Assess the extent to which primary rather than secondary impacts are the more serious effects arising from volcanic eruptions. (30 marks) A volcano is an earth hazard that occurs on faults between tectonic plates on a destructive boundary and an eruption is a natural disaster. A primary impact happens immediately after the disaster and before any response like death or collapsing or destruction of buildings. A secondary impact occurs later after the disaster, such less farm produce or a reduction in tourism.The severity of these impacts will differ considerably in a MEDC and LEDC where volcanic eruptions have taken place. These may be seen in the Mount St. Helen volcano eruption as well as in the Iceland volcanic eruption. They may also show that the impacts vary from volcano to volcano, place to place. Primary impacts are just as serious in LEDCs as in MEDCs. In the volcanic eruption of Mount St Helens there was little they could do to reduce the primary impacts of this disaster in an MEDC. Mount St Helens erupted in 1980 and killed 57 people even though an evacuation was set up and carried out.
Even with money put aside to be put into a preparedness scheme they could not foresee that the volcano would erupt sideways causing the devastation to be more widespread. The evacuation beforehand had helped reduce the number of casualties which probably would have been more difficult in an LEDC environment. Research is looking into long period events such as volcanic eruptions however it is only at the stage where the only means is to monitor the volcano to see if it is about to erupt and try to reduce the primary impacts.
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However they can’t be predicted or how violent they will be so in cases such as Mount St Helens there is little to reduce the primary impacts. This shows how the primary impacts of some volcanic eruptions can be reduced by monitoring, however in the case of more severe eruptions there is little that can be done to reduce the primary impacts arising from a volcanic eruption, the only option being evacuation. The severity of secondary impacts will mostly depend on the response seen after the disaster.
Due to its level of development an MEDC will most likely have money or back up to carry out a proper response scheme which is why secondary impacts in MEDCs are less serious. Another reason for there being much less secondary impacts in MEDCs is that due to the country’s higher GDP per capita, less people will live near to a volcano as they have enough money to be able to live in a place where they are less vulnerable to an earth hazard, as the area next to the volcano is less valuable in an MEDC.
People in MEDCs do have a choice of where to live but in countries like Japan many people live within reach of volcanic eruptions in a dangerous area and these numbers are likely to increase as world population continues to grow. In LEDCs people often have no choice and are less aware of the risks. Therefore the primary impacts are more likely to be serious as more people in potential danger compared to an MEDC where there is less likely to be many people around in the area.
However some volcanic eruptions can cause secondary impacts despite all this, the eruption of the Icelandic volcano in 2010 caused huge secondary economic impacts all over Europe due to an ash cloud. It was the largest disruption of air travel since World War Two, caused the BMW plant in Germany to close down for a month due to lack of parts and cost the European airline industry £130 million a day. This shows how in MEDCs secondary impacts can be reduced with effective response, however in severe cases there can be no way to prevent secondary impacts arising from volcanic eruptions.
In LEDCs more people live in the shadow of volcanoes due to poverty, shanty towns tend to arise in places where other development won’t happen due to the dangers such as on steep hills, on unstable ground or next to volcanoes; this causes the people living there to be extremely vulnerable. This was seen in the Philippines in 1991 when Mount Pinatubo erupted killing 800 people, most of who died due to ash causing buildings to collapse which is a primary impact. This shows that in LEDCs, just as in MEDCs, there is little that can be done to reduce the primary impacts arising from a volcanic eruption.
Secondary impacts in LEDCs tend to be severe as most don’t have a suitable response plan due to an ineffective government and may rely on aid to reduce secondary impacts. Secondary impacts can still occur even if primary impacts have been reduced; this was seen in the eruption of Montserrat in 1995. It’s most recent eruptions being very violent and has followed growth and collapse of lava domes inside the crater. It caused ash and lava flows affecting the population severely, however the secondary impacts where much worse.
Mudflows such as lahars occurred due to a combination of water and volcanic ash and dust. There were fires, landslides, a tsunami, crop failure and famine. All of these occurred due to and after the volcanic eruption. These had greater impacts on the population as the population of Montserrat fell from 10,728 (1990) to 6,409 (2000). Mainly due to the secondary impacts of the eruptions showing how, in LEDCs, secondary impacts can be very severe. Primary impacts are the more serious effects arising from volcanic eruptions rather than secondary impacts.
This is because no matter whether you are in an MEDC or an LEDC the primary impacts from most eruptions are severe as you can’t build ‘volcano proof structures’ to protect buildings or land. Primary impacts are also where the most fatal incidents occur, like many deaths due to the eruption its self or collapsing of buildings. Although secondary impacts are also severe in LEDCs they can be reduced and over time more countries will develop to the stage where secondary impacts are able to be decreased in number.
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