While most people do not live in close proximity to an active volcano, those who do must live with the lingering threat of eruption. Volcanic eruptions take place across the globe — including in the United States — and are often extremely destructive. Just last year, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted for three months, producing enough magma to fill approximately 320,000 swimming pools and destroying 700 homes.
Volcanic activity is not unforeseeable, however, and advancements in gas emission sensors, seismometers, aerial GPS, radar systems and other monitoring instruments have revolutionized the science of predicting eruptions. With such tools deployed on Kilauea, ground swells were detected before the most recent explosion, giving emergency responders several days of warning. According to Charlie Mandeville, volcanologist and director of the U.S. Geological Survey, it is possible now to predict major eruptions weeks or months ahead of time.
Despite technological advancements, predicting volcanic eruptions is not a perfect science and volcanoes continue to pose a threat to many as some of the world’s worst weather events. Approximately 800 million people live within 60 miles of an active volcano in more than 80 countries around the world. There are also 169 active volcanoes in the United States, threatening even cities with the best weather. Based on the latest USGS estimations of volcanic threat level, 24/7 Wall St. ranked these domestic volcanoes from lowest to greatest level of potential threat.
Threat scores of 123-324 are considered very high; scores of 64-113 are considered high; and scores of 30-63 are considered moderate. Threat levels take into account both the estimated likelihood of an eruption, based on eruption history and geological studies, as well as the possible damages based on population density and surrounding infrastructure. The threat levels of the 50 most dangerous volcanoes are all either high or very high and could result in life-changing natural disasters.