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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Supervolcano Eruption Depleted Earth’s Ozone Layer 74,000 Years In the past

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The explosion of the Toba supervolcano, positioned on the trendy island of Sumatra, some 74,000 years in the past was Earth’s largest volcanic eruption previously 28 million years. Estimated 1,700 cubic-miles of rock, a quantity similar to nearly 3 million Empire State Buildings, erupted, forming a crater lake seen even from house.

Rock fragments and volcanic gases launched by the Toba eruption into the ambiance partially blocked the daylight, inflicting a volcanic winter the place temperatures dropped worldwide by 3.5 levels.

However a brand new research printed within the journal Communications Earth & Surroundings suggests the eruption additionally precipitated a depletion of Earth’s ozone layer, permitting dangerous radiation to succeed in the floor.

Ozone varieties in Earth’s stratosphere, from roughly 15 to 35 kilometers (9 to 22 miles) above Earth, the place incoming photo voltaic radiation breaks the atomic bounds between oxygen molecules (O2). The ionized oxygen atoms will shortly regroup, forming a brand new secure molecule with three oxygen atoms referred to as ozone (O3). This ozone layer performs an necessary function, as ozone molecules are in a position to take in many of the Solar’s dangerous radiation.

In keeping with pc simulations compiled by the authors, the Toba eruption despatched sufficient volcanic particles excessive sufficient into the ambiance to soak up a big a part of the photo voltaic radiation, decreasing the speed ozone is shaped. Within the simulations, one 12 months after the eruption, ozone ranges dropped by 20 to 50 p.c, particularly within the equatorial zones the place wind patterns will focus most volcanic particles and gases. With out an intact ozone layer, ranges of dangerous radiation on Earth’s floor spiked to nearly 140 p.c within the following years.

In keeping with the World Well being Group, radiation ranges above 10 p.c should be thought-about harmful for people. Well being results vary from sunburn to radiation accidents of the eyes to an elevated danger of pores and skin most cancers and suppression of the immune system.

A rise of dangerous radiation, particularly within the equatorial zones, might additionally clarify an archaeological thriller. DNA proof and artifacts recommend that about 74,000 years in the past, human populations in central Africa instantly collapsed, however early people in India and southern Africa survived. Within the situation proposed by the authors of the research, individuals left areas rendered uninhabitable by radiation, however continued farther north and south, the place the results have been much less extreme.

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