The Galeras tragedy refers to the death of nine people, six scientists and three tourists, as a result of the January 1993 eruption of the Galeras stratovolcano in Colombia. Geologist Stanley Williams and four others survived the event.
The scientists were at Galeras to collect data about its gas levels. They were attending a conference in Pasto organized by the United Nations to gather geologists to study Galeras in order to assess its potential threat to nearby civilization. Past research had determined that Galeras was probable to erupt, possibly endangering Pasto's population of approximately 300,000 people and another 400,000 living in the vicinity of the volcano.
At the time of the eruption, most predictions were made similarly to the one before the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens - that a volcano would erupt, but not specifying an exact time. C. Dan Miller of the United States Geological Survey remarked, "We're able to do a much better job of monitoring the changes that occur at volcanoes as they wake up, but we are still quite a long ways from being able to forecast the time, the magnitude and the character of an eruption."
Since the disaster, research has dramatically improved scientists' ability to predict volcanic eruptions. Still, there is not a definite method of prediction. Though scientists were able to make accurate eruptions by employing long-period earthquakes, short bursts of seismic energy, to predict the 1990 eruption of Mount Redoubt in Alaska, these events are known to occur at volcanoes that do not erupt as well. In early October 2004, for example, long-period events took place at Mount St. Helens, only to precede insignificant events.
- Broad, William J. (February 9, 1993). "When a Volcano Turns Deadly for Those Studying Its Moods". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
- Doughton, Sandi (October 29, 2004). "Scientists edge closer to predicting volcanic eruptions". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 23, 2011.