Scientists take closer look at how rivers of hot ash and gas move when a super-volcano erupts

Scientists have been observing deeply how rivers of hot ash and gas move at the time of a super-volcano eruption. They have succeeded in gaining further insight into what could happen at the time of a super-volcano explosion.

In the most recent study, the main focus of the researchers was on the Silver Creek caldera, located at the intersection of California, Nevada and Arizona. At the time of eruption of this super-volcano nearly 18.8 million years back, it brought floods in the parts of all three states, floods full of river-like currents of hot ash and gas known as pyroclastic flows. The tides of volcanic material covered a distance of over 100 miles.

They brought together the latest lab experiments with field data from the 1980s, a part of which was recorded in colorful Kodachrome slides. The finding has uncovered that the rivers of ash and gas emanating from the Silver Creek caldera probably travelled at modest speeds of roughly 10 to 45 miles per hour.

Study co-author Oliver Roch said, “Intuitively, most of us would think that for the pyroclastic flow to go such an extreme distance, it would have to start off with a very high speed. But this isn’t consistent with what we found”.

Study on pyroclastic flows holds a lot of significance, mainly because it can prove helpful in informing disaster preparedness efforts.

Greg A. Valentine of the University at Buffalo said they are willing to understand such pyroclastic flows so that they can play a major part in forecasting the behavior of such flows at the time of a volcano eruption.

Valentine said the flows’ character and speed will affect how much time you could receive to rush out of the way, though the actual right thing to do is to vacate the area before a flow kicks off.

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