Volcanic gases: silent killers
Advances in Volcanology
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Edmonds, M., Grattan, J., & Michnowicz, S. (2015). Volcanic gases: silent killers. Advances in Volcanology https://doi.org/10.1007/11157_2015_14
Volcanic gases are insidious and often overlooked hazards. The effects of volcanic gases on life may be direct, such as asphyxiation, respiratory diseases and skin burns; or indirect, e.g. regional famine caused by the cooling that results from the presence of sulfate aerosols injected into the stratosphere during explosive eruptions. Although accounting for fewer fatalities overall than some other forms of volcanic hazards, history has shown that volcanic gases are implicated frequently in small-scale fatal events in diverse volcanic and geothermal regions. In order to mitigate risks due to volcanic gases, we must identify the challenges. The first relates to the difficulty of monitoring and hazard communication: gas concentrations may be elevated over large areas and may change rapidly with time. Developing alert and early warning systems that will be communicated in a timely fashion to the population is logistically difficult. The second challenge focuses on education and understanding risk. An effective response to warnings requires an educated population and a balanced weighing of conflicting cultural beliefs or economic interests with risk. In the case of gas hazards, this may also mean having the correct personal protection equipment, knowing where to go in case of evacuation and being aware of increased risk under certain sets of meteorological conditions. In this chapter we review several classes of gas hazard, the risks associated with them, potential risk mitigation strategies and ways of communicating risk. We discuss carbon dioxide flows and accumulations, including lake overturn events which have accounted for the greatest number of direct fatalities, the hazards arising from the injection of sulfate aerosol into the troposphere and into the stratosphere. A significant hazard facing the UK and northern Europe is a “Laki”-style eruption in Iceland, which will be associated with increased risk of respiratory illness and mortality due to poor air quality when gases and aerosols are dispersed over Europe. We discuss strategies for preparing for a future Laki style event and implications for society.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/11157_2015_14
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/255890