The eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano (La Palma) awakened society’s worst fears of nature. A constant outflow of magma that wipes out everything in its path, leaving destruction. And this is not one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.
No matter how sleepy a volcano may seem, while it is active at any time it can erupt, unleashing terrible consequences in its wake. This is the lesson of La Palma. While Cumbre Vieja continues to expel lava, rehabilitation tasks have to wait.
Keep an eye on volcanoes for 10,000 years
According to experts, we must monitor volcanoes for up to 10,000 years since their last eruption. This is what has happened with the Canarian volcano. Although it is not possible to predict with certainty when a volcano is going awaken, it is possible to analyse the signals. The key to the La Palma eruption was the multitude of earthquakes detected in preceding days.
Thus, due to the activity that arises daily in the subsoil, due to, and due to its size and, a volcano may or may not be considered dangerous. In the 90s, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI), determined for 16 mountains as dangerous. 25% of those are in Europe. They used the following criteria to determine the how dangerous a volcano is: possible speed of the expulsion of magma; size of population and buildings that surround it; daily activity in the subsoil; and its size.
Europe’s ‘top 5’ volcanoes as far as danger is concerned, follow.
Leading the classification of the most dangerous is Vesuvius. Its awakening, in 79AD marked the first great natural catastrophe in history. In its wake the city of Pompeii lay buried, as well as part of Herculaneum. Today more than 3 million people live around it, with Naples as the most important city (Vesuvius is the most populated volcanic area in the world).
Having been, in addition, the only volcano in continental Europe to erupt in the 20th century, most recently in 1944, it has also shown serious signs of threat and has awakened more than 20 times in the last 500 years. All this suggests that at any moment it could do it again, so it is under constant surveillance and there is a very detailed emergency plan to evacuate some 600,000 people.
The highest active volcano in the entire Eurasian plate, at 3,357 meters high Etna is in the eastern part of Sicily. It has erupted six times this century, the last being in September 2021.
Its greatest expulsion of magma occurred in 1669, causing the destruction of the town of Nicolisi. In addition, in recent years, between 2002 and 2003 its ash column could be seen up to 600 kilometers away.
If Etna was astonishing with its altitude, Mount Teide is even bigger. At 3,715 meters it has the highest peak of any landmass in the Atlantic and is the third largest volcano on Earth from its ocean floor (behind only two in Hawaii).
On its slope lies the island of Tenerife, with almost 1 million inhabitants, which has remained without eruptions since 1798. It is precisely because of this long period of inactivity that there is a real threat. Registered as dormant, it could wake up from its lethargy given the activity of its crater. Experts constantly monitor it, to activate the emergency plan when necessary.
Caldera Santorini (Greece)
Unlike the previous mountains, this volcanic caldera is mostly underwater. The islands of Santorini rise up from it, with more than 15,000 inhabitants. This is where its danger lies, because unlike the volcanoes of Italy or Spain, the entire island could erupt.
With its last great activity in 1950, in recent years only small fumaroles have been perceived. It should be noted the last eruption dated from the 18th century BC. It is the cause of the legend of Atlantis – powerful civilisation resting under the waters.
Eyjafjallajokull erupted in 2010, diverting air traffic from much of Europe for many days (more than 20,000 flights were cancelled). Of glacial origin, this activity thawed the centrr of the volcano, causing the nearby rivers to flood.