This is an interesting question and very relevant
to people and animals in many different places on
Earth. The first thing that I should note is that
there is a lot of information on volcanoes out
there and I can only briefly tell you about how
they affect people.
important factor in determining the effects of a
volcano eruption on the people, wildlife, and
vegetation near the volcano is the type of
eruption (which depends on the type of volcano).
There are two basic kinds of eruptions and any
volcano can erupt as some combination of these.
The first type of eruption consists mostly of
molten rock running over the surface of the earth
like a thick liquid. This kind of volcano often
comes from the ocean floor and some of the most
familiar examples are lava flows that occur in
Hawaii. In terms of effects on people and
animals, these lava flows usually move slowly
enough that animals can get out of the way in
time. But they are very hot and bury any
vegetation (or houses!) in their path and often
can start fires that are dangerous.
other extreme of the types of eruptions is very
explosive. These volcanoes erupt with
and the eruption is usually composed of a lot of
ash, cinders, and rock. The heavier fragments
fall close to the volcano but are very dangerous
to any creature (or plant) where they land. The
actual force of the eruption can knock down trees
as happened with the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in
Washington in 1980. The eruption of Mt. St.
Helens also spurred large landslides because of
the melting of the snow cap on its top and it soil
washing away. Another dangerous possible effect
from these volcanoes occurs when a cloud of
extremely hot gas and ash (called a nuee ardente
in French which basically means glowing cloud)
comes rapidly from the volcano and burns away
everything in its path.
Needless to say, there
are many immediate ways in which these volcanoes
can affect people and animals but longer term
effects are also notable, especially in terms of
fine ash blanketing everything (if you thought the
dust that collects in your house was annoying,
this will drive you crazy!) and the fine particles
causing health problems.
These are just a
few of the issues that come from volcanic
eruptions. I encourage you to explore how
volcanic eruptions affect people, animals,and
landscapes. What issues might come up in the
longer term once the ash has settled and the lava
flowed cooled in the middle of town (this happened
fairly recently in a town in the Congo which was
cut in half by a lava flow)? Can you think of any
ways in which volcanoes might be beneficial to
people? In particular, think about what could
be done with all of that heat energy.
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