Striking Effects of Volcanoes That'll Chill You to the Bone

Effects of Volcanoes
Volcanic eruptions are one of the most destructive natural disasters, which endanger human life and cause significant changes in the atmosphere. Whether large or small, eruptions do affect the environment for a period of time, mostly because of the gases they spew out.
A volcano is actually an opening or a fissure, in the Earth's crust, through which lava or molten rocks, ash and toxic gases present below the surface of Earth are discharged by a sudden, violent eruption. Sometimes, it can be a mountain-like structure with a bowl-shaped depression at the top, through which these substances are expelled. The term 'volcano' is derived from the name of the Roman God of fire, Vulcan.

Many gases, like sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, chlorine (as HCl gas), fluorine (as HF gas), hydrogen, helium and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are released into the environment during volcanic eruptions. Volcanic structures are usually formed at places where the tectonic plates are either converging or diverging. A stretching or thinning of the Earth's crust, can also lead to the formation of volcanoes. They are often classified into three types, on the basis of their frequency of eruptions, i.e. active, dormant and extinct. The active volcanoes are characterized by regular eruptions, while the dormant volcanoes are those that erupted in the past, but are silent now. On the other hand, an extinct volcano is the one that erupted in the remote past and is unlikely to erupt again.
Effects on the Environment
Sulfur dioxide causes acid rain, air pollution, and depletion of the ozone layer.
Sulfur dioxide causes acid rain, air pollution, and depletion of the ozone layer.
► Sulfur dioxide spreads to the top of the atmosphere where it reflects the rays of the Sun, and thus leads to the cooling of the atmosphere. This has the effect of bringing down the average global temperature, for a period of one or two years. A famous example of this is the cooling of the surface temperature of the Earth brought about after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in Philippines. It also reacts with other gases and particles in the atmosphere to form volcanic smog.
► Carbon dioxide absorbs the Sun's rays, thereby increasing surface temperature of the Earth. It is a heavy gas and thus can get trapped in some low-lying areas called depressions. People who breathe CO2-laden air of such an area can succumb to death. CO2 can also accumulate in the soil.
► Hydrogen chloride (HCl), owing to its extremely acidic nature, contributes to acid rains after an eruption.
► The volcanic ash released into the atmosphere after an eruption spreads to hundreds of square miles. It blankets the atmosphere around the volcano, blocking the rays of the Sun from reaching the ground. It has been theorized that a very large volcano can cause a 'volcanic winter'.
Effects on Living Beings
volcanic ash
► Volcanic ash blows out as minute particles. When it is inhaled, it can cause coughing and shortness of breath. People suffering from asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema are especially affected by it.

► Coarser particles from pyroclastic flow can be lethal. When inhaled, they cause death by choking the lungs and causing burns.

► Due to the reduced visibility resulting from ash, accidents often take place in the area around the eruption.
► Extremely hot lava can swiftly kill plants and animals.

► People living in vicinity of an eruption are at risk of injury and even death by roof collapse. This is because ash particles continually get deposited on the roofs of the dwellings. If the weight increases beyond what a roof can endure, it buckles.

► Fine ash particles get in the eye and cause irritation, burning, and itching. The cornea, which is the exposed part of the eye, suffers abrasion and inflammation.
A volcanic eruption is a natural calamity which, besides causing loss of human life and property, can cause considerable environmental changes. Though we cannot prevent the occurrence of such eruptions, we can reduce their devastating effects. Movement of magma, changes in the quantity and quality of gases emitted by the volcanoes and small earthquakes can serve as signals of volcanic eruptions. So, proper monitoring of these signals, ready disaster management techniques, and creating awareness among the general public about the hazards of volcanic eruptions can play an important role in minimizing the losses that occurs during such an disaster.
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