A YELLOWSTONE volcano eruption could kill scores of people, rock economies, disrupt air travel and even threaten peace as the world is unprepared for the next major volcanic blast, scientists have warned.
A team of volcanologists said the next major eruption could very well happen in our lifetimes, and urged governments to start making emergency plans.
In a paper published in Geosphere, authors wrote: “A VEI-7 eruption could destabilise financial centres, air travel, national economies and even peace between nations.”
A city could be decimated if a VEI-7 hit, as hot gases, lava and ash can travel 60 miles from the volcano, researchers said.
The study said: “Any town or city in the path would be destroyed, and death tolls could reach millions unless mass evacuations had been made.”
Coastal communities could even be wiped out if the lava enters the sea triggering tsunamis.
An eruption could also cause massive economic issues across the world.
Researchers wrote: “Given the incredibly complex logistics of food, water, health care and other supplies in an urban area, imagine the logistical nightmare if transport within any large city were stopped even for a week or two.
“Millions of hungry people do not stay quiet for long. National leadership may be challenged and replaced.”
The most recent major eruption was in 1980 when Mount St Helen in Washington state blew killing hundreds of people and even causing global cooling.
That was a VEI-6 eruption, and exerts say a VEI-7 eruption would bring about a completely different level of catastrophe.
Writing in Geosphere, the experts said massive 7 eruptions occur on average twice every 1,000 years.
The last eruption registering 7 or higher on the Volcanic Explosively Index (VEI) happened in Indonesia in 1815.
Chris Newhall, volcanologist and lead author of the paper, told Nature: “The next VEI-7 eruption could occur within our lifetimes, or it could be hundreds of years down the road.”
The 2010 Iceland volcano, only a VEI-3, grounded air traffic for days and caused £3.6billion in economic loses.
The authors suggest governments implement an early alert system and carry out more research.
A warning system could alert public transport networks, airports, put nuclear power stations on shutdown and give time for food to be stockpiled.