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A Supersized Volcano

  • By Susan K. Lewis
  • Posted 09.26.06
  • NOVA

In 1949, when a Dutch geologist discovered massive deposits of volcanic rock around Lake Toba on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, scientists knew they were onto something big. The thousand-square-mile area, it turned out, was a giant caldera once filled with steaming volcanic ash and pumice. Toba’s eruption roughly 74,000 years ago was so immense it was deemed a "supervolcano." Here, see how it dwarfs even disastrous "regular-sized" eruptions of our time.

Launch Interactive

Just how large was the biggest volcanic eruption of the last 100,000 years?

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program Mystery of the Megavolcano.

Credits

Images

(magma volume chart)
© NOVA/WGBH Educational Foundation, data courtesy Geological Society of London
(Mount St. Helens ash plume)
Courtesy USGS
(car fleeing Pinatubo eruption)
© Alberto Garcia/CORBIS
(Toba ash fallout)
Courtesy Geological Society of London
(Pinatubo sulfur spread)
Courtesy NASA Langley Research Center Aerosol Research Branch
(Lake Toba satellite view)
Courtesy NASA

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