The Beneficial and Harmful Effects of Volcanic Eruptions

The primary benefit of living in the vicinity of a volcano is mainly its natural and mysterious beauty simply because of its potential to be dangerous. Most tourists are contented merely by being allowed close encounter with the volcano and an unlimited occasion for photo session with it.

Mountaineers and nature-lovers cannot resist the will to climb the volcano to get the feeling of conquering it upon reaching the peak. This appeal to tourists opens a job opportunity for the tourist guide among residents in the area. Local businesses would also welcome the influx of visitors who not only come to appreciate the volcanic scenery but at the same time somehow add revenue by patronizing the food and services offered.

Even when the volcano is showing signs of restlessness or is in the process of eruption, people would flock to the place in order to have a taste of adventure and new experience. People arriving at the area would certainly include scientists and volcano enthusiasts to conduct monitoring, measurement, and documentation of the eruption process. One such volcanic activity is just one more natural phenomenon presenting itself as subject of study and thereby adding to the body of knowledge.

A long-term beneficial effect of volcanic eruption is its important role in turning the agricultural land of the host locality a lot more fertile. The ash and other materials spewed out by the volcano over the years carry minerals that break down and ultimately increase the richness of the soil. Some of these minerals that become ground nutrients are oxygen, phosphorus, nitrates, silica, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

In the construction industry, the use of volcanic rocks, sand, and ash has been amply demonstrated in various parts of the world. Utilized as raw material, volcanic ash or sand, or pulverized volcanic rocks, can be added to mortar or concrete mixtures.

Finally, volcanoes can be sources of geothermal energy – definitely one of the much-needed solutions to the rapidly depleting supply of the expensive and non-renewable fossil fuel such as crude oil and petroleum products. The Global Energy Conservatory lists 7 geothermal power plants in the Philippines. These are located in Tiwi, Albay; in Kidapawan, Cotabato; in Makiling-Banahaw (MakBan) in Bay, Laguna; in Kananga and Ormoc in Leyte; in northern Negros Occidental; in Palinpinon, Valencia, Negros Oriental; and in Baco-Manito (BacMan) in Sorsogon City, Sorsogon.

And yet reaping the benefits of a volcanic eruption also entails facing up to the hazards it can deliver. The foremost negative effect of an erupting volcano is that it can bring instant death or injury to people or animals.

Flow and surges of boiling lava, red-hot rocks and other pyroclastic materials burn or totally engulf people or objects they encounter. These super-heated materials can likewise damage or totally destroy houses and other buildings, farmlands, and crops, as well as infrastructures. Then, too, a volcanic eruption can generate a tsunami as what Taal Volcano did in 1965. Tsunami waves as high as 4.7 meters claimed the lives of 355 persons.

During a heavy storm or typhoon, lahars are produced when rain mixes with volcanic debris. These powerful mudflows or lahar can overwhelm and completely bury whole villages and farms just like what happened in Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga after the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption. Lahars can also accumulate in rivers and other waterways and cause floods.

Gaseous emissions from an erupting volcano can suffocate, poison, or induce health problems among humans and animals. Some of the toxic gases that are released are carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen fluoride.

Lastly, large amounts of volcanic ash repeatedly ejected into the atmosphere can disrupt the weather, reduce visibility, and cause harmful effects upon air travel. Volumes of volcanic ash deposited on roofs can cause the roof to cave in and hurt the house occupants. Numerous cases of deaths and injuries from accumulated ash in the roof were reported after the same Mount Pinatubo eruption.

In order to protect yourself, your family and property from volcanic hazards, please read the "Volcano Eruption Protection Guide"

References:
  1. "Factsheets." The Geological Society of London, 2017, www.geolsoc.org.uk/factsheets. Accessed 24 July 2019.
  2. Global Energy Observatory: Information on Global Energy Systems and Infrastructure, globalenergyobservatory.org. Accessed 24 July 2019.
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