Monitoring Active Volcanoes



Monitoring volcanoes is a surprisingly controversial enterprise. Some volcanologists argue that monitoring promises too much and delivers too little for risk mitigation. They trust only strict land-use measures (and accompanying high insurance premiums in risky zones) and urge that funds be used for public education and awareness rather than for instrumental monitoring. Others claim that monitoring is more akin to Brownian motion than to science: lots of action but little net progress. Still other volcanologists acknowledge the potential value of monitoring for prediction and warning but despair at the difficulty of it all. And, finally, some shy from surveillance, fearing the legal consequences of a failed monitoring effort during these litigious times. They wonder, “Will I be sued if an eruption is not foreseen or if an instrument fails at a critical time?”