Volcano FAQs

Volcano FAQ’s – The Answers You’ve Been Searching For!

Nadia TamaraA Little Bit of Everything, Volcano Preparedness Leave a Comment

Volcano FAQs

Volcanic eruptions are equally terrifying and fascinating. To help you mentally prepare, we’ve answered some of the most common volcano-related questions.

Where do volcanic eruptions occur?

Volcanoes occur in several different places, specifically in the places where tectonic plates meet. The majority of volcanos are found in the Pacific Ocean, in a section that is popularly known as the “Ring of Fire”. Approximately 80% of volcanoes are found underwater.

How many volcanoes are in the world?

While the total number of active and nonactive volcanoes is unknown, the US Geological Survey estimates that there are approximately 1,500 active ones worldwide, and of those, about 169 are located in the United States.

What is the most dangerous volcano in the world today?

Italy’s Mount Vesuvius is said to be the world’s most dangerous volcano. This is the same volcano that buried the city of Pompeii in 79 AD. It has erupted several times since then and remains active to this day. At this moment, an estimated 6 million people are at risk of being affected if it erupts once again.

What are the warning signs of a volcano?

Research has highlighted some of the tell-tale signs that a volcano may erupt due to increasing underground activity.

According to USGS, some of the signs they look out for include: earthquakes, the ground swelling upwards, and the increased release of gas (like hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide) and heat emissions coming from the vents of the volcano. In some cases, eruptions can be predicted up to a few months in advance.

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What are the impacts and effects of volcanic eruptions?

Volcanic eruptions can cause major damage to a region — or the world if it’s large enough.

  • Health impacts: Volcanoes release hot gases, ash, fragments of rock, and minerals. If these come into contact with your body, they can burn you severely and/or kill you. Inhaling the remnant particles in the air, even months after an eruption, can cause breathing problems, dry coughing, irritation of the throat, chest, and lungs, and in the worst scenario, suffocation. Your eyes may also become itchy and irritated.

  • Structural damage: Volcanos can cover or destroy anything along their path. Some types of volcanoes spew out ashes and others release hot lava which becomes as hard as a rock once it dries. Entire communities can become buried in ash or lava. Structures can also become damaged or destroyed due to the effect of the volcano, not the volcanic matter itself. For example, homes or buildings may become flooded due to lahars or tsunamis. Expect power outages in volcano-affected areas.

  • Environmental effects: Volcanic eruptions can cause a remarkable impact on our climate. Volcanoes release toxic gas clouds into the environment that pollute the air and have the potential to cause a large number of fatalities, especially from a lack of oxygen due to the massive release of carbon dioxide. The air becomes altered after an eruption, causing less visibility and subsequently little to no sun covering for significant periods of time (of course this can depend on the type of volcano). The combination of toxic gases and low visibility poses a problem to vegetation and the production of food, which can contribute to famine. Volcanic eruptions can cause widespread water contamination which not only ruins ecosystems and crops but also can result in disease. Ash in the air also disrupts aviation travel, which is not just responsible for the transportation of passengers but also commercial products. In many ways, an eruption can cause the deterioration of the local or global climate.

  • Natural disasters: Volcanos can also trigger several types of natural disasters. Some of these include:

    • Lahars: These fatal mudslides, otherwise known as debris avalanches, are caused by volcanoes. The natural release of a volcano causes extremely hot/toxic gases and solid materials to flow down the face of the volcano at rapid speeds. Plus, if the volcano was covered in snow, the snow melts on impact and creates raging rivers of flowing debris.

    • Floods: Depending on the topography of a region, volcanoes can cause flooding. Sometimes it’s due to the melting snow or ice, but it could also be due to overflowing rivers.

    • Earthquakes: Earthquakes are common before volcanic eruptions because the tectonic plates are adjusting themselves to the pressure that is building up below.

    • Tsunamis: Large volcanoes that are located underwater or very close to the ocean can cause a tsunami.

    • Lightning: It’s common to experience a lightning show during a volcanic eruption. This happens when hot ash and other volcanic materials come into contact with clouds and the air.

    • Wildfires: Lava is unbelievably hot and can easily catch trees and infrastructure on fire upon contact. Lightning strikes produced during the eruption can do the same thing.

What is the role of government before and after a volcanic eruption?

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), is the organization that monitors volcanic activity. Some of their responsibilities include assessing the hazards, monitoring active volcanoes, and determining which locations are at risk in order to provide warnings to the public.

The USGS also runs the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) which provides worldwide relief after volcanic disasters.

For more information on volcano mitigation and safety, check out our guide here. At the end of the article, find a checklist that you can print and keep with your emergency supplies for future reference.

Do you have any volcano questions that weren’t answered? If so, leave them in the comments below!

Volcano FAQs

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