A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface. Earth’s volcanoes occur because its crust is broken into 17 major, rigid tectonic plates that float on a hotter, softer layer in its mantle and they are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging, with a number hiding underwater. But, American author Stephen Petranek revealed during a TedTalk how one huge eruption in the future could lead to a chain reaction, potentially marking the end of the world.
Speaking in 2014, he said: “We do not live on a nice, stable solid planet.
“It is mostly molten rock and iron and it has a nuclear reactor in the centre of it that keeps it hot.
“We’re, like, on these life rafts floating overall this molten rock.
“Earth’s crust is so constantly folding in on itself that we cannot find a stone on the surface of the Earth that is as old as the planet.
Stephen Petranek sent a warning over volcanic eruptions
“98 percent of all the species on Earth have gone extinct and volcanoes are the biggest reason why.”
Mr Petranek went on to reveal how history has warned that such an event is possible.
He added: “Of the 11 biggest extinctions, four were caused by volcanoes.
“Studies link the late Triassic extinction to volcanic eruptions and outflows, and a new study links this amazing extinction of life – 95 percent of life on Earth – to volcanoes that essentially stretched and all went off at the same time.
“They essentially stretched from what is now New Jersey to what is now Morocco.
“In our past, Earth has opened up many times and flowed out for centuries – India is an outflow of volcanism.”
Mr Petranek detailed the after-effects of such an event and how it could spark a nuclear winter.
He added: “Volcanic activity fills the sky with soot and hot ash and buries every living thing and blocks the sun for so many summers, the plants on land and plankton in the sea die, and when they die, we die.
“Volcanoes can also produce so much carbon dioxide that they will massively warm the planet and create a runaway greenhouse effect, which is the opposite of what we often expect from them.
“In Holland, they grow most of their food in greenhouses with synthetic light 24 hours a day.
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“We can do that.”
Mr Petranek said he had a simple solution which could save many lives.
He continued: “When I was putting this talk together, I just had this weird idea.
“I went to Amazon, I looked to see how much gas masks were and how good they are.
“Gas masks are the cheapest insurance you can buy.
“They don’t take up much space, and they get you through a lot of hard times.
“The ultimate solution to living on a planet like ours, which really is unstable and will not last – in four and a half billion years, the Sun will take us in – our species will eventually die if we do not colonise other planets.”