A super volcano or super volcanic eruption is a volcanic eruption with ejecta greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers (240 cubic miles), which is substantially larger than any volcanic event in historic times. Super volcanoes can occur when magma in the Earth rises into the crust from a hotspot but is unable to break through the crust. Pressure builds in a large and growing magma pool until the crust is unable to contain the pressure. They can also form at convergent plate boundaries (for example, Toba). Super volcanoes are relatively new to science.
The Discovery Channel has documented seven known super volcanoes: the Yellowstone, Long Valley, and Valles Calderas in the United States; Lake Toba, North Sumatra, Indonesia; Taupo Volcano, North Island, New Zealand; Aira Caldera, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyūshū, Japan; and the Siberian Traps, Russia. Although there are only a handful of super volcanoes, super volcanic eruptions typically cover huge areas with lava and volcanic ash and cause a long-lasting change to weather (such as the triggering of a small ice age) sufficient to threaten the extinction of species.
When the super volcano at Yellowstone last erupted 640,000 years ago, the magma and ash ejected from the caldera covered most of the United States west of the Mississippi river and part of northeastern Mexico. Another such eruption could threaten civilization. Such an eruption could also release large amounts of gases that could alter the balance of the planet's carbon dioxide and cause a runaway greenhouse effect, or enough pyroclastic debris and other material may be thrown into the atmosphere to partially block out the sun and cause a volcanic winter, as happened in 1816, the Year Without a Summer. An eruption may cause the immediate deaths of millions of people several hundred miles from the eruption, and perhaps billions of deaths worldwide due to the failure of the monsoon, as well as destruction of the "American breadbasket", causing starvation on a massive scale. National Geographic interactive animation: When Yellowstone Explodes.
Due to the volcanic and tectonic nature of the region, the Yellowstone Caldera experiences between 1000 and 2000 measurable earthquakes a year, though most are relatively lesser, measuring a magnitude of 3 or weaker.
Occasionally, numerous earthquakes are detected in a relatively short period of time, an event known as an earthquake swarm. In 1985, more than 3000 earthquakes were measured over several months. More larger swarms have been detected since 2008, with hundreds of quakes detected under Yellowstone Lake. The USGS states that these swarms are caused by movements of magma and hydrothermal fluids.
To help resist this form of catastrophe, the Vivos shelters are designed to withstand:
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