In an awe-inspiring display of nature’s tectonic power, the Puyehue volcano in southern Chile violently erupted last Sunday.
While thousands of locals have been evacuated from the area, the eruption does not look like causing substantial casualties at the moment. It does, however, provide a small-scale simulation of the Nuclear Winter scenario. The Puyehue volcano has expelled a column of ash and gas more than 10 km into the sky. This volcanic material has been blown across much of South America and reached Argentina and the Atlantic Ocean. The ash-filled sky has simulated a solar eclipse in parts of Chile, and covered the ground in thick layers of fallout. Locals fear for the safety of their crops and livestock.
These perilous events are a tiny microcosm of what would occur during a Nuclear Winter. The ash cloud would be created by the massive explosive power of a fission detonation, and unlike the Puyehue volcano, the particulate matter would be highly radioactive, and would surge higher into the atmosphere. The higher the matter is propelled, the further afield it is blown by winds. The more material enters the upper atmosphere, the longer it takes to disperse, and the more sunlight is blocked. The villages near Puyehue which are covered in several feet of ash, would in a Nuclear holocaust be rendered uninhabitable by the radioactive fallout.
With modern emergency services, humans probably have little to fear from most volcanoes. Unless, of course, their awesome displays are a subtle hint of a dark future to come.