In 1809, there was a massive volcanic eruption in Colombia South America. The years 1810-1812 are known as the “Years without Summer.” Somehow, the human race, despite suffering from a volcanic winter, managed to completely miss the eruption that caused it. It wasn’t until about 30 years ago, when ice cores from Alaska and Greenland brought the eruption to the attention of scientists that the “Years without Summer” became explainable. And yet, we still can’t find the volcano…
Now, I’m not a doom and gloom kind of person. I know that Yellowstone is a supervolcano. I also know it is heavily monitored and that when the caldera decides to spew forth its destructive contents, living in Missouri, is not going to save me from what is most likely an extinction level event. However, I don’t think about it… I don’t wake up in the morning wondering if today is the day that the Yellowstone Caldera erupts.
The mystery volcano in Colombia bothers me. In 1883, Krakatoa exploded with a VEI-6 (I can’t remember what VEI stands for). In 1991, Mount Pinatubo also erupted at a VEI-6. The Krakatoa eruption created an island. Yep, think about that statement for a moment… a VEI-6 can create a brand new island…
Which is why the mystery volcano bothers me. It was large enough to create a miniature ice age (very miniature)… Three years of epic snow falls, disastrously short growing seasons, and springs and falls that looked a whole lot like winter. It was bigger than a VEI-6. And we can’t freakin’ find it?!? (On an interesting side note, in 1809 the New Madrid fault gave its first belch, a preview of an event that would lead to a couple of years of severe earthquakes that actually made the Mississippi River run backwards and could be felt as far north as Montreal, Canada)
Krakatoa did not create a volcanic winter. Pinatuba (in 1991 it erupted at a VEI-6) did not cause a volcanic winter. Yet, the volcano we can’t find, did. This means there is a very good chance that it is more like Yellowstone than Krakatoa… A super volcano.
The nice thing about volcanoes is that we have made a ton of progress in understanding them over the last fifty years. We monitor the shit out of them, because if we monitor them, we can predict eruptions (which saved thousands when Pinatuba went in 1991). No one seems to notice the battalion of scientists hanging around Yellowstone with billions of dollars worth of equipment, but they both exist. But we can’t monitor a volcano we can’t find… A volcano that we know erupted with a VEI-7, at the least.
There are dozens of volcanoes in Colombia, only one is classified as large; Dona Juana. The volcano is active and does have a caldera… So, was it the Dona Juana that caused the volcanic winter or are we really dealing with an unmonitored supervolcano?