The Volcanic Impact

June 21, 2011 | Environment, Natural Disasters

News Update: June 21, 2011 – The ash cloud from the Chilean Puyuhue volcano has again forced the cancellation of flights in most Australian cities and affected thousands of passengers.  According to aviation authorities, the swollen ash cloud that made its way to the Australian air space is larger than the June 12 ash plume.  Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia grounded their commercial jets for the safety of their passengers.  The disruptions have been causing huge cost to the travelers, airlines and tourism industry.  For Australian tourism, the cost was estimated to be more than $10 million a day.

Volcanic eruptions and formations

Volcanic eruption is among the most powerful, destructive forces on earth. It can devastate vast areas of lands, and cost the lives of many. On the other hand, it is also a creative force that shaped our world’s beautiful mountains, islands and plains.

Some of these formations from volcanic eruption are formed by magma found deep within the earth’s crust. Rocks slowly melt from extreme heat underneath the earth and turn them into magma. Since magma is lighter than the rocks in the surface, it will eventually rise up to the magma chamber. Not all of them will go to the chamber; some will push through the earth’s tiny holes and cracks up to the Earth’s surface. If the opening of the surface is not big enough for the magma to flow completely, the strong forces beneath the earth will push the ground powerfully— volcanic eruption will ensue.   Ashes and gases from the volcano can fly to the atmosphere and can also damage the plants or things from a distance. Magma that flows out of the volcano down to the valley is called lava.

Lava can flow in every direction, depending on how huge the blast is.  People can still flee for safety if it flows slowly. Some of these eruptions can be so violent hundreds of people, crops, livestock, and millions worth of establishments are left to ruins.

Devastating volcanic eruption

One of the most devastating volcanic eruptions in history was the Krakatoa/Krakatau eruption in Indonesia. Its explosion during 1883 of August 26-27, killed more than 40, 000 lives with the blast heard across 3, 000 miles or more. The said eruption is 13 times bigger than the nuclear explosion that leveled Hiroshima during World War II.  Krakatoa’s explosion in Indonesia was heard about 1, 930 miles away in the Perth Western Australia and 3, 000 miles in Rodrigues. VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index) indicates that the said blast is equal to 200 megatons of TNT.

According to the official results, the estimated casualties amount to more than 21 thousand, and more than 132 properties completely damaged, 165 towns and villages devastated, and thousands seriously injured during the explosion.  Death toll reached to 16 thousand from the tsunami that ensued. Approximately two-thirds of the entire Krakatoa Island lay in shambles during the aftermath.

Volcanologists constantly update the result of their study of 60 active volcanoes and the extent of the explosion year after year. Some of them weaken while some worsen over time including the Hawaiian, Mt. Helens, Mt. Pelee, Ruiz of Colombia which killed more than 23 thousand people and billions of US Dollars worth of damages.

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