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Analyse The Factors That Cause Differences In The Impacts Of Volcanic Eruptions Around The World?

1940 words - 8 pages

Analyse the factors that cause differences in the impacts of volcanic eruptions around the world? (40 marks)

A volcano is a surface landform resulting from the extrusion of magma from underground as lava, ash, rocks, and gasses are erupted in various proportions. Each year, around 60 major volcanoes erupt globally. How hazardous each one is, depends on a variety of human and physical factors that interrelate to determine the level of impact on human activity that each event exerts. I will be looking at how the physical properties of a volcano, interact with human variables to make certain volcanoes more hazardous than others. This essay will incorporate exemplification from countries at ...view middle of the document...

Thick lava, for example acid lava, has the potential to cause much larger and more explosive eruptions, therefore presenting a larger threat and increased potential for hazardous activity.

The location of a volcano is also a large variable in determining the nature of its eruptions. Volcanoes are generally found in three locations: constructive and destructive plate boundaries, as well as hotspots. The most explosive and potentially the most hazardous volcanoes are found on destructive, convergent plate boundaries. Here, one plate subducts beneath the other generating intense heat and pressure, melting the rock and sediment to form an acidic magma chamber. This viscous magma is resistant to flow and therefore results in violent, dangerous eruptions involving pyroclastics and ash; potentially hazardous both locally and globally. Another factor associated with destructive boundaries is the presence of the phreatic zone: explosive volcanic activity involving steam derived from water that has been trapped as a plate subducts. At constructive/divergent boundaries, the emerging lava is generally basic and therefore has a low viscosity, allowing it to flow easily causing much less violent eruptions. Events occur frequently but not explosively at constructive plate margins. A good example is the Mid Atlantic Ridge where the ocean floor is lined with constant, low risk volcanic activity. The hazard capacity of constructive margins generally increases when activity emerges above sea level, as seen with Iceland. However, the risk still remains low, with the exception of distinct events in which other factors have contributed. The recent Eyjafjallajökull eruption (2010) caused major global disruption, especially to Northern Europe. In this instance, the ice cap situated on top of the main vent was primary in causing the major ash cloud: this is another physical factor. Eruptions can also occur on hotspots, but the magma associated with these volcanoes is generally of low viscosity and basic in nature, producing similar events to those found at divergent boundaries. Volcanoes generally don`t form at collision boundaries. Whilst 75% of all volcanic material is erupted at constructive margins, over 80% of the world`s volcanoes occur at destructive boundaries. It is these that are thought to be the most explosive and thus the most hazardous.

Possibly the most important physical factor that helps to determine how hazardous a volcano can be, is the type of material ejected. Non-explosive eruptions tend to mostly produce lava flows which do not present a huge hazard to human activity. From more explosive, viscous eruptions, you get much more hazardous material, posing a greater threat. Ash clouds can cause serious aircraft damage and asphyxiation from collapse of buildings caused by the weight of the ash. A good example is Mount Vesuvius; whilst it is an out of date case study (AD 79), it does stand as testament to the power of an ash cloud, as 3m of ash...

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