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Ancient volcano's devastating effects confirmed
73,000 years ago, global temperatures dropped by as much as 28 degrees
updated 1:31 p.m. ET, Fri., Dec . 4, 2009
A massive volcanic eruption that occurred in the distant past killed off much of central India's forests and may have pushed humans to the brink of extinction, according to a new study that adds evidence to a controversial topic.
The Toba eruption, which took place on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia about 73,000 years ago, released an estimated 192 cubic miles of ash into the atmosphere that blanketed the skies and blocked out sunlight for six years. In the aftermath, global temperatures dropped by as much as 28 degrees Fahrenheit and life on Earth plunged deeper into an ice age that lasted around 1,800 years.
In 1998, Stanley Ambrose, an anthropology professor at the University of Illinois, proposed in the Journal of Human Evolution that the effects of the Toba eruption and the Ice Age that followed could explain the apparent bottleneck in human populations that geneticists believe occurred between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. The lack of genetic diversity among humans alive today suggests that during this time period humans came very close to becoming extinct.