There are an estimated 800 million people living close enough to active volcanoes to be affected when they erupt. As well as casualties from volcanic eruptions there can be major economic losses and societal disruption, especially when communities have to be evacuated. The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in April-May 2010 did not kill anyone but disrupted the travel of millions of people and cost the airline industry billions of dollars. This highlighted the increasing vulnerability of modern globalised societies.
New approaches to volcanic hazard assessment and risk management are emerging as more information is required to respond to volcanic emergencies – illustrated by approaches to some recent eruptions, such as the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat.
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.