Key Facts About Volcanic Eruptions

Facts about volcanic eruptions

A volcanic eruption occurs when lava and gas are ejected from a volcano, sometimes becomes dangerous when explosively. The most dangerous kind of eruption is called a ‘glowing avalanche’ which is when freshly erupted magma flows down from the inside of a volcano. The eruption of any volcano would definitely bring a dazzling but highly dangerous spectacle since it will spew superheated steam, dangerous gases, ash, lava, and rock that are powerfully destructive. A volcanic eruption happens when lava and gas are escaped from a volcano, at times explosively. One of the most dangerous types of eruption is called a ‘glowing avalanche’ which is when a superheated erupted magma flows down the sides of a volcano. A volcano’s bursts of lightning and monster clouds of ash would attract crowds of experts and observers but at the same time will prompt thousands of people to flee from the raw fury of nature to save their lives. One of the facts about volcanic eruption is that it is deadly. For instance, the Taal Volcano, located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines precisely in Batangas, and considered one of the world’s lowest and deadliest volcanoes, killed at least 1,335 people in 1911, and 200 more casualties were recorded in 1965 according to The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), a supporting institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that is primarily mandated to mitigate disasters by providing accurate information and issuing warnings that may arise from any volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and as well as other related geotectonic phenomena. Furthermore, Taal Volcano’s greatest ever recorded eruption, which lasted for approximately seven months or from May 15 to December 12 in the year 1754, buried at least four (4) towns in Batangas, under ash, volcanic rocks, and water, thereby causing the relocation of the towns of Tanauan, Taal, Lipa, and Sala.

It’s definitely one of the facts about volcanic eruptions that people may die or have died already from volcanic blasts. Moreover, the catastrophe it brought does not stop after its eruption. It can result in more additional threats such as to health, mudslides, power outages, and drinking water contamination. There may also be a lot of health concerns after a volcanic eruption such as infectious diseases, common respiratory illnesses, burns, injuries from falls, and vehicle accidents due to the slippery, hazy conditions caused by ash. 

Here are some key facts to know about the mix of beauty and catastrophe that volcanoes produce:

1. Volcanic Ash

A volcano, which is usually found in a mountain, is considered an opening in the Earth’s surface. The opening allows gas, hot magma, and ash to escape from beneath the Earth’s crust. The prolonged exposure to ash can be very harmful to everyone, infants, elderly people, people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, and other chronic lung diseases, they may all experience difficulty in breathing and other similar problems if they breathe in volcanic ash. Aside from breathing problems, it can also cause eye, nose, and lung irritation due to the fact that the small particles are also very hard and often have rough edges.

Read Also: How to Protect Your House and Lot from a Volcanic Eruption?

Another fact about volcanic eruptions is that volcanic ash is a combination of rock, mineral, and glass particles ejected from a volcano during a volcanic eruption. The ash expelled from the volcano is often unpleasant, dusty, and abrasive. Compared to the ash that is produced through burning wood and other organic materials, volcanic ash can be more dangerous and deadly so it should not be taken too lightly.

Due to their very small size and low density, ash particles that make up volcanic ash can travel long distances, carried by winds. Ash plume is the term used when an ash column is moved about through wind. Eventually, when the ash in the sky falls to the ground, it may create a thick layer of dust-like material on the ground for a great distance around the original eruption. The very small ash particles, less than 2 millimeters in diameter, can even scratch the front of the eye. It could also contain a harsh material that could cause a respiratory disease called silicosis.

Aside from threats to the health of an individual, volcanic ash could also cause big troubles for any air transportation, particularly for jet engines. It will force airlines to cancel flights through the affected area because when an ashfall leaves a thick layer of ash on the outside of the plane, it may cause roofs to collapse, clog gutters, and mess with air conditioning units. Lastly, even animals in the wild around the affected area may also be covered in ash. They may experience difficulty in finding their food, as the plants in the area may be covered in ash, as well as any natural water bodies can be contaminated also by the ashfall.

2. Magma

Using uncomplicated terms, magma is like the molten rocks– these rocks were melted inside the volcano because of intense pressure and very high temperatures causing them to be ejected from the volcano when it erupts. Magma also contains some crystals and dissolved gases and not just liquid rocks when it erupts.

3. Volcanic Gases

Volcanic gases expelled from a volcano can be very harmful to health, the environment, and infrastructure. Volcanic gases are released from the liquid portion of the emerging magma or melt and from there on continue to travel upward until eventually released into the atmosphere. The magma often contains dissolved gases, which provide the driving force that causes most volcanic eruptions. Another fact about volcanic eruptions is that in 1991 during the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, the said volcano released an enormous amount of gas in just a short period of time. It has released more than 250 megatons of gas into the upper atmosphere in a single day. But in spite of the fact that magma never reaches the surface, the volcanic gases always escape continuously towards the atmosphere from the soil, volcanic vents, and hydrothermal systems.

The most common volcanic gas is water vapor, but relatively the most harmless among other gases such as carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Still depending on their concentration, these gases can still be potentially hazardous not just to people, but as well as to animals, agriculture, and property. For instance, sulfur dioxide can cause breathing problems in both healthy people and people with asthma and other respiratory problems. Meanwhile, gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide can accumulate in low-lying areas, although usually other gases from a volcano quickly blow away. In low-lying areas, gases can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. While at higher levels, gases can cause rapid breathing, spasms of the throat, suffocation, headache, and dizziness. So it is possible for people who are close to the volcano or who are either in the low-lying areas or higher may be exposed to levels that may affect health.

4. Volcanic Lightning

Volcanoes and lightning storms are both breathtaking but also fear-inducing feats of nature. When you put them together, they will give a truly terrifying event. Massive eruptions sometimes put on a stunning display of lightning strikes that illuminate the enormous cloud of ash surrounding them. Sometimes the awe-inspiring and dramatic lightning shows could be just as useful as they are beautiful because they can help warn of dangerous eruptions from volcanoes. Volcanic lightning is truly a mysterious phenomenon that generally happens at the early stages of a volcanic eruption or even after an eruption.

An additional fact about volcanic eruptions, volcanic lightning is a phenomenon that is quite unusual and difficult to study so there is some scientific dispute about how and why it happens. But according to some scientists, it occurs in two places– first, close to the ground in dense ash clouds, and high up near the stratosphere in the plume of volcanic smoke. For volcanic lightning near the ground, particles rub together in the chaos of the eruption creating enough static electricity which generates a lightning bolt. For sky-high volcanic lighting, scientists think that when the plume of ash and water vapor springs from the volcano, ice begins to form in its highest layers. So sometimes ice and high freezing temperatures can also attribute to volcanic lightning. And from there the build-up of ice crystals creates an electric charge to trigger a lightning strike. Either way, the produced charge buildup triggers lightning strikes, which look like something straight out of a nightmare.

Another fact about volcanic eruptions is that this volcanic lightning has happened repeatedly above the Taal volcano here in the Philippines and has been captured in videos shared widely across social media.

5. Volcanic tsunamis

In spite of the fact that volcanic tsunamis are relatively infrequent, still, violent volcanic eruptions may also cause some impulsive disturbances, which can disturb a great volume of water and trigger massive destructive tsunami waves in the immediate source area. Most tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” about 80 percent of the time. It includes the boundaries of Pacific, Juan de Fuca, Cocos, Indian-Australian, Nazca, North American, and Philippine Plates.

At least 450 volcanoes are located along the Ring of Fire and about ninety percent of Earth’s earthquakes transpire along this path, including the planet’s most violent seismic events. This huge number of volcanoes and earthquakes along the Ring of Fire is caused by the magnitude of movement of tectonic plates around the area.

Tsunamis can be caused by earthquakes, whether tectonic or volcanic eruptions, nevertheless, they can result in landslides and debris avalanches. But particularly, during volcanic eruptions, volcanic tsunamis can be caused by underwater explosions and shock waves due to large explosions. Most of the time, the energy of the eruption can make the sea move in extremely dangerous ways as shock waves coupled with sea waves can produce tsunamis up to three meters in height.

It’s a well-known fact that the Philippines is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, also known as the Circum-Pacific Belt, which runs for about 40,000 km around the Pacific Ocean region, where most of Earth’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. The bulk of Earth’s volcanoes and earthquakes take place along the Ring of Fire. In fact, seventy-five percent of Earth’s volcanoes, or more than 450 volcanoes are located along the Pacific Ring of Fire. There are actually 24 active volcanoes in the Philippines according to The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the history of these eruptions was recorded by man erupted within a myriad of years based on the analysis of material from raw volcanic deposits.:

  1. Babuyan Claro– Babuyan Island Group, Cagayan in Luzon
  2. Banahaw– Along Laguna and Quezon in Luzon
  3. Biliran (Anas) – Leyte in Visayas
  4. Bud Dajo– Sulu in Mindanao
  5. Bulusan– Sorsogon, Bicol Region in Luzon
  6. Cabalian– Southern Leyte in Visayas
  7. Cagua– Cagayan in Luzon
  8. Camiguin de Babuyanes– Cagayan
  9. Didicas– Babuyan Island Group, Cagayan in Luzon
  10. Hibok-hibok– Camiguin in Mindanao
  11. Iraya– Batan Island, Batanes in Luzon
  12. Iriga– Camarines Sur in Luzon
  13. Isarog– Camarines Sur in Luzon
  14. Kanlaon– Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental in Visayas
  15. Leonard Kniaseff– Davao del Norte
  16. Makaturing– Lanao del Sur
  17. Matutum– Cotobato in Mindanao
  18. Mayon– Albay, Bicol Region in Luzon
  19. Musuan (Calayo) – Bukidnon in Mindanao
  20. Parker– Provinces in Mindanao
  21. Pinatubo–Zambales in Central Luzon
  22. Ragang– Lanao del Sur and Cotobato in Mindanao
  23. Smith– Babuyan Island Group, Cagayan in Luzon
  24. Taal– Batangas in Luzon

The Philippines is positioned in a unique tectonic setting fitting for volcanism and earthquake activity. It is situated at the boundaries of two tectonic plates – the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian plate – 

both of which submerge or dive beneath the archipelago along with the deep formation along its east and west seaboard.

Pampanga was one of the provinces that were affected by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the year 1991. But now it has fully recovered from the devastating effects of the volcanic eruption that it became now a model of a resilient economy in the Philippines, if you are interested to know more about Pampanga, check this article from BRIA Homes–Affordable House and Lot: Reasons Why Pampanga Could be the Next Big Thing