Brian Jones TA: Steve Goldsmith Fridays/12:30 The Killer Volcano The film “In the Path of a Killer Volcano”

documents the dangerous eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. On top of causing damage to many indigenous people, the volcano also hurt people who had adopted a more “civilized” lifestyle. Moreover, a United States military base was only a few miles away from Pinatubo. The footage of the eruption comes from the story of the scientists and military authorities who were in the area at the time. The eruption was not a momentary process. It went through many stages, and lasted several hours. During the early stages of the eruption, three hypotheses were put forth to explained the increased activity in the volcano. First of all, it was suggested that perhaps intrusive magma was rising up from within the volcano, trying to escape through the surface. This kind of activity would have explained the recent earthquakes that had been occurring there. A second hypothesis could have also explained the earthquake activity. This hypothesis was that the eruption was caused by tectonic stresses deep beneath the surface. The stresses would be caused by tectonic plate movement, which obviously causes earthquakes. The third hypothesis brought forth was that the volcano was simply “letting off steam.” If this was the case, then very little damage would occur. Surely, everyone was hoping that this final hypothesis was the correct one. Unfortunately, it was not. The earthquakes were too deep to just simply be a “dome building event,” which is what would have caused the letting off of steam. Because of

this, the rather safe hypothesis was eliminated. The reason for the eruption had to be either rising magma or tectonic stress. What helped the scientists was the detection of sulfur dioxide. A great amount of visible sulfur dioxide was seeping through cracks in the ground very close to the volcano. This was the clue that tied everything together. The gas was a side effect of magma rising from underneath the volcano. This was not the first eruption of Pinatubo. Several signs indicated that the volcano had erupted in the past. For instance, pyroclastic ash flow and rock deposits surrounded the volcano. Also, a nearby incinerated tree dated around 2,000 years old. Clearly, this tree had borne witness to a previous eruption. Several types of destructive processes are associated with volcanic eruptions. One such process is the creation of lava flows. Other effects include smothering the earth with ash and rock clouds, mud flows, lateral volcanic blasts, and pyroclastic flows at up to 100 miles per hour. Evidence of these were around the volcano, and surely no one wished for more to come. It was a dilemma for the scientists who thought the volcano might erupt. After all, the chance of eruption was only 60%. It is not good to officially predict an eruption that fails to occur. Everyone changes their lives by moving elsewhere and making other plans, and are then very unhappy to find out that they did not have to make a fuss after all. Also, evacuating costs a good deal of money. However, failing to predict an eruption that does occur is much worse. Thousands of people may easily die, and others may lose everything, because no one is prepared. Still, people tend to ignore warnings of natural disaster, because they do not want to change what they are doing. Furthermore, ignorance may be a way to remain optimistic. No one wants to face the idea of losing everything.