A VOLCANIC “super-eruption” capable of wiping out human civilisation will come much sooner than thought, scientists have warned.
Cataclysmic blasts powerful enough to send humanity back to the Stone Age are part of the planet’s normal cycle – happening tens of thousands of years apart.
But new research suggests the average time between the events is much less than previously thought.
Super-eruptions can blanket an entire continent with volcanic ash and alter climate on a global scale.
Scientists have shown they are capable of returning humanity to a pre-civilisation state.
Like a giant meteor impact, a super-eruption can trigger a “nuclear winter” effect caused by dust thrown into the atmosphere blotting out the sun.
Just one of the volcanic explosions can unleash more than 1,000 gigatons (1,000 billion tons) of erupted mass into the air.
Previous estimates made in 2004 suggested super-eruptions occurred on average every 45,000 to 714,000 years and posed no immediate threat.
But boffins have revised that number to between 5,200 and 48,000 years – with a “best guess” average of 17,000 years.
The recalculation, published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, was based on a statistical analysis of a large database of past volcanic eruptions.
The two most recent super-eruptions occurred between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Lead researcher Professor Jonathan Rougier, from the University of Bristol, said: “On balance, we have been slightly lucky not to experience any super-eruptions since then.
“But it is important to appreciate that the absence of super-eruptions in the last 20,000 years does not imply that one is overdue. Nature is not that regular.
“What we can say is that volcanoes are more threatening to our civilisation than previously thought.”
Tourist rescue flights left Bali yesterday when winds diverted the ash cloud given off by the erupting Mount Agung.