Predicting and preparing for volcanoes

Unfortunately volcanic eruptions and earthquakes cannot be prevented.

Managing hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes can be done by: prediction and preparation.

Predicting volcanic eruptions

As a volcano becomes active, it gives off a number of warning signs. These warning signs are picked up by volcanologists (experts who study volcanoes) and the volcano is monitored.

Warning signsMonitoring techniques
Hundreds of small earthquakes are caused as magma rises up through cracks in the Earth's crust.Seismometers are used to detect earthquakes.
Temperatures around the volcano rise as activity increases.Thermal imaging techniques and satellite cameras can be used to detect heat around a volcano.
When a volcano is close to erupting it starts to release gases. The higher the sulfur content of these gases, the closer the volcano is to erupting.Gas samples may be taken and chemical sensors used to measure sulfur levels.

The techniques available for predicting and monitoring volcanic activity are becoming increasingly accurate. Volcanoes such as Mount St Helens in the USA and Mount Etna in Italy are closely monitored at all times. This is because they have been active in recent years and people who live nearby would benefit from early-warning signs of an eruption. However, as well as prediction, people need to be prepared for an eruption.

Preparing for volcanic eruptions

A detailed plan is needed for dealing with a possible eruption. Everyone who could be affected needs to know the plan and what they should do if it needs to be put into action. Planning for a volcanic eruption includes:

  • creating an exclusion zone around the volcano
  • being ready and able to evacuate residents
  • having an emergency supply of basic provisions, such as food
  • funds need to be available to deal with the emergency and a good communication system needs to be in place

Preparing for volcanic eruptions and earthquakes