Huge volcanic eruptions are the only natural hazard apart from the impact of an asteroid that can cause a global catastrophe. In the short history of civilisation, there have been few volcanic events with global effects. Much larger magnitude eruptions happened regularly in the millions of years previous. Such extreme eruptions perturb global climate for years and can have severe environmental consequences.
The modern world is vulnerable to large volcanic events, making the study of their return periods, possible environmental effects and consequences a key goal of volcanology.
Professor Sir Stephen Sparks CBE is Visiting Professor of Geology at Gresham College. He is also Chaning Wills Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. He is one of the world's leading volcanologists and is widely recognised for his work in the field. His work is mainly focused on volcanic and igneous processes. He has also made contributions in fundamental fluid mechanics, sedimentology and risk assessment methodologies for natural hazards.