Papale P. (2018).
Nature, Scientific Reports 8, Article number 6838, doi:10.1038/s41598-018-25286-y.
Volcanic eruptions differ enormously in their size and impacts, ranging from quiet lava flow effusions along the volcano flanks to colossal events with the potential to affect our entire civilization. Knowledge of the time and size distribution of volcanic eruptions is of obvious relevance for understanding the dynamics and behavior of the Earth system, as well as for defining global volcanic risk. From the analysis of recent global databases of volcanic eruptions extending back to more than 2 million years, I show here that the return times of eruptions with similar magnitude follow an exponential distribution. The associated relative frequency of eruptions with different magnitude displays a power law, scale-invariant distribution over at least six orders of magnitude. These results suggest that similar mechanisms subtend to explosive eruptions from small to colossal, raising concerns on the theoretical possibility to predict the magnitude and impact of impending volcanic eruptions.