Thanks to Hollywood, authors may have a very false sense on what they can accurately write about volcanos. How many times have we seen bodies swallowed who by lava at the depths of a volcano? Well in reality the odds a body would make it that far is slim to none. The temperatures can reach over 1800 degrees Fahrenheit which is hot enough to incinerate the human body. For comparison the cremation of a dead body is carried out at a temperature ranging between 1400 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.
But there’s more. You have to get close enough. The rim of the volcano is filled with enough toxic gas to kill anyone who gets close with temperatures reaching 900 degrees Fahrenheit. When approaching you may think you’re getting tired, but it really is the toxic combination of sulfur, methane, carbon monoxide, and ammonia. Without oxygen, it would not be long before you suffocate.
Most images of the inside of a volcano we got by photographers either hovering above, drone, or who have dropped down towards the center. That’s if the smoke and updraft from the heat doesn’t force the helicopter back or just devour a drone.
Magma is also more viscous than water which means falling into it from any height would be the equivalent to falling into concrete.
So now you’ve plummeted from a great height, you’re suffocating, skin already burnt, with broken bones and most likely ruptured organs from the impact, now what? Due to the viscosity of magma you don’t plan on sinking in too far. In less then a second you’re going to look like grandfather’s ashes.
So, is it possible to fall into a volcano and live? Well, it’s rare, but it has happened. In 2007 a Maasai porter fell into a volcano but managed to pull himself out. How is this possible. Well the lava he fell into was noncarbonate lava which is only half as hot. He suffered severe burns to his legs and arms but lived. Natrocarbonatite lavas are rich in the rare sodium and potassium carbonate minerals, nyerereite and gregoryite. Due to this composition, the lava erupts at relatively low temperatures around 1022 degrees Fahrenheit. Not that this is just a mild heatwave but compared to regular lava temperatures natrocarbonatite lava has enough difference in temperature that the molten lava appears black in sunlight, rather than having the red glow common to most lavas. It is also much more fluid than silicate lavas.
Some volcanos can erupt enough sulfur dioxide to bring down the temperature globally. The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines brought the global temperature down at least 32 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the USGS.
When a volcano erupts it can cover around a 20 mile radius. And if the volcano does not get you the lightning might. Volcanic lightning occurs mostly within the cloud of ash during an eruption and is created by the friction of the ash rushing to the surface. Lightening can strike 5-10 miles away.
A volcanic eruption might not be the big blockbuster boom like the movies portray either. Sometimes only a hissing sound is heard when a volcano erupts. But, what Hollywood does have right is that the force of the sound wave can cause hearing loss and break glass.
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