Irazu volcano and volcano terrain, Costa Rica 1974

Irazu volcano and volcano terrain, Costa Rica 1974

Since the 1980s volcanic activity has killed more than 29,000 people and displaced more than 1 million. With more than 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, an average of 10 eruptions a year cause significant damage and casualties, while major volcanic events occur several times a decade.

Volcanoes play a fundamental role in life's sustainability on Earth, and eruptions ought not to be disasters. The fact that they sometimes are is almost entirely the result of inappropriate settlements in risk-prone areas. Volcanic eruptions are the one form of natural disaster that comes with a warning.


Provided the volcano is being monitored, such signs become apparent weeks or even months before any volcanic activity. But there is no way of telling in advance how catastrophic an eruption will be or how long it will last. And sometimes the warning signs turn out to be false alarms. This, and the lack of means in developing countries, explains why only a few of the 800 active and 500 potentially active volcanoes are monitored on a regular basis.

UNESCO has recently promoted a study on an International Mobile Early-Warning System for Volcanic Eruptions, Phase2 (IMEWS-2). It reveals the importance of volcano monitoring worldwide, data sharing and the need for international teams of experts in case of volcanic crises. This study has been carried out as a follow-up to the first IMEWS initiative, which made possible the revision of existing volcano-monitoring facilities and the identification of 100 high risk volcanoes in the world. The findings of IMEWS-2 study will be presented soon.

During the workshop held at the “Cities on Volcanoes” international conference, the need for international assistance under the auspices of UNESCO was emphasised. UNESCO will pursue the international cooperation and assistance between volcanologists, in particular underlining their role in the society to consult the government representatives on the role of volcanology as a practical science and to reduce risks from volcanic eruptions.

With respect to volcanoes as well as to other geohazards, UNESCO promotes the use of modern technologies. The Organization is cooperating with the Charter of Space and Major Disasters and has the possibility of obtaining space imagery for geohazard studies immediately after a disaster occurs, especially in developing countries. In partnership with the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, it is exploring how to use remote sensing and ground observations to build a global capacity to mitigate geohazards. More

For more information contact: Ms Kristine Tovmasyan, Section for Disaster Reduction

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