Well many volcanologists believe that in order to protect the public from future volcanic eruptions they need to learn about a volcanoes past. One of these ways is looking back at the Historical records.
I guess this was a problem in the early 20th Century because the idea to have a book describing historical volcanic activity was discussed as early as 1922, at a meeting of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics in Rome. Then in 1947 the IAVCEI (International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior) published in their Journal ‘Bulletin Volcanologique’ (Known as Bulletin of Volcanology since 1986) that they were going to make a Catalog that documented all of earth’s known Historic eruptions.
This work started in 1951 in volcano – packed Indonesia. This series would run non-stop until 1975 and would be revived twice in 1998 and 2002.
Now I’m not having a go at volcanologists. But now volcanologists have it easier than ever before. The wonders of the Internet make it much easier to find information than ever before. And observatories all around the world post their Bulletin’s on volcanic activity that can be viewed by anyone that has an internet connection.
Of course it was much harder 50 years ago. No Internet could have meant volcanologists and geologists working tirelessly through the night, looking through archives and (in the case of Italy and parts of Europe) classical texts.
But their work created by far the most complete document of their time, with insights into eruptions ranging from 300 years to almost 3000 years.
Of course, determining if an account was an accurate description of a volcanic eruption was almost as hard as finding the documents in the first place:
Example of a ‘real’ volcanic eruption from 300 years ago
“the low peak in the interior of Unimak Island, near its south end, burned until the upheaval of the southwest range”
The above account described an eruption of Fisher volcano, Alaska in 1795.
As demonstrated above, early accounts were often very vague, lacked description on the type of eruption or where the eruption took place and most were probably third –hand account’s told by Fishermen, etc. In many accounts volcanoes were described as ‘smoking’ which could refer to either ash columns or passive steaming.
As I said above, work on these books began in Indonesia; the original set of books ran until 1975 in New Zealand after an intense century of volcanic activity at Ruapehu, Tongariro (including Ngauruhoe), Okataina and White Island volcanoes.
The series came back in 1998. It covered Alaska and was published as a US open-file report.
Finally in 2002, Icelandic Volcanologist Sigurour Steinthorsson made a draft CAVW Iceland containing historical eruptions of Iceland.
The books often range in sizes to regions like Italy, where eruptions have been documented since 1500 BC (Where large eruptions of Etna forced Sicilians to emigrate), so that book is 72 pages long. But some regions have a short Volcanological record, like Iran, whose CAWV book is only 20 pages long.
No series of books will ever touch the CAVW, yes they got it wrong sometimes, but mainly they were excellent.
However after 1975, new volcanic eruptions were making the books out of date. It was time for a new type of volcano reporting to step in…
For a table on all books, e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To order some of the 1951 – 1975 books visit:
For the 1998 Alaska report visit: http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ofr98582
For the first section of the 2002 Iceland publication visit:
Also the new issue of my Bulletin of World Volcanism is out now. To obtain the Bulletin, please send an e-mail to: email@example.com and put the Special Code: SER390 into the title box.
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