Looking at the Dangers
Understanding the science was only part of the team’s mission. They also wanted to share their data with people who lived near Santa Maria. More than 1.9 million people live within
10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the active lava domes. If there is a large eruption, a lot of people are in harm’s way.
Massive eruptions can cause a lot of damage.
While most eruptions are small, large eruptions can be dangerous. The lava domes produce a large volume of ash and volcanic rock. When rain water mixes with them, it forms a muddy liquid that flows down the volcano. It’s called a “lahar.” Because of the amount of ash the domes produce and the amount of rainfall in this region, the lahars can be very dangerous. They can destroy whole towns.
Another danger is pyroclastic flows. They are scorching clouds of gas, ash, and rock. They sweep across a landscape like a strong wind. They move with such speed you can’t outrun them. Pyroclastic flows can wipe out everything in their path.
Spreading the Word
The local people have myths and stories about the lava domes. But the team wanted to share their scientific findings. So, they created a museum exhibit. They held talks to share information about the domes. They wanted to correct any misconceptions people might have.
People finally understood the science behind their unruly neighbor. Ideas for warning systems and other preventative measures then followed.
The team still has a lot of work to do. It will take time to analyze the photographs. They hope to see patterns that might reveal how the volcano and its lava domes act and what changes may come in the future.
This bridge is used daily by local people. However, it is frequently destroyed by eruptions.