While volcanoes tend to be the lairs of the most incompetent villains in movies, they themselves are also known as forces of destruction. And even though underground volcanoes were pretty much responsible for life on Earth, they are still incredibly lethal.
In fact they are so lethal that you’d most certainly think that there’s no way you could outrun its devastation if one were to erupt in your city. It turns out that you might be wrong, as you could theoretically outrun a supervolcano – at least if you’re good at running long distances.
Attempting to figure out just how fast were the pyroclastic flows from ancient volcanoes, a team of scientists consisting of members from the United States Geological Survey, the University of Buffalo, and France’s Pascal University used a simulation of the Silver Creek caldera 18.8 million years ago.
Huge, deadly rivers of ash, rocks, and gas formed the pyroclastic flows pouring out during the Silver Creek eruption, destroying huge amounts of land in what today is known as Nevada, Arizona, and California.
However, according to the experts, these devastating flows moved at about 10 to 45 miles per hour. It also left layers of ash as deep as 450 feet in places close to the volcano, and up to 10 feet thick 100 miles down. However fast this suggests the volcanoes were moving, the researchers behind the study beg to differ.
In order to better understand these pyroclastic flows, the researchers used samples from the Silver Creek eruption. They also got more familiarized with the process called entraining – it happens when rivers of ash lift rocks off the ground and transport them long distances.
By suing data from both the remaining ash and the transported boulders, the team was able to determine that the pyroclastic flows moved at speeds between 10 to 45 miles per hour (5 to 20 kilometers per hour). According to University of Buffalo’s Greg Valentine, co-author of the study,
We want to understand these pyroclastic flows so we can do a good job of forecasting the behavior of these flows when a volcano erupts. The character and speed of the flows will affect how much time you might have to get out of the way. The only truly safe thing to do is to evacuate before a flow starts.
While at those speeds a modern car or even a decent runner could easily outrun the pyroclastic flow, the real danger is posed by the temperatures far exceeding 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. So, as the experts said, the best idea is to evacuate timely, and you should be just fine.
Image source: Wikimedia