Volcanic activity has been observed across the globe from Iceland to Italy, with some fearing the events could be harbingers of disaster.
In late October and November this year, thousands of small earthquakes marked the rise of magma along a 14 km long fault near an Icelandic geothermal power plant. As a result, magma rose extremely close to the surface and opened wide cracks passing through the small Icelandic town of Grindavik, which had to be evacuated, Science Focus writes.
Around the same time that swarms of thousands of earthquakes were shaking parts of Iceland, Sicilia’s Mount Etna exploded spectacularly, spewing ash onto nearby towns. But even that’s not all: Elsewhere in the world, 45 volcanoes continue to rumble, including Mayon and Taal in the Philippines, Santa Maria in Guatemala, Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia and Krakatoa in Indonesia. Moreover, the latter erupted in 2018, causing a tsunami that killed 400 people.
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How active are these volcanoes?
Although scientists expected Iceland’s magma to erupt any day now, it never did, and now researchers aren’t sure it will erupt at all—it’s likely the magma will simply solidify beneath the surface. However, if an eruption does occur, scientists expect magma to seep through huge cracks onto the Earth’s surface from time to time and solidify into impressive cones.
The ash eruption on Etna marked the volcano’s normal routine of throwing off “little fireworks” every now and then, scattering lava or spewing plumes of ash high into the Earth’s atmosphere. At the same time, the activity of the remaining dozens of volcanoes around the world is currently relatively insignificant and consists of small explosions, lava emissions or the formation of small flows of ash and gas.
In fact, according to scientists, all of these volcanoes pose a threat only to those who live on or near them.
Why do volcanoes erupt all over the world?
According to scientists, volcanoes erupt when fresh magma formed in the mantle of our planet reaches the surface or breaks out through the destruction of rock. Statistics show that this actually happens all the time: around 70 volcanoes erupt around the world every year, with about 2 of them literally erupting daily.
That’s because tectonic plates are moving apart at about the same rate as our fingernails grow, allowing new magma to continually rise and fuel new eruptions. There are also so-called subduction zones, where one tectonic plate dives under another. As the plate sinks deeper into the Earth, it melts and releases magma that feeds the volcanoes above.
Should we be afraid of a catastrophe?
No matter how dangerous the murmur of dozens of volcanoes around the world may seem, scientists note that the threat today is no greater than usual.
However, some danger is still present. If a volcanic eruption in Iceland does occur and follows the same pattern as the Laki eruption in 1783, the outpouring of magma could be accompanied by huge emissions of toxic gas.
In the past, this poisonous cloud spread to Europe and eastern North America. The resulting volcanic eruption resulted in air pollution and extreme weather conditions. Otherwise, as scientists suggest, humanity hardly needs to fear a catastrophe, at least from volcanoes.
Previously Focus wrote that super eruptions near Italy have been recurring for the last 50,000 years: another one is on the way.