Magazine article Geographical

Life on a Volcanic Planet. (from the Editor)

Magazine article Geographical

Life on a Volcanic Planet. (from the Editor)

Article excerpt

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO THIS MONTH, A VOLCANIC ERUPTION on the island of Martinique in the Caribbean killed all but one of the 29,026 inhabitants of the town of St Pierre. The scale of the catastrophe prompted wide-ranging research into how volcanoes work and why they erupt when they do. Geologists were determined not to let another such disaster happen (see page 14).

A century on, much has been achieved and technology is proving a useful ally in the battle to predict eruptions. In March, scientists in Hawaii scored a first in observing a sudden slip on a volcano face -- when sensors on the ground communicating with global positioning systems alerted them to the movement. It's the kind of research that is likely to help us predict major life-threatening tidal waves. Meanwhile, a team working in Mount Rainier, USA, have used aerial surveys combined with magnetometry and radio waves to help them find routes that deadly lahars (torrents of water and rock) are likely to take -- potentially enabling them to move people away from the most dangerous areas.

The problem is that in many disaster zones, politics and poor management counteract the good work that vulcanologists and geologists are doing. …

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