Monday, March 31, 2014

How close is too close?

More questions about working in and around volcanoes

Q: Hi I was wanting to know how close do y'all get up to a volcanic eruption.

Thank you for your time.
- Jade B

A: I have personally walked over an active moving flow southeast of Kilauea volcano in Hawai'i. However, this is an effusive flow, not an explosive one. It's pretty rough on your boots, but if you don't stay there long you will be OK. The air above the flow is very hot, however, and the discomfort usually limits our time measuring the edges (or sampling) an active flow. 

We take the dangers of volcanoes very seriously. There are people here in the Cascades Volcano Observatory who personally knew people who are now dead - killed by volcanic explosions or pyroclastic surges. We monitor the telemetered seismic, GPS, and gas data from a restive volcano closely, both to minimize risk to our scientists and to protect the public. For example, during the 2004-2006 eruption at Mount St Helens, both aircraft and hiking exclusion zones were established. The size of an exclusion zone depends on the previous eruptive history of a volcano, something not hard to get in the US, but not readily available on all world volcanoes. Most high-risk and very-high-risk volcanoes in the United States and its possessions have volcano hazard reports written for them. These include maps showing where the danger zones will likely be in case of an eruption. 

Hope this answers your question. 

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