Volcanology is the scientific study of volcanoes. A person who studies volcanoes is called a volcanologist. These scientists study active, dormant, and extinct volcanoes. They split their time between working in the field visiting volcanoes and working in a laboratory.
- The interest in volcanology is becoming more popular as more people are concerned about the earth and the environment. The study of volcanoes is investigative work, and there is always more and more to be discovered.
- The job of a volcanologist can be exciting and physically strenuous. In order to do research, they need to collect samples. They most likely will travel and hike in difficult terrain and confront challenging weather conditions.
- The word volcanology comes from the Latin root word “Vulcan” which is the name for the Roman god of fire.
- Volcanologists collect samples of material that comes out of volcanoes like ash, magma, broken rock pieces, and other tephra. They then study these materials to learn about what’s going on far below the surface of the earth.
- When volcanoes are difficult to get to, volcanologists can study them remotely. They use satellite images, fly over the volcanoes with planes, and may even use robots.
- Volcanology is a special type of geology that focuses on volcanoes. In order to study volcanoes, a scientist has to have a good understanding of the physical geology of the earth. Volcanologists also need to have knowledge in math, chemistry, and physics.
- Active volcanoes pose a threat to public safety. The eruption of a volcano is violent and can alter land and water for many miles around. The main work of some volcanologists to predict when active volcanoes will erupt.
- Earthquakes and Volcanic activity are sometimes related. The study of volcanoes includes being familiar with the characteristics of seismic activity and how seismic waves could affect a magma chamber and cause an eruption.
Tephra: The name for any fragmented material thrown into the air by a volcanic eruption.
Magma Chamber: The underground space deep below the earth’s surface that is filled with magma.
Dormant: Dormant volcanoes are those that have not erupted for a long time but may erupt in the future.
Questions and Answers
Question: Is the work of a volcanologist dangerous?
Answer: Since volcanoes can be dangerous places, scientists take safety very seriously. They are highly trained to understand the potential hazards of each particular volcano and take every safety precaution necessary, including wearing protective clothing and gas masks.
Watch a video about the work of a volcanologist.