Reports from Sulawesi in Indonesia indicate that once again thousands are fleeing smoke, ash and lava from a spectacular eruption. Whether Indonesia, Chile, Iceland or Eritrea—volcanic activity is grabbing headlines and has made us wonder if world travelers are increasingly likely to encounter active volcanoes. We asked Robert Peckyno, webmaster for Volcano World at Oregon State University, what scientists think. He shared with us a Smithsonian analysis that convincingly concludes that the number of confirmed erupting volcanoes has leveled off between 50 and 70 per year over the past four decades. Researchers say that the impression of increased activity should be attributed to increased reporting and better communication all around the world.
Not content with this finding, some volcanologists and climatologists have started to study whether global climate change might accelerate volcanic activity. A recently published paper says “observations suggest that the ongoing rise in global average temperatures may already be eliciting a hazardous response from the geosphere.” Perhaps travel in the decades ahead will feature trips to enjoy volcanic fireworks and require aircraft to routinely skirt clouds of volcanic ash.
Photo by zadoc.