Volcán de Fuego is Spanish for Volcano of Fire, a volcanic mountain in Guatemala. It has been active on-and-off for years. On Sunday, June 3, 2018, it erupted with fury. It had previously flared up in January and February, but this was the worst so far this year. Volcán de Fuego is famous for spewing out smoke daily and being continuously active at a low level. This time it erupted violently resulting in many deaths. Molten lava, flying rocks, hot gasses including sulfur dioxide threaten homes and lives in the area. The pyroclastic flow travels at speeds up to 50 miles (80 km) per hour or more. The gas rose 5 miles (8 km) into the troposphere. The map shows the area where the wind has taken the dangerous sulfur dioxide. The photo is of a previous eruption.
At the same time of the eruption of Volcán de Fuego on the big island of Hawaii, Mount Kilauea is still erupting and creating massive destruction, but with no fatalities so far. The question is, “Why do we have volcanos?” Perhaps we should ask, “Why do we need volcanos?”
The answer to the first question has to do with the composition and structure of Earth. The crust of the Earth, along with the upper mantle below it, is divided into sections called tectonic plates. Volcanos (and earthquakes) often occur near the boundaries of those plates. The movement and repositioning of those plates created the continents we have today. Beneath Earth’s crust, there is hot and partially molten material in an area known as the mantle. Pressure and the decomposition of radioactive material within the core of the Earth cause the elevated temperature. The fact that the minerals are in a molten state because of the extreme heat allows the movement of the tectonic plates on the surface. A volcano is a rupture in Earth’s crust that allows the escape of hot lava and gas from a magma chamber below the surface.
The answer to the second question of why we need volcanos is that they are part of Earth’s recycling system. Erosion of Earth’s surface leaches away nutrients from the soil. Volcano eruptions bring to the surface essential nutrients to nourish the soil allowing plants to grow and making farming more productive. They also bring to the surface valuable minerals that we need for modern, advanced civilization. Volcanos have also created many islands, such as the Aleutian islands and the islands of Hawaii. The movement of tectonic plates and the eruption of volcanos have occurred throughout Earth’s history. Without the movement of the tectonic plates with the resulting earthquakes and volcanos, Earth’s crust would be flat and covered with water. We would not be here.
Although volcanos often cause the destruction of homes, disruption of weather patterns, and loss of life, they also play a vital role in giving us this vibrant, life-supporting planet. They are another evidence of God’s creative power.
–Roland Earnst © 2018