Information on how volcanoes affect the way people live

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Information on how volcanoes affect the way people live
Living close to volcanoes has positive and negative effects. (volcano image by rrruss from

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History estimates that between 50 and 70 volcanoes erupt on land each year worldwide, with around 20 erupting at any given time. Proximity to these volcanoes has both positive and negative effects for the people who live nearby.

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Positive Effects

Volcanoes provide the area around them with rich agricultural soil as volcanic ash and lava break down. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, volcanic soils make up only 1 per cent of the Earth's surface, but support 10 per cent of its population.

Volcanoes heat the groundwater in the surrounding area, concentrating deposits of many important metallic minerals, including gold, lead and zinc over time. In some areas, such as the geysers geothermal field in California, the power of volcanoes has been harnessed for energy.

Volcanoes can also bring income to an area by attracting tourists, who come to trek and cycle on the volcano, or just view the spectacular landscape.

Negative Effects

For all their positive effects, volcanoes can also be highly destructive. An estimated 200,000 people have been killed by volcanoes in the last 500 years. People can die as a direct result of an eruption--for example, being buried in lava or hit by volcanic debris--or as a result of starvation when the volcano destroys crops and livestock. Deaths from eruptions are on the increase as people live closer to active volcanoes than in the past.

Risk Management

Monitoring volcanoes can help reduce the risk they pose. For example, U.S. Geological Survey staff at the Cascades Volcano Observatory monitor activity at Mount St. Helens in they hope that they will be able to provide a warning if an eruption is imminent. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, early warning from scientists saved 5,000 lives and around £162 million in property.

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