Volcanology | Volcanologist is one of the Coolest Job | ScienceMonk

“Volcanology (also spelt as vulcanology) is the science dealing with the study of volcanoes, lava, magma, and related phenomena.” The word ‘volcanology’ comes from the Latin word Vulcan, who was the ancient Roman god of fire.

Volcanology is an exciting field that studies the formation, classification, and distribution of volcanoes as well as the movement and generation of magma and other pyroclastic material released during the volcanic eruption. Volcanoes generate magma which on reaching the surface is known as lava. They also release pyroclastic flows, tephra, volcanic ash, and debris into the atmosphere along with hazardous gases.

A volcanologist is a geologist who studies volcanoes and volcanic activity. The study of volcanoes is crucial as it helps in delineating the processes taking place in the interior of the earth that results in the eruption of hot molten magma on the surface of the planet earth.

Volcanism and Plate Tectonics- Volcanology

Volcanoes form as a result of plate tectonics. When two tectonic plates converge then the tectonic setting may be marked by active volcanism, and since the plates become unstable due to movement, therefore, the seismic activity also occurs in a concurrent environment. This is why volcanically active areas are also seismically active.
The Pacific Ring of Fire is an example of an active tectonic setting marked by convergent boundaries. This horseshoe-shaped belt in the Pacific Ocean is home to 452 volcanoes and about 90% of the world’s earthquakes.
However, the primary purpose of ‘volcanology‘ is to determine the nature, causes and recurrence interval of volcanic eruptions to forecast their occurrence. This is beneficial for the lives of the people living near the volcanically active areas as they can evacuate the city and move to safety in due time if the volcanologists can predict future eruptions.




What Do A Volcanologists Do?

The job of a volcanologist involves carrying out surveys, collecting rock samples, lava, tephra (such as ash or pumice) and field data required for detailed lab analysis. By using well-developed techniques of geophysics, geochemistry, seismology, and geodesy, they try to predict future eruptions and the processes driving them in the interior of the earth.
Seismometers look for long periods of harmonic tremors caused by the movement of magma in volcanoes. Geodetic techniques like leveling tilts, total stations, and GNSS observe surface deformation which indicates magma upwelling. Infrared cameras measure the heat of lava flows. Gas monitoring systems measure increased emissions of sulfur dioxide in the air, which is an indicator of impending volcanic activity.

Types of Volcanoes in Volcanology

Stratovolcanoes and shield volcanoes are the two main types of volcanoes, cinder cone, and lava domes being their smaller counterparts. Stratovolcanoes exhibit high viscosity flows resulting in a steep cone-like profile with alternate layers of lava and ash.

Shield volcanoes have a low profile and appear like a warrior’s shield due to the low viscosity fluid lava flows.
An “active” volcano is the one that is known to have erupted in the last few thousand years. An “extinct” volcano is a volcano that has erupted at some point in history but is no longer expected to erupt again. A “Dormant” volcano is inactive but not extinct as it has erupted in the past but not recently.

Volcanoes: Dangerous or Fun?

We think that volcanic activity only takes place on the surface of the earth. However, it is not true as an estimated 80% of eruptions occur underwater. Mapping deep underwater volcanoes is not an easy task because even the first complete footage of an underwater eruption wasn’t captured till 2009!
Interesting research in the past few years has identified a volcano called Tamu Massif under the Pacific Ocean. This giant shield volcano is nearly the size of New Mexico, making it the biggest volcano on Earth and one of the biggest in the solar system.

Read More- SuperVolcano

“It is in the same league as Olympus Mons on Mars, which had been considered to be the largest volcano in the solar system,” Sager told National Geographic.

Being a volcanologist is a cool job as you may get a chance to study volcanoes in space. Geologist Harrison Jack Schmitt was the only scientist who flew on Apollo 17 and helped prove that the moon was once volcanically active. Volcanologists also offer guidance from mission control to astronauts regarding interesting areas to explore and analyze data from probes—like the first images of an ice volcano erupting on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, captured by the Cassini spacecraft in 2005.

Although the field of ‘Volcanology’ may seem dangerous however not all volcanoes are bad. Volcanoes fertilize the soil, countries like Italy, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines enjoy the black volcanic soil, rich in nutrients and suitable for plant growth. They also create new land by forming islands and adding to the continents. Volcanic rocks like pumice stone, rhyolite, basalts are also used as building materials.

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