Feeling a little too chipper today? Here’s something to bring you back to down to earth: According to Kobe University professor Yoshiyuki Tatsumi and his research staff, there is a one-percent chance that a huge, Japanese-civilization-obliterating volcanic eruption will occur sometime within the next 100 years.

One percent may not sound like very much, but when you hear the kind of eruption the professor’s research refers to, you’ll understand why even that tiny number is much bigger than we’d like.

Professor Tatsumi’s study warns of the small but distinct possibility of what is known as a Plinian eruption occurring within the next 100 years in Japan. What that basically means is that a volcano will erupt, shooting ash and smoke as high as 18km (11 miles) into the air and spew out a pyroclastic flow (a super hot and very fast-moving mixture of gas and rock) that will engulf vast areas. The eruption would leave behind a huge crater, such as those visible in places such as the Ata crater in Kagoshima (below) and Crater Lake in Oregon, USA.

▼The circle shows part of the circumference of the Ata crater in Kagoshima. What an explosion that must have been!

volcano5Image: Wikipedia

These kinds of eruptions can last from one day to entire months. Though it was of a slightly different nature, you may remember how back in 2010 the Icelandic Plinian eruption of Eyjafjallajokull – which technically lasted for six months – stopped air travel in 20 countries. In Japan however, it would cause a lot more problems than a few hundred deaths (which itself is not to be looked upon lightly), and suspended air travel — we’re talking massive destruction.

▼ A view of the ash cloud from Eyjafjallajokull.

volcano2 Image: Wikipedia

The experts predict that the Kikai volcano, located just south of mainland Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Kyushu, will be the culprit for the massive eruption. Why Kikai? First off, southern Kyushu is home to three other huge calderas – remnants of past eruptions. Further, not only is Kikai huge and long overdue a rumble, but the last time it erupted 7,300 years ago, it wiped out the culture and completely changed the ecology of the area, which actually didn’t recover for nearly a thousand years. I’ll say that again: it took one thousand years for plant and animal natural life in the area to fully recover!

▼ The red dots show the locations of large craters. The green dashed circles show the expected range of the ash cloud and death count (in ten thousands) from the Kyushu caldera sights.


Image: Kobe University

If Kikai were to erupt at the same 8.1-Magnitude it did all those years ago, the pyroclastic flow would kill approximately seven million people within just two hours. Due to the westerly winds, all of the main Japanese island of Honshu would be engulfed in so much ash that Kobe’s study expects life there to be virtually impossible. All communications and lifelines will probably be cut off, leaving most of the population of Japan, about 120 million people, pretty much left for dead.

Thankfully, in reality the chances of complete annihilation coming tomorrow are even slimmer than the one percent the study mentions, and there are scientists tirelessly monitoring volcanic activity in efforts to keep the people of Japan safe, so it’s highly unlikely that, if such an eruption were to happen, we’d have zero warning. But hey, it might not be a bad idea to get that disaster kit ready- or maybe move to Hokkaido where you’d be just outside of the danger zone.

Now, quickly, before you spend the rest of your day staring gloomily out of the window or thinking how futile life is, go and look at something cute.

Source: niconico newsKobe University
Top image: Wikipedia