volcanic eruption in Japan could kill an overwhelming majority of the country’s population. This is the horrifying warning of a 2014 study by Kobe University volcanologists Keiko Suzuki and Yoshiyuki Tatsumi, who specifically studied a volcanic crater on the Japanese island of Kyushu. “It wouldn’t be a surprise if such gigantic eruption were to take place at any moment,” the scientists explained. “We should be aware.” One such volcanic zone on the island is the over 20,000-year-old Aira Caldera. Should a volcano at the giant 12-mile-wide crater explode with enough force, the pair concluded, lava and ash would engulf a region home to millions of people within only a couple of hours.

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