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Volcano Eruption

What Is A Volcanic Eruption?

 

A volcanic eruption is one of the most dangerous and magnificent natural disasters.  When a volcano erupts, the volcano sends out ash clouds, lava and even volcanic bombs.  There is a high risk of danger from slow moving lava; though, the lava might move slowly, it is very dangerous and can cause a lot of damage to property and human life.

Volcanic eruptions comprise of 3 stages:

  • Magmatic eruptions – when gas is released under decompression.
  • Phreatomagmatic eruptions – when a thermal contraction comes from water.
  • Phreatic eruptions – when steam erupts.

The Magnitude of Volcanoes

When there is an earthquake, little vents are created in which magma is allowed to form.  This is pushed up through these vents and towards the crust of the volcano.  Steam vents are created when the magma reaches a certain level and reaches a boiling point which begins the eruption.  The eruption might result in a total eruption.  This is when gas driven explosion send magma to the volcano’s crust creating lava outpouring from the volcano.

Some eruptions are not as strong as others.  All volcanic eruptions can vary in strength; with some not reaching any civilians or causing too much damage.  However, others can spread over a vast area, sometimes reaching several miles from the volcano.  Some eruptions do not always contain lava flow or lava fountains which aren’t always very dangerous.  However, some eruptions can be on a huge scale, very violent and very, very dangerous with explosions heard from the volcano.

Some eruptions can be passive and not very dangerous however; some are explosive and can be very and high dangerous.  Some volcanoes do not just erupt from their peeks, some can have eruptions at any part of the mountain, it’s not just the peeks that are the most deadly for volcano eruptions.  One of the biggest and well known eruptions was in Pompeii.

The entire city of Pompeii was buried when the volcano at Pompeii erupted.  However, this is only one example of a type of eruption; another type of eruption is in Norway, a volcano that had been dormant for years suddenly became active, however, the local towns were evacuated and the volcano erupted. However, there was no great scale eruption.  Lava flowed but didn’t reach the town, this was a very small eruption compared to many others.

When Can An Eruption Happen?

Volcanic eruptions happen deep down inside the earth.  When the earth’s tectonic plate’s shift, it causes more than just earthquakes, it can create new volcanoes or vents.  Underneath the surface of the earth, debris, gases from the planet and molten rock are stored creating new formations of vents and volcanoes.

As soon as the magma thickens and builds up with the gases of planet can create explosions and cause lava to flow upwards and have ash released into the air causing thick clouds of smoke often seen overhead volcanoes. If there is an increased magma but a decrease of planet gases, then the eruption will not be as great.

However, lava can reach an amazing heat possibly even 2000 degrees Fahrenheit; sometimes it can be even higher than that.  Lava can actually destroy everything in its path, even an entire village.  There can be huge rocks or even boulder types reigning down from the volcano and onto populated areas.  There can also be toxic gases and ash which causes severe lung problems to many vulnerable people including children and elderly people.

Volcano eruptions can happen at any given time.  If there is a change to the tectonic plates in which a volcano sits on, then it can erupt at any given time.  There is no set time as to when they will erupt or how much damage they’ll cause.

Volcano eruption facts
Anak Krakatau Volcano erupting

Understanding the Volcanoes

When there is a volcanic eruption, there could be many other dangers which occur.  These things can be such as flash floods, mudflows, landslides and rock falls, and even earthquakes. However, there can also be things such as fire and acid rain that follows a volcano erupting.  It might not seem as though there are many active volcanoes erupting but there is a great deal of active volcanoes and the fact that they haven’t erupted doesn’t mean it will always be like this.  There are dangers every day from active volcanoes.

What Can You Do Before A Volcanic Eruption?

There are steps which anyone can take before a volcano erupts and they are very simple steps.  These small but simple steps can help protect homes, and protect your families also in the event of a volcanic eruption.  If you live in an area which has an active volcano, even if it might be up to 100 miles away, there is still a risk because a volcano can erupt at any time.

  • Have An Emergency Supply Kit

This can be a small but important kit of some of the simplest items such as water, and non perishable foods.  You should look to add batteries, radios, battery powered or hand cranked radios.  You can also have torches or flashlights just in case of a power cut or blackout; and have a first aid kit should anyone get hurt.

All of these supplies should be kept in a location which is easy to reach such as a car just in case you need to be evacuated or are being told to do so.  If possible, try to add breathing masks or goggles to see through thick ash clouds.

  • Emergency Plan

A disaster such as a volcano erupting can happen at any given time and it does mean your family mightn’t be at home when it happens.  This is why you do need to think about getting in contact with other family members and meeting up again.  You need to think carefully about all eventualities and have a good plan to get the family reunited once again.

These are simple plans but if you do live in an area very close to an active volcano, they could end up saving your life and your family’s.

You might not realize or understand that a volcano is active or is about to erupt either, however, when a volcanic eruption occurs, you have to be vigilant.  You have to be aware of what could happen and how a volcano works.

The World’s Natural Disaster

When an eruption occurs, lava can spill over and can absolutely cause mass devastation.  Even if the volcano isn’t moving fast towards the local town or village, there are still many dangers that can cause harm.  The ash clouds can be very dangerous to a person, as is the poison gases and flying debris and rocks.  There are many dangers to volcanic eruptions, though this is a natural disaster that cannot be tamed or predicted.

It might sound as though volcanoes aren’t that dangerous if they haven’t been active for years but they’re still dangerous.  They have intense heat from lava flows and of course the acid rain can all become dangerous.

 

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Effects Of Volcanoes – The Consequences

 

A volcano eruption is one of the most impressive events in the planet and the effects of volcanoes and their eruptions could be felt as far away as a different continent. The type of effects of volcanoes depends on the size of the eruption. Some volcanoes could be erupting and not cause much damage even to people nearby while others are so massive that should they erupt they could trigger a world sized catastrophe. So what type of disturbances would you see if there were a massive eruption today? To answer that question we need to be clear about the type of volcano that we are talking about. Volcano eruptions are measured in what is called VEI or Volcano Eruption Index which goes to a most powerful eruption of a VEI8.

An Explosive Eruption

If there were an explosive eruption in your area the effects of volcanoes could be devastating. During an explosive eruption the volcano will spew lava, magma and volcanic material which could travel several miles away from the mountain. The explosiveness of the eruption could also cause pyroclastic flows which would destroy anything within their path. The ash could also cause severe damage to structures depending on the amount of it and those who breathe it in would be at risk of choking on it.

Problems To Aircraft

Aircraft are some of the things that will feel the effects of volcanoes more than others. That is because the ash spewed by a volcano can negatively affect the engines in an aircraft. To make matters worse the problem has not gotten better. Pilots who have flown through a volcanic eruption complain about the fact that they lose power and when they apply the throttle the engine will become even hotter. When that happens more ash is melted and that creates abrasive material which ends up in the engine.

Effects On Cities And Towns

The effects of volcanoes on cities and towns after an eruption could vary from no effects at all to a catastrophe of immeasurable magnitude. A lot of the effects that a city will feel depend on the size of the explosion or eruption and the atmospheric conditions. It has happened before that the conditions will take away the ash from the city. On the other hand, the same conditions could direct all the harmful effects of the lava, the ashes and volcanic material straight into the city which could cause thousands of deaths or injuries.

To look at the effects of volcanoes in towns and cities it is a good idea to look at recent eruptions. When Mauna Loa erupted in 1950 the lava headed towards the city of Hilo.  Another eruption that took place in 1973 took place on Heimaey, Iceland and the entire town was buried under cinder and lava. In 1960 Kilauea erupted and it buried the town of Kapoho and in 1980 when Mount St. Helens erupted the ash fell on several towns in the states of Oregon and Washington. There are several examples of this type of volcano impacts on cities and towns.

Effects On The Environment

There are several ways in which effects of volcanoes can be felt on the environment. Even smaller eruptions can have a measureable effect. That is because while an eruption is taking place gases are released by the volcano. Some of the gases which are released into the air include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, fluorine, chlorine, hydrogen sulfide and others. The effects of volcanoes on the environment depend on climate patterns, the overall scale of the eruption and how much the gases spread. Another problem the environment is the ash that is released when a volcano erupts. Depending on the size of the eruption you could be looking at a volcanic winter.

Effects Of Supervolcanoes

Out of all the effects of volcanoes on the daily life of people, the one that is the scariest is what is known as the supervolcano. These volcanoes are the ones that will reach the VEI8 and VEI7 rankings in the scale. These are also volcanoes which are very massive and could destroy most of the life on earth if they were to erupt today.

In the case of the supervolcano in Yellowstone Park several states and their citizens would stand no chance against the lava flow and the ash. However, those are not the only people that would be affected. During the explosion a lot of ash would be released into the atmosphere, dropping temperatures by an average of well over 20 degrees Fahrenheit worldwide. That would cause crops and vegetation to die which would mean no food for animals or people.

 

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Lava

 

A lava flow is a stream of molten rock which will pour out of an erupting volcano’s vent. This substance can be erupted either during the explosive activity or a non-explosive event. Most lava flows will move slowly but it will destroy anything in its path. But the good news is that due to the low speed of the flow most people should have a chance of getting away from it. The speed of the flow will depend on different factors and those include the viscosity of the substance, the steepness of the hill, channeling in the area and the amount that had been produced at the volcano’s vent.

Speed

As stated earlier flows can be rather slow but some can reach speeds of over 30 kilometers per hour. Most of the edges of the flow will travel at around 10 kilometers per hour provided that the slope is steep. However, on a flatter surface the speed can be less than one kilometer per hour. The viscosity of the lava will affect the speed as the higher viscosity the lower the speed. It is rare for a viscous lava flow to go over 8 kilometers per hour from their vent.

Destruction

Anything in the path of a lava flow will be destroyed and eventually buried by the flow. Some materials which will not fall will catch on fire due to the extremely high temperatures found in the flow. If the lava were to enter a body of water such as the ocean, lake or a river, the water will boil on contact. Vegetation stands no chance as it will simply be buried and burnt by the flow, creating methane gas. The good news, however, is that it is rare for deaths to happen due to flows and that is because of the low speed at which they move.

Injuries To People

Even though deaths are uncommon, injuries do happen when people stay close to a vent. People have been killed and injured when they approach a lava flow to get a better look. Most of the deaths related to flows usually have to do with the explosions that take place when the substance interacts with a body of water. Other things that could kill or injure a person include asphyxiation on toxic gases, collapse of a delta, pyroclastic flows and lahars which happen from melted water. Though it may be tempting to get a closer look, it is never recommended to do so as there is simply too much danger in the area of a flow.

No Rebuilding

When an area is affected by a volcano it is much different than what you would find with most other types of natural disasters. It is possible to rebuild a home after a tornado, hurricane or earthquake hits an area. However, when lava hits an area it is nearly impossible to rebuild there. The homes that were in the area are buried by the substance and the landscape changes immediately as it cools down. There is an entire new area which becomes really hard to build over and the owners may not want to anyway.

Evacuation

There are problems associated with evacuation of an area when a volcano is erupting. The flow of lava could cover evacuation routes so the cities that are in areas that could be affected need to design more than just a couple evacuation plans. When a volcano is believed to be close to erupting scientists can look at the conditions and make a prediction of where the flow will go but currently it is not an exact science so there is always a chance that the prediction will be wrong.

 

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