Fertile volcanic soil Kenya. Image credit tishaferral.com

Fertile volcanic soil Kenya. Image credit tishaferral.com

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 asĀ 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.