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“We don’t think so,” says the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.  (I think it has.)

Notice that they didn’t say they’re sure. It’s just that they don’t THINK so.

Volcanism apparently increasing - Courtesy Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

They do agree that the number of active volcanoes over the last few centuries “shows a dramatic increase.” However, they also note that that increase “is closely related to increases in the world’s human population and communication.”

“We believe,” they say, “that this represents an increased reporting of eruptions, rather than increased frequency of global volcanism: more observers, in wider geographic distribution, with better communication, and broader publication.”

In other words, they think the increase in global volcanism is more apparent than real.

Notice again, that they didn’t say they’re sure. It’s just that they believe that this represents an increased reporting of eruptions.

The Smithsonian includes a plot of the past 200 years (above) showing this generally increasing trend along with some major “peaks and valleys” which, they say, suggest global pulsations. But a closer look at the two largest valleys, they point out, shows that the peaks and valleys coincide with the two World Wars, when people (including editors) were preoccupied with other things.

I’m not so sure that I agree with the Smithsonian on this. Even in a world with far fewer people and communication by horseback, I think a volcanic eruption would be seared into a person’s memory so strongly that news of that eruption would somehow, someway, be reported and recorded. I think we are indeed seeing an increase in volcanism, but as of now I do not have the facts and figures to back that up.

See entire article for the Smithsonian’s reasoning:

Thanks to Jay Curtis for this link


21 Responses to Has volcanic activity been increasing?

  1. Dale says:

    However, they also note that that increase “is closely related to increases in the world’s human population and communication.”

    Are you sure that this isn’t just an off handed way to blame global warming and SUV’s for the increase in vulcanism??? Has there been a proportional increase in earthquakes too as a result of this increased vulcanism??? SUV drivers are so evil that maybe they are the cause, since being over weight and eating meat contribute to global warming, what hell on earth does driving SUV’s cause???? Hmmmm????

  2. Ben says:

    Wouldn’t the same logic be relevant for measuring temperatures and extreme weather? The more people the more it is reported. The better the technology, the better the measurements. Seems like common sense. Sorry, AGW acolytes, I have zero faith in temperatures reported 150 years ago from random locations.

  3. kenneth lund says:

    I agree Bob. I do not think they (Smithsonian) are correct in that assumption. At least in the past 5 years, (when you count underwater volcanism) there appears to be an increase in activity. Since September of 2010, there have been many eruptions, including the one in Chile last summmer.

  4. Igor says:

    Big boy volcano krakatoa on the ring of fire,hopefully doesn’t have an 1883 extreme explosion. Wow,its blast shock wave circled earth 7 times,120 foot tsunami and loudest sound ever heard by mans ears. My guesstimate is the energy being stored under some of these goliath volcanos is equal to a huge asteroid strike. Small vulcanic activity is not as big a threat,sleepin giants like krakatoa was said to be rumbling for months before the historic blast.

  5. Many volcanoes are either preceded or followed by a major earthquake, take for instance the recent quakes in Mexico and the Popo volcano or the Honshu Japan 2011 quake and the volcano that erupted north of Japan prior to those quakes. This increase in volcanic activity could be directly linked to the increase in Magnitude of recent earthquakes around the world.

  6. Do you think this is just a coincidence or could part of this increase be caused by the fact that the sun rise/set curves of solar and lunar eclipse shadows are lining up with the horizon curve of the planet and the plate boundaries at the same time? We know the moon causes tides, what about affecting other liquids such as Magma within the earth?

    • Andrew says:

      It’s my opinion that eclipses would have little to nothing to do with affecting plate tectonics. But tidal forces do have an effect, not only on bodies of water, but on the planet as a whole. However you must consider that as the tectonic plates are subducted down into the mantle, melting occurs and pressures build. Earthquakes and Volcanoes are the direct result of these constantly building pressures. Something gives somewhere, an earthquake occurs or a volcano erupts which in turn lessens or increases tension elsewhere. And the process begins anew. Like a trail of dominoes falling… it is a never ending process. …as long as the Earth retains its white-hot iron core and ‘plastic’ mantle, which quite likely will be for several billion years hence.

      • Igor says:

        Earths core does not have billions of years left in its cycle. South atlantic anomoly has existed for many years. I.e.compasses don’t work off the coast of argentina and brazil. Furthermore,our sun is a yellow dwarf now with a 1 billion years of its life cycle remaining. Before that time earth will boil and fry. Some online sources contest the sun will enter its last sequences in 200million years before its white dwarf stage. Just can not see earths dynamo iron,nickel core out lasting the sun.

  7. Mr. C says:

    Think of co2 as stYrofoam above the earth.It keeps you warm and keeps you cold. The sun is the ice cube BABY.

  8. Steven Rowlandson says:

    Those that believe the government, warmists and the media just don’t want to believe that there is a problem. They have to find out the hard way.
    Experience can be a very harsh teacher.

    The following men summed it up quite well.

    “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the greatest liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”
    -H.L. Mencken

    “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the Bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The Bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge – even to ourselves – that we’ve been so credulous.”

    -Carl Sagan

  9. F. Guimaraes says:

    I don’t know what to think about this, thanks for bringing this to our attention Robert, in fact I had never seen these interesting graphs of the Smithsonian Museum before.
    The connection of strong volcanic activity with low solar cycles seems evident (IMO) from the following list of strong eruptions
    VEI Caldera-name region Year (solar-minimum)
    6 Mount Pinatubo Luzon Volcanic Arc 1991
    6 Novarupta Aleutian Range 1912 (twenty)
    6 Santa María Central America Volcanic Arc 1902 (twenty)
    5 Mount Tarawera Taupo Volcanic Zone 1886 (twenty)
    6 Krakatoa Sunda Arc 1883 (twenty)
    7 Mount Tambora Lesser Sunda Islands 1815 (Dalton)
    6 Source unknown Source unknown 1809 (Dalton)
    6 Grímsvötn Iceland-Laki 1783-85 (~Dalton)
    6 Long Island(PNG) Bismarck Volcanic Arc 1660 (Maunder)
    6 Kolumbo,Santorini S. Aegean Volcanic Arc 1650 (Maunder)
    6 Huaynaputina Andes, Central Volcanic Zone 1600 (~Maunder)
    6 Billy Mitchell Solomon Is. 1580 (~Sporer)
    6 Bárðarbunga Iceland 1477 (Sporer)
    6 Kuwae Vanuatu 1452-53 (Sporer)
    (ref.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_large_volcanic_eruptions)
    where “twenty” is a reference to the sequence of cycles C12, C13 and C14 of very low intensity.
    This is in part reflected in the second (green) graph above, for VEI 4+ eruptions, which shows a peak around 1900. The problem with this graph is that it indicates number of eruptions instead of intensity, which can be misleading as the eruption of Tambora was nearly 10
    times “stronger” in terms of ejected tephra than, for example, Pinatubo.
    All these comparisons are interesting but non scientific unless we have a reasonable objective explanation of why the low cycles should be connected with large eruptions.
    If I had to guess I’d say that the solar magnetic field is one of the causes that correlate these two phenomena. I also think that a relative increase in low intensity eruptions (as shown in the 1st, blue, graph) is to some extent meaningless in comparison with a large one, unless we can prove that they act as some kind of “escape valve” that prevents the occurrence of the large ones.

  10. F. Guimaraes says:

    The frequency of large VEI 6+ eruptions per century is similar to the frequency of M 9+ EQs: in the XX century we had 3 VEI 6 eruptions and 4 M 9+ EQs, in the XIX century there were 2 VEI 6 and 1 VEI 7 and, again, in the time of the Maunder minimum (XVII century) we had 3 VEI 6.
    The entire XVIII century had only one VEI 6 (Grimsvotn) corresponding to a period of intensification of the solar cycles.
    (see e.g. this wiki graph:
    and Grimsvotn’s eruption happened at the end of the century when the solar cycles were decreasing again.
    I believe these very powerful eruptions and EQs are created by accumulation of potential energy during the “normal times” and occur in a quasi-periodic fashion, governed by a similar periodicity of the solar cycles.
    It will be interesting to see what will happen when the next Ice Age begins!:-)

  11. John the 1st says:

    Maybe a little from column A and a little from column B. It is impossible to deny the internet effect. However it does seem that there has been more activity lately.
    Maybe we need a multi billion dollar govt funded study over many years to come up with the answer. I volunteer to head it. Anybody else feel like burning some tax payer dollars?

  12. Bill says:

    I would like to see a chart that includes the last fifteen years. I think it would support your argument.

  13. Brent Walker says:

    Volcanic activity is related to great (8 magnitude or greater) earthquake activity because these earthquakes are caused by significant stresses from tectonic plate movement. Most smaller earthquakes are due to stresses set up by previous movements and volcanic activity although some cat. 7 earthquakes could be due to either source.
    Since 1950 there have been pretty accurate earthquake sensors around the world that would pick up all great earthquakes, because of their size.
    Te sun started to go quieter than usual in 2004. From then to now there have been 13 great earthquakes. From 1958 to 2003 there were also 13.
    This suggests there has been a five fold increase in their incidence. Planetary gravitational forces that cause these multi-centennial changes in the sun also cause additional heat to absorbed by Earth, which in turn gives rise to the higher incidence of great earthquakes. So it seems theoretically likely that we will also get increased volcanic activity but the lags are significant.
    It would be very interesting to see if anyone knows of reliable data that could prove this theory. Data up to the nineteen nineties should only prove that, if anything, volcanic activity is stable or even decreasing because this is what should happen during periods of strong sunspot cycles.
    Note also cosmic ray activity influences volcanic activity and cosmic ray activity is at an all time high (since dawn of space age) because of the low sunspot activity.

  14. Mirco Poletto says:

    Of course volcanic activity has been hincreasing. No doubt about it.

  15. QuentinF says:

    Saying that more eruptions are ‘reported’ sounds a bogus cop out as any good geologist can tell when a volcano has erupted within certain periods therefore this should be known event if it wasnt reported in past centuries. It is known the Mt Taranaki in NZ erupted last 200 years BP from geology.

  16. gopher says:

    Just remember, more people in the eye of the volcano in the same period. The world’s population growth follows the same path. And people’s knowledge of what a volcano is has increased over the same period. There are many volcanoes that have minor eruptions that show no footprint in the soil, but they are now able to be included in the tally because of remote observation techniques.

  17. Laurel says:

    Piers corbyns doing the math etc on the solar lunar co relations.
    pretty good odds so far.
    theres a building sunspot right now, chance of M class flare soonish.
    after the flares we see the quakes and volcanos pick up a bit.
    watch and see.

  18. You would think with all the agencies in charge of monitoring volcanic activity that one of them would have an up-to-date (ie:>1990) accounting of the world’s volcanoes. Maybe, I have not been looking hard enough. What is the problem with getting more recent data? For crying out loud, we’re in the computer age. This should be a slam dunk.

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