Scientists issue major warning over world’s most dangerous volcanoes | Tech News

Mount Adams, which is classified as a ‘high threat’ (Credits: Getty Images/Cavan Images RF)

Scientists have warned that some of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes are understudied, making it harder to predict if or when they may erupt.

The Cascade arc of volcanoes stretches from northern California in the US to British Columbia in Canada. More than a dozen volcanoes are found along the iconic range, but a new study has revealed vital information about them is missing.

Predicting eruptions is still far from an exact science, with different volcanoes displaying different behaviours before erupting – and in some cases, giving very little warning.

Others, as in the case of the ongoing activity in Iceland, can rumble on for quite some time.

One key aspect to predicting eruptions is the volume, location and flow of magma beneath the volcano, something scientists argue is lacking in the Cascade region.

Writing in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, a team led by Assistant Professor Penny Weiser said: ‘The Cascade arc contains a number of large volcanoes, which present a significant hazard to human populations and infrastructure, for example Mount St Helens and Mount Rainier. 

Mount Shasta, California (Picture: Getty)

‘Until now, there has been no wide-scale review of where magma (molten rock) is stored in the crust beneath these volcanoes, even though understanding where magma is stored is very important to help monitor unrest at these volcanoes and to predict future activity.’

In 1980, a devastating eruption from Mount St Helens in Washington state claimed the lives of 57 people. However, the behaviour of that volcano is fairly well understood, so future eruptions can be predicted.

A number of other volcanoes in the Cascade arc are near populated areas and pose a significant hazard to people, but the team found understanding of them is severely lacking.

‘We compiled all available data on magma storage for each volcano, and found that many volcanoes have had very few studies investigating them, despite the risk they pose to society,’ they said.

Other volcanoes in the region include Mount Shasta – the fifth most hazardous volcano in the US – the Three Sisters, and Mount Jefferson. The lack of data around Mount Adams is said to be ‘very concerning’, because the volcano is classed as ‘high threat’.

The team acknowledges that due to factors including inaccessible terrain, snow and ice cover, cost and difficulty setting up monitoring networks in wilderness areas has hampered data collection, but say understanding the depth of magma storage is critical for interpreting signs of a future eruptions.

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