Danger in Paradise -- the Hidden Hazards of Volcano Geotourism

on March 20, 2012 11:55 AM EDT

Volcano
Pyroclastic flows at Mayon Volcano, Philippines, 1984. (Photo: wikipedia)

Beautiful views and exotic thrills draw millions of tourists to volcanic sites each year. Previously frequented by smaller numbers of experienced hikers and trained tour guides, today's volcanic sites are plagued by throngs of novice hikers, who are often ill-prepared and uneducated about the risks of volcano geotourism. These groups of vacation-goers often display a lackadaisical attitude about safety that can put their lives at risk.

The most obvious hazard is exposure to lava, but other hidden dangers put tourists at even more risk, including unexpected eruptions, sudden landslides and scalding hot springs. The risks are not only inherent in the volcanic landscape - the volcanic atmosphere is equally as deadly. Volcanic gases are hot, toxic and often undetectable. Large volumes can be emitted and carried by winds to areas that may have had breathable air just moments before.

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How can we overcome the challenges associated with the wide range of volcano types, varying local environments and numerous language barriers in order to make these beautiful wonders safely accessible?

Volcano geotourism getting you excited for some more geoscience news? Read more articles in the April issue of EARTH Magazine available online now at www.earthmagazine.org. Probe the limits of the solar system with the two Voyager spacecraft; learn what caused Mercury's odd spin; and learn how geoscientists help manage risks associated with wastewater disposal all in this month's issue of EARTH.

Source: American Geological Institute

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