Disaster Management Options for Volcano Hazards Term Paper

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Disaster Management Options for Volcano Hazards

Currently there are many options in forecasting volcanic natural disasters like eruptions and explosions. None of the current methods are accurate enough to predict a volcanic event every time and in quickly enough to evacuate nearby populations. This is problematic since so many volcanic areas are well-populated. These include the Alban Hills south of Rome, Italy, the "Ring of Fire" in the Cascade Mountains of the northwest United States, and the Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador (Choi, 2004; Kerr, 2003). To make matters worse, few volcanoes around the world are monitored well or at all (Mileti, 1999). While current methods are not perfect, they offer detection in many cases. If they are implemented and understood, new developments and methods may be developed that can better predict volcanic events and save the lives of those who witness such a natural disaster.

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Mileti (1999) suggests that there are two main factors in volcanic disaster warning and prediction: "forecasting explosive events and assessing volcanic hazard" (185). Methods to detect whether there is a volcanic hazard are more accurate than methods attempting to predict an explosive event (Kerr, 2003; Mileti, 1999). Assessing a volcanic hazard simply means to assess whether a volcano is still active and should be monitored or watched for possible future activity. This is more difficult with volcanoes that have large caldera systems and that do not erupt often (Kerr, 2003; Mileti, 1999). Predicting where and when an explosive or eruption event will happen is more difficult. Yet, knowing when a volcano will erupt and how it will erupt is the most important issue in volcanic forecasting because it has the potential to save lives. Most of the current forecasting methods look for confirmation that fresh magma (liquid rock) has traveled to chambers in the upper crust, about 3-6 miles below the earth's surface (Kerr, 2003).

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Seismic monitoring is one of the most common ways to keep track of volcanic activity (Choi, 2004; Mileti, 1999). Seismometers monitor earth movement, including the earthquakes and tremors that sometimes indicate volcanic activity like underground magma movement (Choi, 2004). Though seismic activity is often linked to volcanic events successfully, not all seismic events indicate a coming eruption (Kerr, 2003). For this reason, seismometer readings do not always provide accurate predictions (Choi, 2004).

Seismic tomography is a related method which uses tremor activity and seismic waves to "image" the underground workings of a volcano; since the waves travel at different speeds through magma than through rock, registering an earthquake from several different stations in one area can illuminate where volcanic magma chambers are. This, in turn, can help to predict where eruptions might occur (Kerr, 2003). Electromagnetic monitoring can also be used with seismic monitoring and tomography. By using strainmeters buried deep in the earth around a volcano, a "long-period seismic event" (LP) can be monitored (Kerr, 2003, 2017). This monitoring allows scientists to make better predictions for volcanoes that are regularly active.

Ground deformation monitoring uses satellite and air images, as well as topographic data, to assess whether the area around a volcano is bulging or swelling from built-up… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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