Communicating information on eruptions and their impacts from the earliest times until the late twentieth century

Chester, DK ORCID: 0000-0001-8722-360X, Duncan, A ORCID: 0000-0003-3897-3329, Coutinho, R, Wallenstein, N and Branca, S
(2017) Communicating information on eruptions and their impacts from the earliest times until the late twentieth century. In: Observing the Volcano World: Volcano Crisis Communication. Springer,Berlin, pp. 1-25. ISBN 978-3319440958

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Volcanoes hold a fascination for human beings and, before they were recorded by literate observers, eruptions were portrayed in art, were recalled in legends and became incorporated into religious practices: being viewed as agents of punishment, bounty or intimidation depending upon their state of activity and the culture involved. In the Middle East the earliest depiction of an eruption is a wall painting dating from the Neolithic at Çatal Hüyük and the earliest record dates from the third millennium BCE. Knowledge of volcanoes increased over time. In some parts of the world knowledge of eruptions was passed down by oral transmission, but as far as written records were concerned, in the first century CE only 9 volcanoes in the Mediterranean region were recognised, together with Mount Cameroon in West Africa. In the next 1000 years the list grew by 17, some 14 of these volcanoes being in Japan. The first recorded eruptions in Indonesia occurred in 1000 and 1006, and volcanoes in newly settled Iceland increased the number to just 48 in 1380 CE. After this the list continued to increase, with important regions such as New Zealand and Hawaii only being added in the past 200 years. Only from 1900 did the rate of growth decline significantly (Simkin et al. 1981: 23; Simkin, 1993 Siebert et al. 2011; Simkin, 1993), but it is sobering to recall that in the twentieth century major eruptions have occurred from volcanoes that were considered inactive or extinct examples including: Mount Lamington - Papua New Guinea, 1951; Mount Arenal - Costa Rica, 1968 and Nyos - Cameroon, 1986. Although there are instances where the human impact of historical eruptions have been compiled - with examples including the 1883 eruption of Krakatau (Simkin and Fiske (1983) and 1943 -1952 eruption of Parícutin (Luhr and Simkin, 1993) - these are exceptions and there remains a significant gap in knowledge about both the short and long-term effects on societies of major eruptions which occurred before the 1980s. Following a broad review the chapter provides a discussion of the ways in which information has been collected, compiled and disseminated from the earliest times until the 1980s in two case study areas: the Azores Islands (Portugal) and southern Italy. In Italy information on eruptions stretches back to prehistoric times and has become progressively better known over more than 2,000 years of written history, yet even here there remain significant gaps in the record even for events that took place between 1900 and 1990. In contrast, located in the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores have been isolated for much of their history and illustrate the difficulties involved in using indigenous sources to compile, not only assessments of impact, but also at a more basic level a complete list of historical events with accurate dates.

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Date Deposited: 04 May 2017 12:30
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 07:06