Volcanoes. You’ve heard of them; they’re big, scary, and just plain dangerous. But are volcanoes somehow beneficial for people and the environment? Little do many people know, volcanoes actually do less harm than good. Volcanoes, though it sounds crazy, actually benefit the environment a lot. The fiery lava that spews all over the place leaves rocks and ash in its path that in time – a lot of time – provide nutrients and rich soil that make plants extensively flourish and grow. They also cool down the earth. I know it sounds inconceivable, but it’s a legitimate proven fact. The ash that volcanoes make when they erupt protects the earth from solar radiation which is detrimental to the eye, microscopic life, and could cause skin cancer. Although this may be true, volcanoes are occasionally deadly and suffocating. When erupting, volcanoes emit lava, rocks, ash, and a combination of gases. CO2 heats up the planet, though it takes a while, and ash suffocates and causes many people to leave their homes. Volcanoes are a blessing and a curse to our world, and here are the leading causes why.
Let’s talk about plants. They give us oxygen, produce energy and nutrients for us, and can be turned into clothing and shelter. When plants thrive in small gardens, people celebrate. Plants are praised and cherished throughout the world. So how and why are volcanoes good for them? Well, plants require water, Co2, nutrients, and energy from the sun to survive. Ash and rocks from volcanoes carry huge amounts of nutrients and provide drainage when they are weathered down to soil, a process that can take many years. An example of this is in Italy. A municipality in Italy called Naples is home to the volcano Mount Vesuvius. This area is full of plants and greenery; although Italy is known to be a country with typically poor quality soil. Mount Vesuvius had two major eruptions on March 17th, 1944. Volcanoes, along with being a superfood to plants, also help cool the earth. Among the many gasses and minerals volcanoes release, there is ash and sulfur dioxide. These particular deposits block the sun’s powerful rays from hitting earth. When volcanoes erupt, they boost many minerals straight up into the stratosphere with intense force. Ash and sulfur block dangerous rays while other elements such as CO2 actually contribute to the growth of greenhouse gases. In the long run, volcanoes heat up the atmosphere, but the cooling elements in a volcano work very powerfully and much quicker than the heating elements. They don’t last for long though, and soon the cooling produced by a volcano will be nonexistent, making way for the heat that slowly but surely will come, whether it’s ten years after a volcano erupts or longer. It is important to realize, though they greatly help the environment, volcanoes are also very destructive.
Ash, lava flow, and pyroclastic flow are all extremely dangerous products of volcanoes that can be precarious and fatal. Ash from volcanoes can become so thick that it is incredibly hard to breathe, along with covering everything and anything. The infamous Pompeii tragedy is an example of the treterous effects of volcanic ash. In 79 A.D., a volcano entombed Pompeii in thick layers of ash. Thousands of people died and the hazardous city was deserted. Lava flow is generally not pernicious because it usually moves too slow to hurt humans, but does desolate and destroy houses and buildings. A pyroclastic flow is almost definitely the most destructive of all the volcanic properties. A pyroclastic flow is a mixture of lava flow, lava fragments, and volcanic gasses. It travels down the volcano at incredibly high speeds that are usually 100-200 km per hour but can also travel up to 700 km per hour (430 mph). A pyroclastic flow can destroy anything in its path, including buildings, because of the kinetic energy it holds. In Japan on June 3rd, 1991, a pyroclastic surge killed 43 people, two of which were volcanologists.
A pyroclastic surge is alike a pyroclastic flow but is less dense. It has more gas than rock, unlike a pyroclastic flow, which has more rock than gas. Pyroclastic surges are more uncontrollable and dangerous than a pyroclastic flow. Both are hard to prevent, the best thing to do in an event where a pyroclastic flow or a pyroclastic surge is present is to simply leave. Volcanoes can be helpful and harmful to the environment. They help the growth of plants, heat and cool down our planet, and can cause lots of harm to buildings and people. But are volcanoes good or bad? The answer is neither. Volcanoes build and destroy, create and eradicate, but in the end, nature is just taking its course. Volcanoes are a part of life, like it or not, and they are vital to the earth. Volcanoes are an important part of nature and culture, and whether they send pyroclastic flows rolling down their sides or give plants life, it’s important to acknowledge that they are here for a reason, and they will continue to be a part of growth throughout humanity.
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