Volcanic Disasters and How They Happen

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Volcanic Disasters and How They Happen

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| January 22, 2018

Volcanic Disasters and How They Happen

By Kyzia Maramara

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Bicol’s Mayon Volcano has been creating quite a ruckus the past week and whether you admit it or not, it’s got everybody curious to know more about volcanoes and how they work. Volcanoes are beautiful disasters we’re prevailed to witness every now and then. How much do we really know about them?

1. Volcano origins and how they’re made

 

Mayon Volcano under the starry night
(cinemagraph)

Posted by Jerry Jethro Calag Photography on Saturday, January 20, 2018

If you’re familiar with mythology, you might know that the word ‘volcano’ is derived from the highly volcanic Latin island Vulcano which in turn is named after the Roman god Vulcan (Greek: Hephaestus) believed to have power over the fires of volcanoes.

Volcanoes are fissures in the Earth where molten rock (magma), hot gases, and rocks are ejected, it’s also the landform produced as part of the eruption. Kind of like a breakout of pimples on Earth surface. Active volcanos are deadly and are a threat to humans residing near it and eruptions can have an effect on the ecosystem that could last for years.

 

2. What triggers the eruptions

Mt. Mayon spews ash from minor eruption (2018)

Long story short, the reason for an eruption could be because magma within the Earth is pushed up, or when tectonic plates move.

Underneath the Earth crust is the mantle where temperatures are high and pressures increase. Magma, molten rock, gets pushed to the surface and erupts into lava, ash, and rock.

Most volcanoes are located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a huge area in the Pacific Ocean where most volcanic activities and Earthquakes occur. These are results of plate tectonics moving apart, sliding, and colliding with each other causing magma to rise to the surface.

 

3. Sign of the times

Mayon’s eruption (2018)

Depending on how it’s closely monitored, there could be plenty of warnings before a volcano erupts. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) it could be increase in volcanic tremors, change of steam from white to gray due to ash, crater glow due to presence of magma in the crater, increase of temperature in hot springs, wells, and crater lakes, and drying up of springs among others.

They use equipment that measures and detects Earthquake activity (seismometer, a device used to measure vibrations of the Earth), volcanic gases, water temperature, and how much lava is moving underground.

When volcanologists have enough evidence that a volcano might be erupting soon, they alert the government to carry out emergency measures.

 

4. Volcanic eruption mini dictionary

Pyroclastic Flow

It might be a challenge to understand the news we read about volcanic eruptions, sometimes they aren’t explained clearly. Here are some of the words mentioned in everyday news, simplified:

Phreatic explosion/eruption: Steam eruption without lava caused when magma heats ground or surface water. The high temperatures cause the water to flash to steam generating an explosion.

Pyroclastic flow: Pyro in Greek means ‘fire’ and clastic means ‘broken.’ Pyroclastic flows are dense and destructive mixtures of hot ash, volcanic fragments, and gases that flow from the volcano at speeds reaching 100 miles per hour.

Tephra: Rock fragments and materials of all shapes and sizes that gets ejected into the air during a volcanic eruption.