What is volcanology and what is its objective? What can we learn from volcanologists? This article will explain all you need to know about the objectives of volcanology.
On Earth, there are hundreds of volcanoes. There are around 1,400 active volcanoes, although many of them are not visible to the human eye since they lie under the sea.
The Earth, however, is not the only planet in the solar system with volcanic activity. In reality, due to the existence of hundreds of volcanoes on its surface, Venus has strong volcanic activity, while Mars has the highest volcanic peak in the whole solar system. Satellites can also have volcanoes, as shown with Jupiter’s satellite Europa.
Volcanology is a science that examines volcanoes since there is such a tremendous need to understand how they operate. We encourage you to read this article to discover more about what this science is all about.
What is volcanology?
Volcanology is a discipline of geology that investigates the origin, structure, and composition of volcanoes, as well as the history of volcanic eruptions and the phenomena connected with volcanic eruptions. Volcanology also encompasses the study of geysers, fumaroles, and other natural phenomena that emerge from the Earth’s core.
Although volcanology has its own set of foundations, it is related to other sciences such as seismology, petrology, mineralogy, tectonics, and others, all of which help us comprehend the integrity of volcanic processes.
Volcanologists, on the other hand, are people who study volcanology. So, what exactly does a volcanologist do? Volcanologists are scientists with a diverse academic background whose work is centered on thoroughly examining and comprehending volcanoes and their behavior.
If we should answer our question, “What is volcanology?”, we would say that volcanology is a science that examines volcanoes to find out how volcanoes work.
History of volcanology
Volcanology, like the other scientific disciplines, evolved from the desire to comprehend natural occurrences; in this instance, volcanic explosions that have happened throughout human history. Thus, the history of volcanology spans many thousand years and may be split into four stages:
- Undoubtedly, the first traces of volcanology began with the first civilisations, especially the ancient Greeks and Romans, who associated volcanic eruptions with deity events, manifestations of higher beings, religious beliefs, and others.
- Then another stage emerges which is based more on observation of the phenomenon and the correlation between what is observed and beliefs.
- A stage of volcanology based on the scientific method followed, a stage from which many theories emerged.
- Finally, modern or current volcanology is characterized by technological developments that make it possible to monitor volcanoes and analyze the composition of the gases they emit, among other technologies.
Objectives of volcanology
The overall objectives of volcanology are, as mentioned earlier, to understand the entire volcanic phenomenon, from how the volcano was created and what its composition is to the type of eruptions it presents and the phenomena it causes, among other things. There are also some specific goals of volcanology that we will develop below.
- To predict possible future eruptions in order to evacuate the area in time, if necessary, and to be able to better study the phenomenon.
- Make inventories of volcanoes and their eruption types.
- Conduct a diagnosis of the vulnerabilities of populations living near volcanoes.
- Evaluate the composition of magma and lava and all those volcanic products expelled during an eruption, i.e., what is known as pyroclastic flow.
The objectives of volcanology aim to understand volcanoes, the origin of volcanoes, as well as predict the risk of a volcano.
Fortunately, with technological advances, a number of instruments have emerged that make it possible to detect the moments before an eruption, to study volcanoes more accurately, and, in short, to contribute qualitative knowledge to volcanology.
There are certain instruments that make it possible to predict the beginning and end of a volcanic eruption, such as the inclinometer and altimeter. Both have a complementary role and are placed on the slopes of the volcano. When magma reaches the volcano’s magma chamber, it causes pressure to be accompanied by expansion of the rocks.
As a result, the volcano swells under the pressure of the magma chamber, and the slope becomes steep. Once the instruments detect this increase in the slope, the eruption is expected to start in a short time. Conversely, the indications that the eruption is about to end are related to the decrease in the slope of the volcano.
Seismographs are also useful instruments for predicting the onset of the eruption, as they detect the microearthquakes caused by the violent arrival of magma in the magma chamber.
Other useful instruments for volcanology are satellites, which allow continuous monitoring of volcanoes. We can also mention pyrometers, which are used to measure the temperature of gases and lava, and finally the interferometer, which is used to measure the size of the crater, among many other instruments.
Once you know all this about what is volcanology, the objectives of volcanology, its history, and the instruments commonly used in this science, you can continue to learn more by reading our articles about volcanoes.