Volcanic risk: Physical processes and social vulnerabilities

S Jenkins, K. Haynes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


At present, volcanic and human activity co-exists in uneasy discord. Approximately 5.5 million people were evacuated, injured or made homeless during the twentieth century alone (Witham 2005). Increasingly, the world’s population and accompanying urbanization, agricultural cultivation and industrial development are becoming concentrated in large conurbations that lie within reach of some of the most hazardous volcanic processes. The dense populations surrounding many volcanically active regions on Earth are testament to the benefits of volcanic eruptions: fertile land for agriculture, higher zones that capture rainfall for use in the surrounding plains, aggregate for construction, geothermal energy and even volcano tourism. With increasing aviation travel, explosive volcanoes without dense population settlements may still pose considerable economic and health risks to airborne populations and aeroplanes. Some of the busiest air routes cross the volcanically dense and active regions of South-East Asia and the north Pacific. The explosive eruption from Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in April 2010 caused major disruption to air travel across Europe with significant losses for the aviation industry. Underlying vulnerabilities play a fundamental role in determining the extent of volcanic impacts. Social, economic and political factors determine who lives, works and has assets in the high-risk zone (e.g. agricultural workers), and also shape people’s capacities to cope, recover and adapt. While nothing can be done to prevent the actual eruption, reducing underlying social vulnerabilities and improving understanding of volcanic processes can prevent volcanic disasters. This chapter will provide an understanding of the physical processes and mechanisms exhibited during volcanic activity alongside the social processes through which people are exposed to and are impacted by volcanic hazards. The actions that people have taken to mitigate against and improve their capacity to cope with and adapt to volcanic impacts will also be discussed.
Translated title of the contributionVolcanic risk: Physical processes and social vulnerabilities
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
EditorsWisner , Gaillard , Kelman
Pages334 - 346
Number of pages875
ISBN (Print)9780415590655
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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