Chalupas: an Ecuadorian supervolcano threatening the entire planet

  • Post category:Nature

This is not a click-bait title. This is the term to define the most dangerous type of volcano that exists. And yes, there is one in Ecuador.




It is basically a massive scale volcano. It doesn’t have the shape we imagine when we think of one. It is not a Cotopaxi, Reventador, Tungurahua. In fact, some may go unnoticed. However, the most important difference is the amount of volcanic material that is expelled. A normal volcano erupts 1 km3 of material (magma, rocks, ash). While a supervolcano erupts up to 1000 km3 of material. This explosion is capable of causing a worldwide catastrophe.


Source: wikipedia


The only good thing about this type of volcano is that it does not erupt as often. There are hundreds of thousands of years between each eruption. The Chalupas, located in the province of Cotopaxi (Ecuador) erupted for the last time approximately 200,000 years ago. So there is not much probability that this supervolcano will erupt in this century (in fact, 0.1 – 6% probability).


These are the key words in the Chalupas study: an Ecuadorian Super-Volcano that threatens the entire planet by the Greek geologist Theofilos Toulkeridis for the University of the Armed Forces. The most interesting data of this study is as follows:

  • “There are about three dozen of these active super-volcanoes in the world.”
  • “Magma chambers belong in super-volcanoes, which can reach extensions of up to thousands of square kilometers.”
  • “The most dangerous global volcano is in the United States and is called Yellowstone. This volcano has a diameter of 70 to 30 kilometers which makes it impossible to see it without using satellite images. “


The catastrophic release of the thousand cubic kilometers of material goes through this process. It’s kind of like this:


Source: Theofilos Toulkeridis


  1. The magma of the inner part of the earth ascends with more force, but not to find a direct exit to the surface, instead, it is accumulating in a chamber of the upper crust where it is liquefied for thousands of years.
  2. Magma gases inflate and deflate the crust due to the pressure of the gases and the melting of the rocks.
  3. This movement of magma (as if the earth was breathing) causes the crust to crack, and it begins to release all that compressed heat.
  4. The lava, ashes and gases are triggered by these fissures while they continue breaking the walls until all the magma begins to unify and causes the upper crust to fall.

Magma, rocks, gases and ashes start to come out of the boiler, this is called the ignimbrite, and it covers and kills everything that is more than 100 km around.


This supervolcano was discovered in 1980 by a then 29-year-old Spanish geologist named José Manuel Navarro. When visiting the Quilindaña volcano, now inactive, he noticed that what surrounded him was something bigger than just a volcano, it was a 12 km long supervolcano. The ash record showed that the hole around the Quilindaña was the result of an eruption, the last dates 200,000 years ago, which covered the entire Inter-Andean valley with 60 meters. of ignimbrite (2).


Source Theofilos Toulkeridis


Currently, the Chalupas is asleep. It can’t be known when it will explode. If it dow and because of its Volcanic Explosivity Index (IEV) of 7 (measured by Toulkeridis), the consequences would be as if a meteorite fell on Earth. Probably only 5% of the Ecuadorian population would survive acid rain and low temperatures, while the global repercussions would be reflected in the climate, air traffic, communications and agricultural production.



Source: BBC


While the Chalupas’ threat sounds exorbitant, it is not the most dangerous of its “species.” Yellowstone, mostly located in Wyoming and stretching across Montana and Idaho, is the most dangerous and threatening supervolcano in the world with an IEV of 8. A super-eruption of this giant can end the life of its entire country and bring catastrophe for the rest of the world.


Source: wikimedia commons


Another supervolcano, which activity attracts the attention of the world, is the caldera de Campos Flégreos which is located below the city of Naples. The lack of release of material and gases has led scientists to believe that the pressure inside the magma chamber is much greater than they expected, which can mean a much more dangerous eruption.

While we live with menacing supervolcanoes, it cannot be determined when they will erupt. Any of their eruptions will take many lives with them and affect beyond their territorial borders.



Fuente foto portada: Rafael Peña