A new Decade Volcano Program – An Introduction

Will Etna remain on the new Decade Volcano Program? Or will Boris Behncke have to defend the existance? Many questions that slowly will get an answer. Photograph by Dr. Boris Behncke.

Will Etna remain on the new Decade Volcano Program? Or will Boris Behncke have to defend the existance? Many questions that slowly will get an answer. Photograph by Dr. Boris Behncke.

The current Decade Volcano Program

First of all, let me make one thing abundantly clear. This is a list put forth by us as suggestion for a new Decade Volcano program. But, in the end it is the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) that decides if there will be a new  Decade Volcano Program, and if so which volcanoes will be included.

We do though think it is time for a new Decade Volcano Program to further the science of Volcanology and Geophysics. Also, there is a clear need for new measures and methods of mitigation. In the end the Decade Volcano Program has been a success that has furthered the science of volcanology greatly. It is because it is a success we want think it should be redone, not because it was a failure.

Due to the Decade Volcano Program we now know a lot more about how to mitigate volcanoes, and we also know much more about how volcanoes operate. Due to all of the studies done we now know so much that we can point the finger against other and more dangerous volcanoes.

So, it is time to retire Avachinsky, Colima, Etna, Galeras, Koryaksky, Mauna Loa, Merapi, Nyiragongo, Rainier, Sakurajima, Santa Maria, Santorini, Taal, Teide, Ulawun, Unzen and Vesuvius. I will though say that at least one of these volcanoes will remain on the proposed new list, but for different reasons than it was there in the first place.

In the beginning the Decade Volcano Program was meant to last for a decade, and contain only ten volcanoes. First of all, a decade does contain 10 years, not 25 years. Second of all, there are 10 volcanoes in a decade of volcanoes, not sixteen. But, happy scientists tend to forget small details like that when doing what they do best, science in their field. Trust me; I have done things like that myself.

Here you can find part one of the series: https://volcanocafe.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/the-top-10-most-dangerous-volcanic-systems-introducing-the-mde-concept/

Will the Wrath of Vesuvius prevail?

Will the Wrath of Vesuvius prevail?

Criteria for the New Decade Volcano Program

In the original Decade Volcano Program it was stated that a participating volcano should have several means of killing people. This is a very good point that we agree on wholeheartedly, so that criteria stays unchanged.

Another original criterion was that the volcano should be able to kill tens to hundreds of thousands during a regular eruption. The problem is just that there are hundreds of volcanoes that meet that criterion, and new research have also widened the scope of what kinds of volcanism are threatening to large scale human density centers.

This led us to coin the term of MDE, Million Death Expectancy. It is a bone chilling term if any, but as we continued to ponder the upcoming series it felt correct to use this as a plimsol-mark for the new Decade Volcano Program, the reason for this being that there are that many volcanoes capable of reaching a potential of 1 MDE during a regular eruption.  And please remember that we are not talking about a super-eruption here. Instead we are talking about population centers that are built to close to highly dangerous volcanoes, in many cases because nobody understood that they had built a large city within a large volcano.

Another reason for us going for an almost completely different set of volcanoes is that one of the original criterions for the Decade Volcano Program was that it should be easy to access the volcano and to achieve funding. That was wrong and I here wish to quote John F Kennedy, “…not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

Going with volcanoes that are easy to access and that have readily available funding is first of all second rate science, it is also politically incorrect if anything. Basically it just says that lives in fairly low populated areas in the predominantly white western world are worth more than lives in developing countries. Instead we believe that the criterions of multiple modes of killing and 1 MDE should rule supreme. We also believe that there is an added bonus of studying volcanoes that are understudied today.

We firmly believe that a good Decade Volcano Program should, if possible, support countries that need added scientific help and resources. So, when we picked our list we first looked at the two base criterions, then as we weighed our slightly longer list of 1 MDE capable volcanoes, we biased in the possibility to support science in developing countries.

Will picturesque Mount Rainier stand the exactitude of the new Decade Volcano Program? Photograph borrowed from Cabin Rentals Ashford.

Will picturesque Mount Rainier stand the exactitude of the new Decade Volcano Program?
Photograph borrowed from Cabin Rentals Ashford.

Contrasting views are welcome!

We know that we are sticking our necks out like giraffes on this one. We hope that volcanologists will see this is an opportunity to defend their “Decade Volcanoes”, or even put forth their own suggestions. We will therefore open up Volcanocafé for any volcanologist or representative of the IAVCEI to publish a defense or suggestion of their own, or perhaps even defend the entirety of the current Decade Volcano Program.

In the end, this is what science is all about. The free discussion of science and methodology, we have always invited and supported that and we will forever continue to do so. May science rule supreme. CARL & HENRIK

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71 thoughts on “A new Decade Volcano Program – An Introduction

  1. I agree Tam! Terrible teasing! 🙂

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2015/lidar-volcanic-ash

    I don’t think this UK Met Office news release has been posted here – it’s about a £3m project to detect volcanic ash in the atmosphere in order to keep the planes moving. While this is interesting in itself, it also highlights what Carl says above about rich people getting the benefit. The programme is only about air travel and no mention is made of the damage that can be done to people’s health by ash (see any programme, article or book on Laki).

  2. In retiring the list of 17 volcanoes, are you saying that these do not need studying or funding? A politician who is keen to make budget cuts is likely to read it that way and to cut funding to vital monitoring if a volcano is taken off the list.

    In my opinion, it is better to say that there have been successes in monitoring said volcanoes which has led to an advance is the knowledge of volcanic hazards and it is time to extend the program to include other volcanoes which may pose a greater risk.

        • What is interpreted in what is written above is always in the eye of the beerholder. I at least intended that to be very clear in what I wrote.
          But, that being said.
          The current volcanoes has been getting a disproportiante amount of money. And I stand for my opinion that the money spent on those volcanoes might in some cases be better spent from a scientific standpoint on other volcanoes in the future.
          And even among the sixteen volcanoes the amount spent has been skewed in how it has been spent in favour of the western world. Nyirangongo has not received even one hundreth of the most funded volcano and that is just wrong.

            • Often the scientific interest lies in the out of bounds volcanoes.
              My favourite volcano is Nishinoshima. It is heavily understudied even though it is by far the scientifacly most interesting eruption in the last 100 years. No volcano has produced more variations and modes of eruption, and still there is almost no instrumental data on it.

          • I think you would be hard pressed to argue that Mt Rainier has received a “disproportionate amount of money” in terms of funded projects. The volcano’s shallow crustal structure remains highly under studied. While several recent papers have been published regarding the greater Mount Rainier area, all of these studies have extremely limited resolution at depths < 20 km. I work on shallow seismic tomography of Mt Rainier, and it amazes me that our only tomographic model is from Seth Moran's PhD thesis 15 years ago (which had self described limitations at resolution in the upper edifice; where most of the hydrothermal hazard exists).

            Mt St Helens on the other hand, is extremely well studied and instrumented, as seen my the recent iMUSH experiments….

  3. Avachinsky, Colima, Etna, Galeras, Koryaksky, Mauna Loa, Merapi, Nyiragongo, Rainier, Sakurajima, Santa Maria, Santorini, Taal, Teide, Ulawun, Unzen and Vesuvius.

    The decade program is an interesting list, but it clearly is a hybrid list made to study volcanoes as much as mitigate risks. They generally chose volcanoes that have historically erupted frequently, but as we know, volcanoes that frequently erupt or recently have experienced large eruptions (geologically speaking) are probably of a lower risk to cause a catastrophe than volcanoes that are active, but in a period of long repose.

    Personally I would guess that Merapi, Unzen, Vesuvius, Taal, and Sakurajima could all probably be argued for their inclusion on this new list, but that all depends on the other volcanoes that are being included 🙂 .

    • See my comments about the “long repose meme” in the comment field for the last article.
      That meme is just not holding up to scientific reasoning.

  4. Rainer is capable of some nasty stuff, but not quite capable of killing multitudes.
    Lahars, yes but not wiping out whole populations….
    Vesuvius, is a whole ‘nother story…
    Great Article!..

    • Hypothetically, a super-large eruption from Rainier would be a big problem, but that has pretty much never happened in its history. Smaller sized flank collapses have occured however, but those would still likely not reach the 1 million death count (although they would be big disasters regardless).

        • The biggest “real” risk at Rainier is flank collapses, which given the size, glacial alteration, and the past history of the volcano wouldn’t be out of play during a future eruptive event. I tend to think that the collapse events prevent it from building to a size where it could experience a caldera forming eruption, but that’s difficult to say.

          I wouldn’t say Rainier couldn’t ever do a crater lake style eruption, but given recent and past history, I don’t think it would occur any time soon (geological time scale that is). Crater lake had multiple large eruptions prior to the big one.

          • I seem to remember that Mt. Mazama had a history of erupting not-insignificant amounts of rhyolite, and i don’t think Rainier has every shown rhyolite, so there’s that too.

            Interestingly, a few old calderas have been identified in washington. One of those is Fife’s Peak caldera, which is only ~25 miles ENE of Rainier. But I’ve seen age figures of 23-28 millions years old for that one, so obviously it wouldn’t make sense to draw any links to the current Rainier. Hannegan Peak NE of Mt Shucksan has remains of a Pliocene age caldera and ignimbrites. There’s a couple others. Anyways…. im not sure what i’m getting at. I just want to point out that there’s a whole range of possibilities out there.

            • … including pretty much the entirety of Hokkaido. The whole island is riddled with large caldera remnants… as is Eastern New Britain.

            • Yes, and this brings to mind the simple point that a caldera forming event is often a normal part of a volcano’s life cycle. There are two primary factors that will differentiate prolific areas from slow areas (such as the cascades), and that is the rate of subduction / magmatic input, and whether there is any active extension occurring.

              Hokkaido is impressive, but if you compare the rate of eruptions based off repose time for large eruptions, it’s not actually all that different from other areas in the world that have normal arc based systems. In most arc-based volcanic systems, you will find almost as many post-caldera volcanoes as you will find pre-caldera volcanoes. Hokkaido is definitely more active than many other areas on the planet in terms of explosive volcanism, but it still does not compare to the Kyushu rejoin or the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Outside those two areas, only some areas in Kamchatka can come close to the overall output of volcanic activity over the last geological period.

            • I agree with Mike anything can happen. Problem with the northern Cascades is the composition. basically piles of “loosely associated rock, ash and ice,” The potential
              for surprise is there.
              Adams may be the one that is a surprise: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Adams_%28Washington%29 It has been compared to Shasta, and it has
              a very diverse area for volcanics within a short distance…
              I remember my old Earth Science teacher Erros Osterloh -held that Adams was dormant.
              -not-extinct. She was right…(note this was in the late 60’s when such views such as “extinct”
              Cascade volcanoes were common ….

  5. A question for the authors of the new decade list: It was said that the volcanoes on the list have theoretical chances of an eruption capable of MDE1 in the next 10-100 years.
    I was wondering, was that meant as an actual chance of such a collosal eruption in such a time period, based on realistic probabilities and assumed/expected volcano recovery and signs, or just the usual “there was one VEI6 eruption in the past 30000 years, among 3000 VEI2 eruptions, so the next eruption will surely be another VEI6”? Or in another words: just expecting the max power that the volcano has shown in the past?

    I have to ask, despite knowing the answer. 😉

    • There must be physical, present-day evidence that indicate that it is more than just a hypothetical possibility even if an MDE-eruption is a very outside possibility. As an example, Yellowstone will not be on the list because at present, the available physical evidence clearly shows that it is not possible even if (to some…) it is “overdue”.

      • I have always detested that “overdue” moniker for Yellowstone. It fails to take in to consideration the geological history of the underlying driving force… the Yellowstone hotspot. If you go back and look at the periodicity of the “Large Caldera Events” that it has generated, the recurrence interval is actually closer to 5 million years. not the 600,000 years that the excitable media hops around sputtering about.

        It’s one thing to be easily amused, quite another to be easily frightened. Easily amused means that you don’t have to piss away your money for entertainment. Easily frightened means you are an easy mark to be taken advantage of, because invariably, some fat blithering idiot will be there to sell you something to assuage your fears.

        “Critical thinking” is quickly becoming a lost skill in modern society. (ergo stultus)

        • The ability to think clearly, cogently and correctly is not an ability given to everyone. In fact, as you hint at, it is often confused with the ability to perceive by people who grow up being led to believe that they are “awesome” by virtue of existing and that their opinions, based on emotional response and wishes, is just as valuable as those of someone well versed on the subject matter. Since this kind of person is unable to collect his or her “thoughts” and present them in a logical, coherent manner, they are wont to buy ready-made opinions that tie in with their wishes, desires and perceptions. Consequently, there are people who make a living catering to this need, people who by virtue of being public figures are seen by their marks as “authoritative” be they former scientists, actresses, musicians or sports stars.

          At present, the purveying of ready-made opinions is the biggest and most profitable industry on Earth.

          • Agree with that idea. What troubles me as one who is a professional pilot with a modicum of scientific training is the use of “experts” who have no clue as to what they are talking about.
            Just because:” one has a PhD. it can be preceded by a degree in B.S.”

            • Such as when an astrophysicist decides that his PhD also certifies him as an expert on volcanology and lets loose some second-hand, third rate opinions he’s picked up on youtube in the hope of gaining notoriety. Yes Dr Michio Kaku, I am talking about you.

    • The volcanoes selected present a clear and present danger.
      That is not the same as a “100 percent chance that it will do so”.
      It is a risk that is evident in either the characteristics of the volcano, or the track-record of the volcano. Or in one case, the obcene potential of the volcano.

    • question for the authors” → I don’t believe that Carl et al are even attempting to be the authors, just trying to provide meaningful input so that whoever the actual authors are, can make informed decisions by having our opinions available as to what should be considered. As noted in the opening of this article, ” the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior” (IAVCEI) are the ones ultimately responsible for the list. If some of their members stumble across our musings, that’s well enough because these nuggets of opinion will rattle around in the back of their mind and mix with the over all thought process.

  6. … sigh. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I drag out Bozo again.

    This photoshopped image is a modified nuclear blast. I think it’s appropriate for this comment. A nuclear blast is easily measured and spoken in Megatons of TNT equivalent. For reference, a One Megaton blast releases about the same amount of energy as a Mag 6.0 quake. The difference being that a quake does so underground and much of the energy doesn’t’ actually show up on the surface. If it were all released at one point at the surface, well, it would look a bit like the image, less the clown face.

    Some time back, Kelud dried out it’s crater lake and extruded a magma dome. As the weeks went on, it eventually exploded. That explosion had about the same energy release as a Mag 6.0 quake and was heard over 200 km away according to news reports.

    I provide this as a bit of perspective so that we realize what a non-large caldera forming systems are capable of.

    In a paper that I have begun to read recently,

    “In the volcanologic literature, base surges have been suggested to form by column collapse, much like pyroclastic flows (Fisher and Waters, 1970; Fisher and Schmincke, 1984, p. 247; Francis, 1993). However studies of bomb tests in shallow-water (Young, 1965), cited in the first paper on volcanic base surges (Moore, 1967) concluded that the main base surge did not result from column collapse. Rather, it formed by outward expansion of gases that tore water or debris from the inner side and upper lip of the explosion cavity, forming jets that coalesced into a toroidal-shaped cloud.“

    So in other words, a water related volcanic explosion can have extra “oomph” just from the additional gas available from the water. Recently, in other discussion, I noted that the sheer power behind phreatic detonations may be due to the shock front of fracturing rock transiting to the lower velocity media of the atmosphere. I have no idea if this is correct or not, but any water vapor at pressures capable of fracturing rock is not going to be sedate when it reaches the atmosphere. The tensile strength of rock is somewhere in the vicinity of 7 to 8 MPa, and that is modified by whatever the confining pressure is. Together, they make up the hoop strength of the rock. Generally, if you break a charged pressure vessel, it is not going to be a peaceful event. Scale that up to the size of a volcano, and you had best not be in it’s way when it goes.

    Note: In some industrial explosive applications, Perlite (amorphous volcanic glass that has a relatively high water content) is added to the mix in order to increase the gas load of the resulting detonation.

    • Sounds a little like what some call ‘boil-over’ PFs; an example of how a lower energy density eruption can actually be *more* dangerous. If the energy density is high, we get the classic vertical plinian column – which can certainly collapse and produce large, dangerous PFs, yes – but also directs a large amount of energy and eruptive product skywards and downwind.

      But if the energy density is lower, the plinian column never really dominates, and instead we have an eruption a bit like dry ice boiling in a beaker of water; PFs ‘boil over’ directly from the vent and down the flanks of the edifice, and they can be very voluminous – a Lamington-style eruption.

  7. Hello all 🙂

    Does anyone have heard of this?

    And especially this comment?

    ” I heard they are removing hydrogen and injecting carbon. They are playing God and trying to cool it down. Very dangerous. This is why they don’t allow anyone to photograph there anymore. Clues and comments: Early on, Geologists knew there was a magma plume. This is equivalent, in my analogy, to the big rainstorm that provided the water for the leak in the roof. We know it is there because you can see it. As the North American continental plate moves along to the southwest, it passes over the plume, and the plume is the source for lots of volcanic activity including the occasional day-ruining super volcanic caldera eruption, the big Yellowstone eruption being the most recent of those. You can see all the older volcanic activity, and date it, in a somewhat curved line passing upwards in time along the surface of the continental plate. No problem identifying that.

    But, how does the surface of Yellowstone, which puts enormous amounts of volcanic CO2 into the atmosphere continuously, has the largest hydro-thermal system on the planet, the occasional lava flow, etc. connect to the lava plume?

    A while back scientists used seismic imaging to depict a fairly large and complex magma feature under the surface. This provides the immediate heat and gasses, but it was not large enough or deep enough to be the ultimate source or the connection to the deeper mantle of the earth. They were still in the attic trying to trace back the leak.

    Now, scientists Hsin-Hua Huang, Fan-Chi Lin, Brandon Schmandt, Jamie Farrell, Robert B. Smith, Victor C. Tsai, in a paper titled “The Yellowstone magmatic system from the mantle plume to the upper crust,” published in Science, have used even more seismic imaging to locate and map out a deeper, larger batch of magma that is the link between the molten hot deepens of the earth, the part under the continental plates, and the Yellowstone area.”

    • has the largest hydro-thermal system on the planet” … so, they missed that whole Mid Oceanic Ridge thing eh?


      However, you did ask a question, so here is my take on it. First of all, the author of the video has disabled embedding in other sites, such as this one. That’s a quick clue that they specifically want the page hit directed to their channel. Page hits are used for monetization, so I won’t give them the benifit of a click. A “Deeper magma source?” well, that’s sort of how hotspots work. The yellowstone hotspot has been doing this sort of thing for about 20 million years, I don’t see any real reason for it to stop now… If you look at the sequence of Large Caldera Forming events, the repeat interval averages somewhere around 5 million years or so. The last big event was about 600K years ago, so that puts us somewhere around 4.4 million years and counting. Since it’s last large event, it has been undergoing infill events where the caldera floor is essentially paved flat, much like the rest of the Snake River plain. (the hotspot track).

      Injecting carbon? Pretty odd… but CO2 injection has been used for years to augment hydrocarbon extraction. In fact, my hometown of Jackson MS is the source of one of the largest supply reservoirs for industrial CO2 used for that purpose. When they drilled for Natural Gas they accidentally found the vent for the volcano that is there. No natural gas, but it yields copious amounts of CO2.

      If and when Yellowstone has another volcanic episode, it all likelihood it will be pretty much the same as it has been doing for the last 600K years. Make a scoria cone, infill the caldera some more, go back to sleep.

      ..oh, and it seems that Yellowstone doesn’t do the repeat thing very well. Typically the hotspot has to advance further along it’s track in order to have an overlying crust that is not permeable. In order to get repeat large scale events, the chamber roof has to become pretty solid or you won’t get the enormous pressures in the chamber. Even Taupo was not quite aligned with the previous large chamber that make the Whakamaru caldera… though Taupo was probably a follow-on system from it.

      • Thank you for your reply. In the video we see lightning and blue flash “come out” of land. Some say it is the hand of man who would be the cause … by the “injection”.

      • So..the Jackson volcano IS a real thing! I have a friend whose family lives around Jackson and he thought I was telling him a load of tosh when I mentioned a short (and not terribly informative) article about it.

        • Yes, it’s very real. It’s also been dead for something over 60 to 80 million years.

          Denbury Resources Inc. extracts the CO2 and uses it for oil field enhancement.

          Jackson Dome. Our primary Gulf Coast CO2 source, Jackson Dome, located near Jackson, Mississippi, was discovered during the 1970s by oil and gas companies that were exploring for hydrocarbons. This large and relatively pure source of naturally occurring CO2 (98% CO2) is, to our knowledge, the only significant underground deposit of CO2 in the United States east of the Mississippi River, and we believe that it, together with the related CO2 pipeline infrastructure, provides us a significant strategic advantage in the acquisition of other properties in Mississippi, Louisiana and southeastern Texas that are well suited for CO2 EOR.”

          BTW, the Mississippi Coliseum is directly over where they think the central vent was at. So, not only do you have thousands of tons of garbage under it (it was the old city dump, back before the current old city dump) you have a volcano.

          From the strata charts, you can see that at sometime over it’s dead time, it has shown a bit of relative uplift, but that could also just as well be that areas away from it were able to compact more as the sediment was laid down.

          At the time that it was doing it’s thing, the entire area was a shallow sea. My guess is that the volcano is part of the periphery volcanism from the putative Reel Foot rift structure. There are plutonic emplacements either side of it up in the New Madrid area, and the Monroe Uplift in Louisiana could likely be a “sister” volcano/pluton on the other side of the rift line. Even the Wiggins uplift and Door Point volcano (SE of New Orleans) could be related to the failed rift structure. Do note that Door Point and the Jurrasic era volcanic feild south of Mobile Alabama are more likely connected to the opening of the Gulf of Mexico and the slow drift of the southern end of Florida to it’s current location. (the Tampa area used to be directly south of New Orleans from what I understand…. and the Yucatan was over next to the Texas coast south of Galveston.

          Basement Controls on Subsurface Geologic Patterns and Near-Surface Geology across the Northern Gulf of Mexico: A Deeper Perspective on Coastal Louisiana” by Bryan P. Stephens is very illuminating. Definitely check out page 8 of the PDF.

  8. I had post this at the end of the last article. So about 15 minutes left of it. 🙂

    ‘Right now on the weather channel they have on for an hour Raging Nature. This episode is Volcanoes. It’s from 2014 but still interesting.’

  9. On Iceland. I noticed a gradual increase in quakes SW o Grimsvotn over the past few weeks. There is certainly stress at that area. Perhaps we will see an eruption at Thordarhyrna in the next years…

  10. Thank you Carl & Henrik..Volcanoes may not be overdue but certainly an update for the decade Volcano list is, as Carl pointed out, about 15 years overdue. This post should make us all stop and think how far we have progressed in the monitoring and therefore understanding of how volcanoes behave in that time. We still do not understand fully all there is to know, but what we have learned in the last twenty or so years is that all volcanoes are different. These differences are so important because they are the criteria that separates planning for a reasonably straightforward eruption and an eruption that is capable of producing unexpected and so possibly catastrophic events .
    Because a volcano is not surrounded by huge and densely populated areas of western style habitation doesn’t mean that it will not adversely affect, in various ways a scattered million souls.
    I am so looking forward to , not only the information and personal food for thought from the up coming posts but also ,hopefully, the input from those who may have differing views both professionals and other amateurs.
    Bring it on!

  11. So I feel like it would be a worthwhile poll to determine what the broader viewership of the volcano blogosphere would consider to be the highest risk volcano in the world?

    So prior to this artricle series ocurring, what does the general population here consider to be the highest potency volcano for offending the 1 million death scenario? AS ridiculous of a scenario as that sounds, it is something that will happen at some point in a geological time scale, but picking one to happen next is a considerable crapshoot. That being said, it would be interesting to at least understand people’s sentiment outside the authors around here who have probably done more research than most.

    • I don’t know enough but I’m going to guess based on my vague impression of global population density and volcano density that it will not be in europe, nor north americia, nor africa, nor antartica, so that leaves south america (possible) and asia (seems most likely). I’ll try thinking about it a bit more.

      • OK here’s a few more suggestions. Vesuvio/Campi Flegrei/Ischia (large population close to all three, and Italy’s emergency planning seems to leave something to be desired). 2: Aira (agree with Mike R – it would be no.1 but Japanese evacuation drills seem to be pretty sharp). 3 Ilopango. Central American equivalent of Napoli’s situation, city located between restless caldera and historically-active stratovolcano. 4 Kilauea. Not explosive, but a major flank collapse could generate massive tsunami, probably aimed at the US West Coast.

        • I’d broadly agree, subject to the following observations:

          1. I have a gut feeling that Vesuvius may be embarking on a prolonged repose period. That’s one to file away in case we repeat this exercise in a couple of hundred years.

          2. Campi Flegrei – yes, but timescale; the criteria included shortish timescale, remember. Yes, it could, it probably will, but timescale may well be thousands of years.

          3. Don’t overestimate Japanese competence. They’re well drilled to evacuate Sakurajima itself, IF everything goes by the playbook; how often do volcanoes play by the rules? And a larger event involving other parts of the bay would be a different story – and it’s larger events we’re concerned with here.

          4. Kilauea – mmmm yes and no. The mass wasting you refer to is certainly the right scale, but isn’t strictly volcanic, doesn’t need an eruption to trigger it. And, again and even moreso, timescale; we’ll probably see a VEI8 before we see Kilauea fall apart.

    • It’s more than a crapshoot; it requires a level of knowledge that the ‘general population here’ simply doesn’t possess. It’s like that game pinning a tail on a donkey, blindfolded; you know the rough shape of a donkey, but that’s about it.

      It needs a particular combination of circumstances; a volcano capable of large eruptions, a large population within range of the deadly dangers that volcano is capable of producing (principally PFs, if you want such a large death toll), and it needs either i) a serious deficiency in monitoring OR ii) the bad luck to have volcano that can initiate a large eruption very fast, with little premonitory activity to detect.

      (Or there’s always the black swan, the outlier, the case we don’t consider because we’ve never seen anything like it; the St. Helens directed blast approached such a thing: if you wanted to kill a million people… I dunno, can we think of a scenario (a very rapid onset diatreme/kimberlite or something of that ilk) which could *asphyxiate* a huge number of people with a truly massive sudden CO2 release faster than they could evacuate? How’s that for a blue-sky thought?)

      If I was to put a pin in my donkey, Aira would be as good a guess as any, for various reasons, and better than most. But a complete guess.

      • Don’t forget large ash cloud or big SO2, Cl or F emissions – all could cause widespread crop damage and disease.

        • You’re thinking Laki again. But that was a relatively gradual process, and took place a long time ago; in the modern world, a massive relief operation would be mounted, and the effects would be much less serious, at least as regards human fatalities.

          • International relief can only do so much and takes time to organise, especially if air transport is grounded. Laki took out 25% of the external labour force in the UK. If the problem was recognised in time, that % would be reduced – say for argument only to 1%, 1% of the UK external labour force is a big number. Then you have to multiply it up for the rest of Europe and also factor in the impact on livestock and crops.

            • You couldn’t be more on the money in my opinion Karen! Just because we are “advanced” and have access to advanced technology does not make us immune, yet for some peculiarly ostrich-like reason we like to believe so. How do you fly or ship in aid to starving millions when roads, ports and airports are destroyed? How do you ensure that they have potable water? A water table poisoned by volcanic ash and millions of decomposing bodies, mainly animal ones? How do you maintain law and order in such an environment? And, in such an environment, how do you prevent dysentry and other epidemic diseases?

              Tertiary effects than may turn out to be the biggest killers.

            • I agree – the secondary and tertiay effects might cause the biggest damage. I was frankly stunned when I read about the effects of Tambora on the world, especially if you believe that Cholera was unleashed on the world becuse of it.

            • Well it’s Iceland so it’s not such a large scale. Evacuate half the population (ten big ships could do it; three day voyage to EU), move the other half upwind. Downwind and in EU, get gas masks out to the most vulnerable.

              The single biggest factor isn’t modern resources, it’s *knowledge*; modern science – we know and understand the dangers and their effects in a way that 18th century folks simply had no clue about.

            • Don’t forget the rest of Europe may be down wind, depending on weather conditions.

    • Well, at least it’s not some clueless gov official proposing a race through a high SO2 region. In order to make light of the danger so the investors don’t have second thoughts about funding building projects in and on the volcano.

      That guy has a lot of negative karma stored away. When the account comes due, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

  12. Carl is busily compiling his entry for the #10 and says it will be up later this evening. Any thoughts on which volcano it is? Last chance to post your guess! 🙂

  13. Let me give fair warning.
    I have just written a small book on this particular volcano. Time to edit in this Behemoth Class article.

  14. Reblogged this on Geologically Speaking and commented:
    This is a fantastic idea and I shall be reblogging the list as it is published. There are so many misconceptions on the threat posed by certain volcanoes and which ones we should be spending the time and money on monitoring. Although it is not an official list, rather one compiled by members of a blog I read often, it does set forth logically parameters that should be considered if the Decade Volcano list be rewritten. I have made my guess to which ones will make the cut, it will be interesting to see how I fair….

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