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An estimated 800 million people live within 100 km of an active volcano in 86 countries and additional overseas territories worldwide [see Chapter 4 and Appendix B]1. Volcanoes are compelling evidence that the Earth is a dynamic planet characterised by endless change and renewal. Humans have always found volcanic activity fascinating and have often chosen to live close to volcanoes, which commonly provide favourable environments for life. Volcanoes bring many benefits to society: eruptions fertilise soils; elevated topography provides good sites for infrastructure (e.g. telecommunications on elevated ground); water resources are commonly plentiful; volcano tourism can be lucrative; and volcanoes can acquire spiritual, aesthetic or religious significance. Some volcanoes are also associated with geothermal resources, making them a target for exploration and a potential energy resource.
Much of the time volcanoes are not a threat because they erupt very infrequently or because communities have become resilient to frequently erupting volcanoes. However, there is an everpresent danger of a long-dormant volcano re-awakening or of volcanoes producing anomalously large or unexpected eruptions. Volcanic eruptions can cause loss of life and livelihoods in exposed communities, damage or disrupt critical infrastructure and add stress to already fragile environments. Their impacts can be both short-term, e.g. physical damage, and long-term, e.g. sustained or permanent displacement of populations. The risk from volcanic eruptions and their attendant hazards is often underestimated beyond areas within the immediate proximity of a volcano. For example, volcanic ash hazards can have effects hundreds of kilometres away from the vent and have an adverse impact on human and animal health, infrastructure, transport, agriculture and horticulture, the environment and economies. The products of volcanism and their impacts can extend beyond country borders, to be regional and even global in scale.
Although known historical loss of life from volcanic eruptions (since 1600 AD about 280,000 fatalities are recorded, Auker et al. (2013)) is modest compared to other major natural hazards, volcanic eruptions can be catastrophic for exposed communities. In 1985 the town of Armero in Colombia was buried by lahars (volcanic mudflows) with more than 21,000 fatalities due to relatively small explosive eruptions at the summit of Nevado del Ruiz volcano that partially melted a glacier (Voight, 1990).
Originally prepared for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, this is the first comprehensive assessment of global volcanic hazards and risk, presenting the state of the art in our understanding of global volcanic activity. It examines our assessment and management capabilities, and considers the preparedness of the global scientific community and government agencies to manage volcanic hazards and risk. Particular attention is paid to volcanic ash, the most frequent and wide-ranging volcanic hazard. Of interest to government officials, the private sector, students and researchers, this book is a key resource for the disaster risk reduction community and for those interested in volcanology and natural hazards. A non-technical summary is included for policy makers. Regional volcanic hazard profiles, with invaluable information on volcanic hazards and risk at the local, national and global scale, are provided online. This title is available as an Open Access eBook via Cambridge Books Online.
Volcanic hazards and risk have not been considered in previous global assessments by UNISDR as part of the biennial reports on disaster risk reduction. This book developed as a consequence of Global Volcano Model (GVM) being invited to make such an assessment by UNISDR for its 2015 report. GVM worked in close collaboration with the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) to contribute four background papers for the 2015 Global Assessment Report (GAR15) of UNISDR. These background papers contain a lot more information than could be included in GAR15 and can be construed as the evidence on which UN ISDR have been able to include volcanic risk into their report. Although the background papers were placed on the UNISDR website they would have become part of the ephemeral grey literature that increasingly pervades scientific publication. Thus the decision was made to publish the reports together as an open access e-book with the support of UNISDR.
The book represents the efforts of the global volcanological community to provide a synthesis of what we understand about volcanoes, volcanic hazards and the attendant risks. The book owes its existence to the efforts of many scientists from many countries. There are over 130 authors from 47 countries. Members of the World Organisation of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) have been immensely helpful and collaborative in providing information for the country profiles and making sure that the facts are correct. Outside of those who have directly contributed are many thousands of scientists throughout the world who have provided the data and scientific analysis within the peer-reviewed literature to contribute to the collective knowledge, which we have tried to synthesise. There will be shortcomings and omissions in any endeavour of this kind. GVM and IAVCEI have the ambition to carry out future global analyses to reflect advances in knowledge and to address shortcomings and omissions in this inaugural attempt at a globalsynthesis.