Earth is a young geologically active planet, more so than many of the other planets in the solar system. Volcanoes are part of this process and as the magma from the earth’s crust swells up, it places more pressure on the overlying strata, causing it often to bulge out. The bulge is often the first indication of magma collecting and that it would only be a matter of time before the volcano erupted. It is the same movement of magma towards the surface of the earth that causes tectonic movements, often causing sublimation as the continental plates grind against each other. Earth has been subjected to intense volcanic activity in the course of its 4.53 billion year life-span and during that time, nearly every inch of land that you see has been changed, modified, altered at the micro level due to various geological activities starting with volcanoes. Given the fact that volcanoes are erupting nearly every year, at some part of the word, it is time that we took a closer look at some of the positive and negative impact of volcanoes.
The positive impact of volcanoes:
- Pressure valve: Volcanoes and that includes geysers and mud volcanoes as well, tend to act as nature’s pressure valve, in enabling the earth to release all that internal heat that had been building up, and in the process, recycle magma along with other constituent minerals back to the surface. Therefore, volcanoes all tend to act as more of nature’s pressure valve and in the process, it helps to cool down the earth. The earth’s mantle continually regenerates itself thanks to the ready supply of magma.
- Fertility: It is a well-known fact volcanic ash is rich in various minerals and nutrients; that’s why some of the most productive farmlands can be found located along the slopes of ancient dormant volcanoes. In fact, you may even find a few farms dotting active volcanoes as well which is why volcanic ash is always in demand with farmers.
- Geothermal plants: While it can be hard if not downright impossible to tap the magma or earth’s internal heat directly, we can do it safely with Geysers. This is why many active volcanic locations have a geothermal power plant that taps into the internal heat of the planet and extracts power for commercial use. In fact, Hawaii has a number of geothermal plants and the second unit was closed down recently as a result of the ongoing volcanic eruptions on Hawaii
The negative impact of volcanoes:
- Immense destruction: An erupting volcano can cause immense destruction all around; all you need to do is to take a trip to Pompeii which was covered entirely by Volcanic ash, pumice, rocks and even searing hot magma. The fact that none of the residents of Pompeii took note of the early warning signs that eventually led to the destruction of the city and resulted in all the inhabitants being roasted, alive. Volcanoes have been studied in the past and none was more precise when it came to modelling one like Pliny the younger who survived Pompeii. His mode is thought to be one of the most destructive forms of volcanic eruptions and it is better known today as the Plinian eruption.
- Loss of life: The resultant ash from a volcanic eruption often contains millions of tiny glass particulates which when inhaled can cause abrasions on your respiratory tract. Apart from this, you would have made do with extremely hot temperatures, various noxious gases that have been released as a result of the eruption and then there are the magma loaded missiles that you would have to keep an eye out for. Volcanoes have killed countless people in the past and even helped contribute to extinction level events which managed to almost wipe out all life on earth.
- Destruction to property: Volcanoes, when they erupt, often do so in a shower of ash and small debris. Most of these would cover and coat all the surrounding buildings with a light coating of fine ash. However, as the eruption progresses, it causes the ash to become hotter, heavier and abrasive. Most roofs would collapse at this stage; if the residence is still standing, then the pyroclastic surges should end up wiping off all life and destroying all buildings. So to claim that volcanoes can cause the destruction of property is an understatement.
These are some of the positive and negative impacts of volcanic eruptions; volcanic eruptions are but a part of our lives and we need to live with this information and research more to see if we can predict the next volcanic eruption.