At times, it can seem as if there are more volcanic eruptions than ever. Just this past year, the following volcanoes erupted, among others: Mount Sinabung, Mount Agung and Anak Krakatau in Indonesia, Villarrica in Chile, Mount Etna in Italy, Japan’s Shinmoedake peak, the Philippines’ Mayon volcano and Kilauea on Hawaii. The news cycle was taken over, for at least a little while in the United States, by the ongoing eruption of Kilauea. Coverage of these eruptions can sometimes lead people to believe all kinds of myths about volcanic activity. But it turns out that volcanic eruptions are not really all that rare. By some estimates, there are between 50 and 70 volcanic eruptions per year.
In a May piece for The Post’s Outlook section, Erik Klemetti, an associate professor of Geosciences at Denison University, wrote to dispel some of the myths that creep into the news when our imaginations are captured by prominent eruptions. One is the perception that volcanoes are more active than they have ever been today. Klemetti writes, “The Earth is not becoming more geologically active. Geologic activity over time has an ebb and flow, with some patches that have more eruptions or earthquakes and some patches that have fewer. At any given moment, there are at least eight to 12 volcanoes erupting around the world, which is to say, it’s always happening, and there’s no reason to think those numbers have varied much over time.”
That said, volcanoes can and still do wreak havoc, cause major damage and even death. Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd documented the aftermath of one such instance six months ago when Guatemala’s “Volcano of Fire” erupted with “1,300 degree molten rocks and black clouds of ash that smothered villages and buried at least 194 people alive.” Abd’s bleak black and white photos show the human toll of the aftermath: backhoes digging graves, victims wrapped in body bags, dead animals left on the ground and of course, the ubiquitous ash blanketing everything it came into contact with. Six months after the eruption, families were still trying to find their missing family members.
Here’s more of what Abd saw …
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