Decade Volcanoes

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The Decade Volcanoes are 16 volcanoes identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) as being worthy of particular study in light of their history of large, destructive eruptions and proximity to densely populated areas. The Decade Volcanoes project encourages studies and public-awareness activities at these volcanoes, with the aim of achieving a better understanding of the volcanoes and the dangers they present, and thus being able to reduce the severity of natural disasters.

They are named Decade Volcanoes because the project was initiated in the 1990s as part of the United Nations–sponsored International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.

A volcano may be designated a Decade Volcano if it exhibits more than one volcanic hazard (people living near the Decade Volcanoes may experience tephra fall, pyroclastic flows, lava flows, lahars, volcanic edifice instability and lava dome collapse); shows recent geological activity; is located in a densely populated area (eruptions at any of the Decade Volcanoes may threaten tens or hundreds of thousands of people, and therefore mitigating eruption hazards at these volcanoes is crucial); is politically and physically accessible for study; and there is local support for the work.

Aims of the program[edit]

Building destroyed by eruptions at Mount Unzen, Japan

The general approach of Decade Volcano projects has been to convene a planning workshop, identify the major strengths and weaknesses of risk mitigation at each volcano, and to plan how to address the weaknesses identified. One of the difficulties faced in mitigating hazards at volcanoes is ensuring that geoscientists and those who will enact the mitigation measures communicate adequately with each other, and the Decade Volcano program has attempted to ensure this by making sure both groups are well represented at Decade Volcano workshops.[1]

Colima Volcano eruption column, December 2016


Phreatic explosion captured at the Main Crater of Taal Volcano. Photo taken from the installed IP camera of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) monitoring the volcano.

Hopes that United Nations funding might be available for Decade Volcano projects did not come to fruition, and funding was sought instead from a variety of sources. For example, Mexican scientific and civil defence bodies funded work at Colima, principally for Mexican scientists but also for a few foreign colleagues; major bilateral French-Indonesian and German-Indonesian programs were initiated at Merapi; and the European Union has provided funding for many of the studies carried out at European volcanoes.

One particular activity that has not been funded—because it typically is not allowable under most national or bilateral funding—is the exchange of scientists and civil defence leaders between the various Decade Volcano projects of developing countries, for example, between the Philippines and Indonesia, or between Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia, or across the Pacific and Atlantic. Often, scientists and civil defence leaders from developing countries can relate better to each other's experiences than they can to the experience of counterparts from industrialized countries. Also, civil defence leaders who have experienced volcanic crises are far more credible witnesses, in the eyes of local civil defence leaders, than either local or visiting scientists might be.[1]


A large eruption at Mount Etna, photographed from the International Space Station

Since it was initiated, the Decade Volcano program has achieved a number of successes in predicting volcanic events and mitigating disasters. One of the most notable was the successful diversion of a lava flow and blanket at Mount Etna in 1992. The flow was threatening the town of Zafferana, and had overwhelmed several barriers placed perpendicular to its flow down a valley. Scientists and civil defence leaders decided to try to dam the flow higher up, and did so by dropping large concrete blocks into a skylight in a lava tube which was feeding the flow. The flow subsequently stopped short of Zafferana.[2]

The program has significantly increased what is known about the Decade Volcanoes, some of which were very poorly studied before being designated. The eruptive history of Galeras volcano is now much better established than previously, and at Taal Volcano the importance of water in driving its explosive eruptions has come to light.

Measures which have been taken to mitigate disasters which might be caused by future eruptions include a new law in the vicinity of Mount Rainier, requiring assessment of geological hazards before any new developments; limitations on high density housing developments in the Taal Caldera; and the development of an evacuation plan for parts of Naples which might be affected in the event of an eruption at Vesuvius.[1]


Although studies at many volcanoes have led to a clear reduction in the risk faced by nearby settlements, eruptions at some of the Decade Volcanoes have demonstrated the difficulties faced by the program. Eruptions at Mount Unzen which began shortly before it was designated a Decade Volcano were heavily monitored, but despite this, a large pyroclastic flow killed 43 people, including three volcanologists.[3]

Later, a Decade Volcano conference in the city of Pasto, Colombia, in 1993 ended in disaster when several of the scientists present mounted an impromptu expedition to the crater of Galeras. An eruption occurred unexpectedly while they were at the summit, which resulted in the deaths of six scientists and three tourists.[4]

Another problem faced by the program has been civil unrest in the vicinity of several volcanoes. The civil war in Guatemala affected studies of Volcán Santa María until a ceasefire was called in 1996, while ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has hampered studies of Nyiragongo volcano. More generally, scarce resources for volcano studies have led to programs competing for limited funding.[1]

Volcanoes selected[edit]

Teide, Tenerife (Spain).
Galeras, Nariño, (Colombia).

The following volcanoes were selected as the 16 current Decade Volcanoes:[5]

Volcano Elevation Region Country Population** Last known eruption Affected Region/Why a Decade Volcano
Avachinsky-Koryaksky 2,741 m (8,993 ft) (Avachinsky)
3,456 m (11,339 ft) (Koryaksky)
Kamchatka Russia 179,367 (2021 est) [6] ? Proximity of volcano to Petropavlosk-Kamchatskiy.[7]
Volcán de Colima 3,820 m (12,533 ft) Colima/Jalisco Mexico 770,000 (2019 est) [8] ? Whole of Colima State
Galeras 4,276 m (14,029 ft) Nariño Colombia 1,630,000 (2018 est)[9] ? Whole of Nariño Department
Mauna Loa 4,169 m (13,678 ft) Hawaii United States ? ? Largest of the active shield volcanoes in the Hawaiian Islands. Lower flanks populated in multiple directions, but most dangerous to the city of Hilo
Mount Etna 3,326 m (10,912 ft) Sicily Italy 1,100,000[10] 2013-present Whole metro city of Catania, Sicily in general due to air pollution and ash clouds. Capable of lava bombs and violent VEI 3 eruptions; largest eruption killed 20,000 people in 1669.[11] Romans once believed the god Vulcan had a workshop here and the eruptions were due to anger at his wife, Venus.[12]
Mount Merapi 2,910 m (9,547 ft) Central Java/Special Region of Yogyakarta Indonesia 5,050,000 (2019 est)[13] ? Whole of Special Region of Yogyakarta, and Klaten Regency
Mount Nyiragongo 3,470 m (11,385 ft) North Kivu Democratic Republic of the Congo 2,000,000 22 May, 2021-present, VEI 0-2. No census for decades in sprawling city of Goma. Lava known to be highly viscous and fast moving. May 2021 eruption killed 32 people and injured thousands.[14] Currently not monitored for seismic activity.
Mount Rainier 4,392 m (14,409 ft) Washington United States 795,000 (2010) 1894-1895, (minor phreatic) Whole of Pierce County, and the city of Seattle. Mount Rainier is one of the most glaciated stratovolcanoes in the Cascade Volcanic Arc. Capable of setting off massive lahars, as evidenced in the valleys below it in all directions. Known to have had both landslide type lahars or snowmelt lahars. Considered by USGS to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the USA.[15]
Mount Vesuvius 1,281 m (4,203 ft) Campania Italy 3,085,000[10] 17-23 March, 1944, VEI 3 Whole metro city of Naples. Very long record of destroying Southern Italian cities nearby, capable of large pyroclastic flows. Destroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii in 79 AD, VEI 5 eruption.
Mount Unzen 1,486 m (4,875 ft) Nagasaki/Kumamoto Japan 1,320,000 (2019 est)[16] Nagasaki Prefecture, tsunami potential
Sakurajima 1,117 m (3,665 ft) Kagoshima Japan 1,470,000 (2019 est)[16] Whole of Kagoshima Prefecture except Amami Islands
Santa María 3,772 m (12,375 ft) Quetzaltenango Guatemala 1,127,000 (2018 est)[17] 23 August, 2013 Whole of Quetzaltenango and Retalhuleu Departments
Santorini (Thera) 367 m (1,204 ft) South Aegean Greece ? Entire island of Santorini once much larger. In 1646 BCE, Santorini, then called Thera, had an eruption more powerful than the 1880s eruption at Krakatoa.[18] Currently what was one island is now three with caldera hidden below surface. Risk of tsunami; record of causing one in 1646 BCE.[19]
Taal Volcano 311 m (1,020 ft) Calabarzon Philippines 24,393,000 (2020 est)[20] Whole areas of Batangas, Cavite, Metro Manila and Laguna
Teide 3,715 m (12,188 ft) Canary Islands Spain 900,000 Tenerife, tsunami potential
Ulawun 2,334 m (7,657 ft) East New Britain/West New Britain Papua New Guinea ? ?
  • Note: Population at risk of lava/lahar/ash flows during eruption, not including potential tsunami nor distant ashfall

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Newhall, Christopher G. (1996); IAVCEI/International Council of Scientific Unions' Decade Volcano Projects: Reducing Volcanic Disaster, Status Report, United States Geological Survey, Washington, D.C. [1] Archived November 15, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Stevens, Nicki F.; Murray, John B.; Wadge, Geoff (1997). "The volume and shape of the 1991-1993 lava flow field at Mount Etna, Sicily". Bulletin of Volcanology. 58 (6): 449–454. Bibcode:1997BVol...58..449S. doi:10.1007/s004450050153. S2CID 129694629.
  3. ^ Yamamoto, Takahiro; Takarada, Shinji; Suto, Shigeru (1993). "Pyroclastic flows from the 1991 eruption of Unzen volcano, Japan". Bulletin of Volcanology. 55 (3): 166–175. Bibcode:1993BVol...55..166Y. doi:10.1007/BF00301514. S2CID 129148854.
  4. ^ Baxter, Peter J.; Gresham, Austin (1997). "Deaths and injuries in the eruption of Galeras Volcano, Colombia, 14 January 1993". Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. 77 (1–4): 325–338. Bibcode:1997JVGR...77..325B. doi:10.1016/S0377-0273(96)00103-5.
  5. ^ "IAVCEI NEWS 1/2 1996" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-13. Retrieved 2014-10-21.
  6. ^ "Russia:Far East Federal District (Regions, Territories & Republics) - Cities and Urban Settlements".
  7. ^ Ford, Robert J. Volcano: Live, Dormant and Extinct Volcanoes Around the World. Amber Books, 2021, p. 95.
  8. ^ "Mexico: States and Major Cities - Population Statistics, Maps, Charts, Weather and Web Information".
  9. ^ "Colombia: Departments & Major Cities - Population Statistics, Maps, Charts, Weather and Web Information".
  10. ^ a b "Italy: Administrative Division (Regions and Provinces) - Population Statistics, Charts and Map".
  11. ^ "Mount Etna Erupts". 31 October 2005.
  12. ^ "Vulcan and Volcanoes". 25 May 2009.
  13. ^ "Indonesia: Urban Population of Cities - Population Statistics, Maps, Charts, Weather and Web Information".
  14. ^ "Mt. Nyiragongo Eruption 2021 | NASA Applied Sciences".
  15. ^ "Mount Rainier: One of Our Nation's Most Dangerous Volcanoes".
  16. ^ a b "Japan: Administrative Division (Prefectures, Districts and Cities) - Population Statistics, Charts and Map".
  17. ^ "Guatemala: Administrative Division (Departments and Municipalities) - Population Statistics, Charts and Map".
  18. ^ "Minoan eruption on Santorini much larger than originally believed".
  19. ^ Fountain, Henry (9 November 2016). "An Ancient Tsunami That Ended a Civilization Gets Another Look". The New York Times.
  20. ^ "Philippines: Administrative Division (Regions and Provinces) - Population Statistics, Charts and Map".

External links[edit]