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Why are so many volcanoes erupting?

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Volcano experts say there’s nothing to show there has been a surge in volcanic eruptions - despite the deaths of almost 100 people in Guatemala and an entire suburb swallowed in Hawaii this week, reported 9News (Australia).

Indonesia’s Merapo also erupted last month.

Volcanologist Ray Cas from Monash University said the frequency of eruptions varies, and it’s simply down to technology meaning news and images of volcanic activity are more widely shared.

“I think what’s happened in the past 20 years is technology, surveillance, drones, video cameras have advanced so much and we’re much better able to document and record eruptions than they were before,” said Mr Cas, who has travelled the world researching volcanoes.

“If you look at any of the major countries, Indonesia, South American countries, Central American countries at any one time there will be one or more volcanoes that are bubbling along.”

He said Merapo as well as Mayon in the Philippines which spewed lava earlier this year, and a handful of volcanoes in Mexico were also currently looking volatile.

However Australian travellers can probably stop worrying about Bali’s Mt Agung, which Mr Cas said should have calmed down after erupting last year, causing evacuations for locals and flight cancellations for visitors.

“There’s still gas released from the summit,” he said.
“You think maybe it’s going to settle down for a few years now. That seems to be the trend.”

While Australia doesn’t have any active volcanoes - the closest are in Vanuatu on part of the Ring of Fire, it does have two sets of dormant ones, Atherton Tablelands in north Queensland and the Newer Volcanics Province in South Eastern Australia.

Mr Cas said an eruption is due there- in about the next 10,000 years.

“It could happen in two weeks’ time or it couldn’t happen in ten years time,” he said.
“The problem with these small volcanoes is they don’t give a lot of warning.

“The first signs we could see of cracks in the ground.
“There’s probably an eruption every 15,000 to 20,000 years and the last was 5000 years ago.”
“Up to 20 km around the volcano could be affected by ash fall out.

“There would be a base surge - a strong steam explosion, with rock and debris

“They would potentially travel up to 10km and they could do some damage to infrastructure and human beings.

“If we get an eruption the ash cloud would be blown over Melbourne, probably extending to Canberra and Sydney, and it would impact air traffic.”

He said while it’s impossible to predict the magnitude of an eruption, he believed Guatemalan authorities were caught off guard by the eruption which has left 200 missing.

He said locals seemed unaware of the dangers of the volcano.

“Fuego had another very big one in 1974, at least as big as this one, there was a precedent, party given it’s been bubbling along with smaller eruptions since 2005.”

According to volcanodiscovery.com there are currently 33 volcanoes erupting on land around the world.

The world’s deadliest volcanic eruption is said to be Mt Tambora in 1815 which is thought to have killed 70,000.

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