Volcanoes are often located in stunning and fascinating places of the world. Some volcanoes are in areas already heavily populated, like Popocatépetl in Mexico or that thanks to tourism become highly or more populated during certain times of the year, like Agung in Indonesia.
In addition to the charm, volcanoes can be and have been harmful to both lives and properties. The hazards posed by volcanoes erupting are various and can affect areas both in the vicinity and far away from the eruption. Common hazards are, for example, lava flows, pyroclastic density currents, ash fall, ejection of ballistic, lahars, volcanic gases as well as structural collapses causing landslides, and eventually, tsunamis if close to the sea or a lake.
There will be some indications, some precursors, that a volcano is going to erupt. However, the time between these signs and the eruptive event is highly variable and can range from days to months. Sometimes an eruption can happen without a clear warning and be fatal, like the Mt. Ontake eruption in Japan in 2014.
Preparedness is thus crucial: be aware of where you are, the possible hazards and how to prevent or minimize losses and accidents. Scientists from all over the world have been more and more working closely with the communities at risks from volcanic activity. Advancements in volcano monitoring help better understand the phenomena. And educational programs and emergency simulations are commonly put in place. However, how are tourists taken into account in hazard mitigation plans? How aware are tourists of the natural hazards they may encounter? Are visitor centres providing enough information? What about tour operators?
To try and answers some of these questions we interviewed a scientist working on volcanic hazard and issues related to tourism. In today post, we welcome Bradley Scott from GNS Science, New Zealand.