Mankind could stop volcanic eruptions by pouring concrete over them: but it's a very bad idea
Volcanic eruptions cause many problems for humanity. These include air pollution with gases and ash, hot lava that floods the area around the object, and even seismic activity associated with them. That's why from time to time, life hacks from volcanology enthusiasts pop up on social media, suggesting that the vents be filled with concrete. In their opinion, a sufficiently thick layer of the substance should hold the lava and prevent natural disasters of this type.
Live Science decided to turn to real experts who study volcanic activity to find out whether this proposal has any merit. And here's what they had to say.
Is it possible to block a volcanic vent with concrete?
Theoretically, it is possible. Concrete has a high enough melting point to resist the pressure of lava. It will be possible to melt this material if the heat rises to 1500 degrees Celsius. Magma has a temperature of about 870 degrees, which is well below this threshold.
So, yes, a sufficiently thick layer of concrete can contain an eruption. But scientists still disapprove of this idea.
Why it won't work
Volcanic eruptions occur when pressure rises below the Earth's surface. When the magma layer is thin and liquid, gases can easily escape from it and the eruption occurs at a low speed. And it is quite easy to escape from the magma flow.
But when the substance becomes thicker and more sticky in consistency, it becomes not so easy for gases to leave the magma mass. And the pressure begins to build up until the gases begin to escape and explode. "Explosive volcanic eruptions can be dangerous and deadly. They can eject clouds of hot tephra from the slopes or from the top of the volcano. These fiery streams rush down the mountainsides, destroying almost everything in their path," says the USGS, which used the St. Helens volcano in the Cascade Mountains in Washington state as an example.
If you close the volcano's mouth with a concrete plug, the pressure under it will increase faster. In this case, even a safe volcano will gradually turn into an explosive one. Sooner or later, it will erupt, but the pressure will be higher than typical.
But these are not all the dangers that can arise from a layer of concrete. If volcanic gases manage to break through the cork, the debris and dust from it will be spread over a huge distance. This can kill many people at once and cause a wave of deadly lung diseases and cancers in those who breathe the dust until it settles.
Is there any way to use concrete to protect against volcanoes?
In fact, yes. During one of the eruptions of Mount Etna in Sicily, concrete blocks were used to divert lava flows away from settlements. Although the US Geological Survey is not sure that the blocks would have worked in a stronger explosion, they played their role in protecting people in that particular case.
As OBOZ.UA wrote, the Merapi volcano is erupting in Indonesia right now, and 11 climbers have already become victims. Another 12 people are still missing.