Author(s): Lynn Brown

How safe is volcano tourism?

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Most tourism boards offer guidance on how to best visit local volcanoes responsibly – if at all. In the wake of the recent Icelandic eruption, the country's tourism website has a page specifically dedicated to providing up-to-date information. Though evacuation measures are currently in effect on the Reykjanes peninsula, where the eruptions have occurred, operations in the rest of the country are resuming as normal.

According to Kristín Vogfjorð, leader of Geoscience Research at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, advancements in predicting eruptions and other dangerous phenomenon, such as toxic gas emissions associated with volcanoes, have made volcano tourism much safer, not just in Iceland, but around the world. "We've been able to forecast some eruptions in Iceland even since 2000," says Vogfjorð. "Forecasting eruptions within hours is not that difficult. But still, sometimes they manage to surprise us."

Not only do volcanologists now have the ability to predict the likelihood of activity in advance, but important collaborations between scientists and local officials mean that many places, such as Iceland and the US, have systems in place to convey this information directly to both locals and visitors almost in real time.

"There is an automatic notification connected to one of the monitors monitoring seismicity," Vogfjorð explains. "So that alerts [the authorities] that something is going to happen. When they reach [certain] levels, automatic messages go out to all phones in the area." According to Vogfjorð, in the event of an emergency these automated messages go out in several languages to every mobile phone within range of the volcano, including those belonging to travellers.


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