eruption

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Yellowstone caldera is largest volcanic system in North America, Wyoming, USA. (Getty Images)

It sounds like something out of a bad blockbuster movie: A supervolcano erupts, spewing hundreds of cubic miles of magma, incinerating everything within 60 miles, and creating such a massive cloud of ash it blankets most of North America, blacks out the sun, and fills the air with toxic gases. Day becomes night and three feet of ash coats every possible surface, clogging roads, choking out crops, making it nearly impossible to breathe.

This kind of disaster is not just the hallmark of Hollywood, but the potential of an actual supervolcano eruption. Supervolcanoes are actually calderas—enormous craters deep in the ground—with a magma source capable of erupting 240 cubic miles or more. Most of these volcanoes are actually minimally active but they can produce “intensely explosive blasts registering at the upper end of the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI),” according to IFLS.

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