Given the myriad of things Americans have to ponder and worry about each day, the dangers of volcanoes are probably low on our list of concerns. But volcanoes are more plentiful, active, and fascinating than many people realize. Some find volcanoes so compelling, they create man made volcanoes and schedule eruptions for entertainment value. Really.
A volcanic eruption in Colima, Mexico forced residents to leave the area as magma and hot ash spewed from the Volcano of Fire for days. This latest eruption began on an otherwise peaceful Friday afternoon, and intensified over the next few days—taking out part of the southern crater wall and decimating the crown or “dome.” In addition to magma (AKA “lava”) and hot ash, falling rocks present considerable danger to residents. Scientists believe the eruption is almost at an end, but no one knows for sure. The Colima Volcano is one of the more active in Mexico. It’s erupted at least 40 times since the 1500s. For a populated area, that’s a lot.
Given the frequency of volcanic eruptions, it may seem like the dangers of volcanoes are imminent. But that’s Mexico. Is this really something we have to worry about in the United States? Yes. The dangers of volcanoes became all too real in 1980 when the Mount St. Helen’s volcanic eruption killed 57 people and spewed volcanic ash into 11 states. People as far away as Michigan could see the change in weather and in the overall appearance of the sky. The Mount St. Helen’s eruption has been called the most “dangerous and destructive volcano in US history.” Mementos of this eruption are plentiful, as volcanic ash has since been compressed into gemstones called “Helenite.”
Volcano alerts can be found on the Internet, especially in high-risk areas like Alaska and Hawaii. Many other states are not exactly strangers to the dangers of volcanoes. In fact, there are 20 states that contain volcanoes with recorded eruptions. In addition to Alaska and Hawaii, other states like California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Mississippi, and Missouri—all have potentially active volcanoes. Does this mean the dangers of volcanoes are headed to a town near you? Probably not. But there may always be individuals who say, “Yes! Take cover!”
Scientists are always learning exciting new things about how volcanoes work and the potential threats they pose. In a development worthy of the SyFy channel, one team of oceanic engineers found something incredible when they lowered an underwater camera into a dormant deep-sea volcano. Footage revealed sharks swimming through the heated water amid a heavy film of red ash. Not just tiny, deep sea sharks either. In the single hour the camera was underwater, it recorded silky sharks and large, scalloped hammerheads. This raises questions about how and if sharks are even aware of the dangers of volcanoes. Will the sharks know if an eruption is imminent? What can we learn from their behavior that might give us warning of potential eruptions? If nothing else, Sharkcano might make for an incredibly entertaining popcorn feature.