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How Volcanoes Help the Earth

Although volcanoes are bad-tempered, they can be a rich source of various treasures.

A volcano is a vent or opening on the surface of the Earth from which gases, molten rock, and other materials are extruded. The term “volcano” is derived from Vulcano, an island north of Sicily, Italy. In ancient times, the island was believed to be the gateway to the domain of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. Old Roman folks believed that an eruption meant they had provoked the wrath of Vulcan. Since the coinage of this word, the volcano has indeed become synonymous to destruction. In fact the eruption of a volcano within the nearby town -- that is you live in a country with many active volcanoes-- would cause an alarm among people residing around the volcano’s vicinity. Volcanoes have long earned a bad reputation.

Almost anyone would somehow claim that volcanoes are disruptive. They wreak fear every time they erupt. Records will show that since the 1400’s volcanic eruptions never fail to cause destruction to lives and properties. But these events should not undermine the positive contributions of volcanoes. Yes, although volcanoes are “bad-tempered,” they can be a rich source of various “treasures.”

Usually, the soil around volcanoes is fertile. Materials ejected by volcanoes are rich in soil nutrients. The minerals in the volcanic ash are known to be beneficial to plants, and if it is very fine ash, it has the ability to quickly break down when mixed with the soil. Lava, the molten rock that is poured out on the surface during eruptions, has varying amounts of iron, calcium, aluminum, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. These minerals enrich the soil. Volcanoes also provide a wealth of natural resources like rock, gas, and steam—sources of many industrial materials like boric acid.

Boric acid is valued for its antiseptic properties. The molten froth produced by lava solidifies into pumice, which is an important ingredient for industrial products such as concrete and acoustic tiles.

On a fundamental scale, volcanic gases supply water in the atmosphere. This process of adding water in the atmosphere is slow, but it has been going on for the past 4.5 billion years, and this is naturally significant to the evolution of the Earth.

Another significant contribution of volcanoes is geothermal energy. This is heat energy generated from the earth’s interior. This energy can be a great source of electric power production. Most geothermal reservoirs are found in areas within belts of present or recent volcanic activities. Many countries benefit from geothermal energy such as New Zealand, Japan, Philippines, Italy, USA, Iceland, France, and Hungary to name a few. Researchers have identified many geothermal fields that appear to provide a good source of energy needed in producing electricity. Some of these geothermal fields can be found in volcanic areas.

Summing all these up, you may now fairly see the other side of the volcano – a good side for that matter.

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