Volcano observation for beginners

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The eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano has prompted a renewed interest in geology from many people who hadn't considered volcanic activity since science lessons at school - helped, no doubt, by thousands of stranded travelers with little else to do but wait.

Volcanology watching is as spectacular as it is dangerous, but experiencing a Dante's Peak-esque flee from lava doesn't have to be part of the activity.

Introducing: The Volcano

First off, some basic science on how volcanoes work.

For a look at the basic dynamics of the volcano, the BBC has produced an animated guide:


National Geographic also has a Volcanoes 101 video, providing an introduction to the Earth's volcanoes for the beginner:


For more advanced reading, try the Wikipedia guide to the volcano:


The Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program offers a wealth of information, including frequently asked questions dealing with vital topics such as "what is a volcano?"


Historical Context

For those wondering why volcanoes don't usually present such a problem, some quick history lessons could be in order.

Start with the last "supervolcanic" eruption, some 74,000 years ago in Indonesia and the most powerful eruption in the past 2 million years. NASA's Earth Observatory has fascinating satellite images of the Toba Caldera:


Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on mainland Europe and gave us a fascinating insight into Roman life when it covered (and perfectly preserved) Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79AD. The Discovery Channel has a feature and DVD available on the famous eruption here:


The International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior has a least of 16 notable volcanoes, knwn as Decade Volcanoes, complete with links and maps here:


Find some fellow volcano fans in volcanologist forums and clubs online


Follow the Eyjafjallajokull activity

The Nordic Volcanological Center blogs the latest data from GPS satellites, radar and observation centres around Eyjafjallajokull at:


NASA's Earth Observatory posts daily satellite pictures of the eruption:


Vodafone posts hourly pictures of the volcano: