Discovering Geology — Earth hazards

There are more than 1500 active volcanoes on Earth. Around 50–70 volcanoes erupt every year. There are 82 volcanoes in Europe and 32 of these are in Iceland, one of the UK’s closest ‘volcanic neighbours’. Most of the volcanoes on Earth are not well-monitored or even monitored at all. Some volcanoes erupt almost continuously (e.g. Etna and Stromboli) but some don’t erupt for tens, hundreds or even thousands of years.

Why does BGS study volcanoes?

We have a team of volcanologists that works on various research projects in locations around the world. This research helps governments and local people to:

  • understand the signals that may indicate an eruption will happen soon
  • understand different volcanoes’ ‘personalities’ and behaviour
  • understand the potential hazards posed by volcanoes
  • work with communities living near volcanoes and further afield to try and reduce risk from volcanic eruptions
  • understand how best to take advantage of volcanic systems, e.g. geothermal energy

The BGS volcanology team works with government agencies to provide support and scientific advice not only during volcanic unrest or ‘changes from a volcano’s normal state’, but also in preparation for potential future activity.

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Plymouth, the main town of the Caribbean island of Montserrat, was buried beneath pyroclastic flow material during the eruption of the Soufrière Hills eruption that began in 1995. BGS ©UKRI.

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