ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes: Benefits and Problems of Volcanoes
Benefits of volcanoes to humans
- They eject lava and ash which in turn produce very fertile soils which boost agriculture activities.
- Volcanoes and areas near them can be used to produce geothermal energy which can be fed into electrical grids and boost the energy supplies of the affected regions and countries.
- Volcanic materials sometimes contain precious minerals such as Opals and obsidian.
- They act as tourist attractions and thus provide a livelihood and foreign currency to people living near them.
- They may form habitable islands for people to live for example the Hawaii islands in the Pacific ocean are a result of volcanic activity.
- Hardened volcanic ash can also be used to make lightweight concrete for building houses and other infrastructure installations.
- Produce essential condensation nuclei.
- They produce pumice stones that are used as abrasives.
- Igneous rocks that are formed can be used as building materials.
- Calderas may form lakes which can provide people with a livelihood in the fishing industry as well as provide water for home and industrial use.
Problems caused by volcanoes.
- They can cause loss of life especially when they erupt unexpectedly as in the destruction of Pompeii
- Can cause destruction to crops when they erupt and via lava flow as recently happened in Hawaii.
- Destruction of ecosystems and destroys biodiversity.
- They can cause destruction to infrastructure such as homes, roads, towns.
- Can cause acid rain to fall.
- They may cause natural fires.
- Can cause lahars, special hot mud flows which when set have the consistency of concrete.
- Can cause tsunamis especially when they happen near islands.
- Displace large populations of people
Mitigating the problems of volcanoes
Although volcanic eruptions cannot be prevented their effects can be mitigated to some extent.
- Quick well trained rescue operations to affected areas.
- Effective media operations to quickly disseminate information whenever volcanic activity is predicted or expected.
- Diverting lava flows using barriers and explosives although these tend to be highly ineffective.
- Install gas detectors near volcanoes to detect non-violent eruptions that might lead to poisonous gases being dispersed to populated areas.
- Clearing tephra (ash) from roofs so that it will not accumulate and cause houses/buildings to collapse.
- Evacuation from affected areas prior to eruptions and lahar flows and tsunamis.
- Monitoring volcanoes using the latest seismic technology so as to predict likely eruptions and changes in cycles and activity.
To access more topics go the Geography Notes page.