Volcanoes of Europe

Volcanoes of Europe

Volcanoes of Europe

Volcanoes of Europe


Volcanoes are intimately tied to the history of humanity, they help forge the Earth's crust and atmosphere, and they are very much an active feature of today. The archaeology of most ancient civilizations of Europe preserves the imprint of spectacular and volcanic phenomena while, in modern times life is still affected by large eruptions from Europe's active volcanic systems.
The eruption of Santorini, some 3600 years ago in the Aegean, probably inspired the Greek fables of Atlantis; the eruptions of Etna on Sicily are the origin of the forges of Cyclops and other myths; and the regular eruptions from Stromboli earned its Roman name, 'the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean'. Eruptions in Iceland over the past few centuries have shaped more recent European history and highlight the dramatic effects that distant large eruptions can have on our modern way of living.
This thoroughly revised and updated edition reflects modern research and is now illustrated in colour throughout. It presents the volcanoes of Europe, as they are today and tells how they have shaped our past. The volcanic systems of the Mediterranean basin, the Atlantic, and of mainland Europe are introduced and described in clear prose with a minimum of technical jargon. Some of Europe's ancient volcanic systems is also described as these have been fundamental in shaping the science of volcanology. The origins, history and development of Europe's volcanoes is presented against a background of their environmental aspects and contemporary activity. Special attention is given to the impact of volcanoes on the people who live on or around them. The book is written for student, amateur and professional earth scientists alike. To help guide the reader, a glossary of volcanic terms is included together with a vocabulary of volcanic terms used in European languages.


Europe, despite its many changes through history, has been home to volcanoes for many millions of years. These volcanoes pay no attention to human foibles such as historical periods, political boundaries (and how they change) and scientific definitions. Thus, the title Volcanoes of Europe disguises several kinds of arbitrary choices. We have included, for instance, the Canary Islands and the mid-Atlantic islands of Jan Mayen, Iceland, Svalbard, and the Azores within the European umbrella, although two of the Azores and half of Iceland belong to the North American plate, and the Canary Islands belong to the African plate. On the other hand, we do not describe the volcanoes of Turkey and the Caucasus, which many would, no doubt, call European.

It is altogether more difficult to define those volcanoes that are active, dormant, or extinct. Volcanoes do not always display the secrets of their past, nor do they always reveal their future intentions. Several times, even in the course of the twentieth century, expert volcanologists have been puzzled – not to say surprised – when certain volcanoes have suddenly burst into life after a long period of calm. Volcanoes are generally considered active if they have erupted in the last 10,000 years, though such a value may include volcanoes that are effectively extinct. It is also valuable to consider the older records of many of the volcanic areas as they help reveal how these spectacular landscapes develop and grow.

The notion of historical time is also extremely flexible, and historical records count for little within the defined span of 10,000 years. Even within the limited European context, the period during which eruptions could actually be recorded has varied greatly from place to place. Probably no volcano on Earth has a longer recorded history than Etna, where eye-witness accounts have recorded its eruptions, with admittedly varying degrees of fantasy, for thousands of years. However, the Italian volcanoes were in an exceptionally favoured position in the classical world. On the other hand, records in Iceland extend back only to the early centuries after the settlement in AD874, and no human being even settled in the Azores until 1439.

Beyond the historical context, accurate dates of eruptions are only just becoming available in many areas. the traditional methods of geological dating by fossils and stratigraphy are very hard to apply to volcanic edifices. the timespan is too short; the volcanic products . . .

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