Text Box: GE5185 Volcanology - Fall 2011
Text Box: Big Ideas in Volcanology
Text Box: Engineering Volcanic Eruptions

As long as volcanoes have threatened humans people have sought solutions to control those threats.  These solutions included prayer, offerings and sacrifice.  However, in today’s modern world we often turn to science and engineering solutions that attempt to prevent, divert or reduce volcanic products that may pose a threat to humans.  Most volcanologists would consider these efforts science-fiction daydreaming.  Because of the scale and force involved in volcanic eruptions, engineering inputs to tame or control volcanic processes are impossible except in a few, low intensity situations.  While this type of geo-engineering is likely impossible, we are still fascinated by our own power to control nature and therefore may eventually try.  Humans have a long history of attempting to manipulate the environment in an effort to force nature to accommodate our economy, population growth and public safety.  We have successfully stopped or redirected rivers, carved cannels, removed mountain tops, built islands and more.  We also have ideas to modify our atmosphere, deflection and fragmentation of asteroids and modify hurricane forces.  It is not strange to think that someday we will attempt to stop or induce a volcanic eruption either in the name of science or as mitigation effort.


· Eichelberger, J.C., Uto, K. (2007). Active Volcanic Systems.  In: (Ed. Harms, U., Koeberl, C., Zoback, M.D.) Continental Scientific Drilling. Berlin: Springer.

· Lockwood, J.P., Torgerson, F.A. (1980). Diversion of lava flows by aerial bombing—lessons from Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii.  Bulletin of Volcanology. 43(4): 727-741.

· Lube, G., Cronin, S.J., Thouret and Surono, J.C. (2011), Kinematic characteristics of pyroclastic density currents at Merapi controls on their avulsion from natural and engineered channels.  Geologic Society of America Bulletin 2011; 123, no.5-6; 1127-1140.

· Nakada, S., Eichelberger, J. (2004). Looking into a volcano: Drilling Unzen. Geotimes, March, 2004.

· Schuiling, R.D. (2008). How to stop or slow down lava flows.  International Journal of Global Environmental Issues. 8(3): 282-285.

Text Box: Engineering a volcano will likely follow two directions: 1) Control the actual eruption. 2) Control specific phenomena.

Augustine 1986.  Courtesy USGS

Cerro Negro.  Photo by Robert Decker 1968

Augustine 1986.  Courtesy USGS

Pinatubo 1991.  Courtesy USGS

Lava flow.  Kilauea Volcano.  Photo by J.D. Griggs 1984

Lahar.  Nevado del Ruiz. Photo by R.J. Janda

Lake Nyos. Gas release 1986.  Courtesy USGS

Pyroclastic flow. Soufriere Hills. Photo by Peter Francis 1997