You may know the Toba supervolcano for putting the human species in check, this is what science now says

About 74,000 years ago, the Toba volcano located north of the island of Sumatra put the human race in check. However, now the reality may be very different.

Toba supervolcanic eruption.
The Toba supervolcano effects were not as impactful. Some environmental changes were experienced, but humans had a high capacity to adapt.

Volcanoes have existed practically since planet Earth was formed. In fact, they have been responsible for numerous climate changes and devastating phenomena that have occurred throughout history. However, nothing could be further from the truth, according to a study published in the journal Nature, one of the most violent supervolcanoes in history could have facilitated the dispersion of the human race from Africa to new parts of the world.

The "volcanic winter" after the Toba eruption

74,000 years ago, the Toba volcano erupted north of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. This was one of the most significant events in human history, since after its explosion it almost claimed the life and existence of our species, or so it was believed.

The Toba volcano launched tonnes of ash into space that today have been identified in places like Tanzania, 7,400 kilometres away. Such was the magnitude that after its explosion what is known as “volcanic winter” occurred, although this idea is beginning to not be supported by the scientific community.

The explosion of the Toba volcano was about five thousand times more powerful than the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in the United States in 1980, whose force was equivalent to 500 atomic bombs like that of Hiroshima in its first eruption.

As we well know, volcanoes can change the Earth's climate. The materials emitted during a volcanic eruption remain suspended in the atmosphere, producing a filtration of solar radiation and, consequently, a reduction in temperatures. Other scientists claim that after the Toba eruption, which expelled 800 cubic kilometres, there was significant deforestation and consequently a cooling of the Earth's global temperature by 1 ºC.

The human race, in danger?

Until recently, the hypothesis was considered that this eruption caused a massive reduction in the population of both animals and living beings. However, the study supports contrary ideas since the eruption was not “that big of a deal.” It puts on the table the idea that Toba could have facilitated the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa to other places on the planet.

In the numerous excavations in Dhaba, ancient tools from Africa dating between 80,000 and 70,000 years appear, suggesting that the population must have survived the Toba disaster. The eruption allowed them to expand again and populate Asia thousands of years ago along the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

The ability of humans to adapt

After the eruption the sky was grey during the day and red for approximately six years. According to studies, plants did not flower and many mammals died of hunger or were so stunted that predators could hardly feed themselves. Despite this, modern man opted for fish.

There is also evidence of significant droughts in later years. However, despite other studies stating that this event would have reduced the world population to 10,000 or even 1,000 breeding pairs, this situation triggered innovative adaptations that allowed the survival and dispersal of our species.

Reference of the news:
Sergey O, Georgiy S, Kostas T, Allegra N, Susanne E, Mohammed F, Jos L. et al The Toba supervolcano eruption caused severe tropical stratospheric ozone depletion. Nature (2021).

John K, Lawrence C, Christopher A, Thure E, Mulugeta F, and more. et al Adaptive foraging behaviours in the Horn of Africa during Toba supereruption. Nature (2024).