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Will Supervolcanoes Cause a Global Winter?

NASA has proposed plans to stop supervolcanoes from erupting, but it may not be necessary. A new study suggests that even the most powerful eruptions may not trigger a devastating volcanic winter.

The Impact of Sulfur Dioxide

The key to volcanic cooling is not ash, but sulfur dioxide gas. This gas forms liquid sulfate particles in the stratosphere, which reflect sunlight back into space.

Limits to Cooling

However, simulations show that super-eruptions release so many particles that they clump together. Larger particles are less efficient at reflecting sunlight.

Counteracting Effects

Additionally, the sulfur particles trap heat radiating from Earth, counteracting the cooling effect.

Regional Devastation, but No Global Catastrophe

While a super-eruption would cause massive damage near the eruption site, it would not threaten humanity. The effects would be similar to previous super-eruptions that occurred while humans were on Earth.

Warning Signs

Volcanologists can detect signs of an impending super-eruption, giving ample time for evacuation.