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Climate Change Means More Volcanoes

Climate change isn't just melting ice caps, it's about melting magma too. This, in turn, will lead to more volcanic eruptions. The recent volcano in Iceland may have disrupted air travel, but what's even more amazing is that a huge volcanic eruption in Indonesia 74,000 years ago changed the course of evolution!

The largest ice cap in Iceland is getting smaller every year at the same time the volcano underneath it is heating up. As the ice disappears, it relieves the pressure on the rocks deep underneath, which increases the rate of magma melt.

In New Scientist, Catherine Brahic quotes volcanologist Bill McGuire as saying, "We are going to see a massive increase in volcanic activity globally. If we look back at previous warm periods, that is what happened."

The eruption of the supervolcano Toba on the island of Sumatra almost 75,000 years ago changed the course of history, wiping out one species of early man and allowing another (us) to flourish. Could this happen again? There are signs that this sort of evolutionary change may be on the way.

The eruption of Toba was the largest eruption on Earth in the last 2 million years, more than 5,000 times as large as the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in the US. And it occurred during crucial period in human prehistory, when Neanderthals were living in Asia and Europe, about the same time our direct ancestors, Homo Sapiens, were first leaving Africa. But the ash from Toba blocked out the sun, leading to a "volcanic winter" that eventually did in the Neanderthals.

In New Scientist, Kate Ravilious quotes researcher Alan Robock as saying, "Our model showed that extra water would be lofted into the stratosphere because of warming at the top of the troposphere [the lowest layer in the atmosphere], so water would not be a limiting factor. We simulate a decade or two of very cold, dry, dark conditions, which would have been difficult for humans to adapt to."

Meanwhile, our ancestors left Africa and went on to conquer the world.

Although Nashville doesn't have any volcanoes, we had a delightful eruption of fascinating information there last summer and if you want to find out what your favorite Dreamland hosts are thinking about this year, be sure to join us on June 25-27 for a thought-provoking good time!

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