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A volcanologist sampling lava using a rock hammer and a bucket of water Sampling lava with hammer and bucket.jpg
A volcanologist sampling lava using a rock hammer and a bucket of water
Video excerpt from "Molten Paradise: Kilauea Volcano" a collaboration between HDNet television and USGS. The program aired between 2002 and 2012. In the video, USGS geologist Rick Hoblitt describes taking a lava sample from a lava tube skylight. This work took place downslope from Pu'u 'O" o vent on Kilauea Volcano, Island of Hawaii in 2002. As of 2013 the eruption continues and sampling is done every few weeks.
Lava tube on the Mauna Ulu flank, Hawaii, United States. Mauna Ulu lava tube october 1970.jpg
Lava tube on the Mauna Ulu flank, Hawaii, United States.
Sampling the lava tube on the flanks of Mauna Ulu, Kilauea, Hawaii, United States Mauna Ulu lava tube.jpg
Sampling the lava tube on the flanks of Mauna Ulu, Kilauea, Hawaii, United States
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 1972-1974 eruption of Kilauea Volcano. Scientist collecting pahoehoe on the south side of Alae Crater subsidence bowl. Photo by R.L. Christiansen, February 12, 1972. Scientist collecting pahoehoe, Kilauea.jpg
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 1972-1974 eruption of Kilauea Volcano. Scientist collecting pahoehoe on the south side of Alae Crater subsidence bowl. Photo by R.L. Christiansen, February 12, 1972.
Sampling gases at a fumarole on top of Mount Baker, Washington. Baker Fumarole.jpg
Sampling gases at a fumarole on top of Mount Baker, Washington.

A volcanologist or vulcanologist is a geologist who studies the processes involved in the formation and eruptive activity of volcanoes and their current and historic eruptions, known as volcanology. Volcanologists frequently visit volcanoes, especially active ones, to observe volcanic eruptions, collect eruptive products including tephra (such as ash or pumice), rock and lava samples. One major focus of inquiry is the prediction of eruptions; there is currently no accurate way to do this, but predicting eruptions could alleviate the impact on surrounding populations.

Geologist Scientist who studies geology

A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitutes the Earth and other terrestrial planets, as well as the processes that shape them. Geologists usually study geology, although backgrounds in physics, chemistry, biology, and other sciences are also useful. Field work is an important component of geology, although many subdisciplines incorporate laboratory work.

Volcano A rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface

A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface.

Volcanology The study of volcanoes, lava, magma and associated phenomena

Volcanology is the study of volcanoes, lava, magma, and related geological, geophysical and geochemical phenomena (volcanism). The term volcanology is derived from the Latin word vulcan. Vulcan was the ancient Roman god of fire.



"Volcanologist" (or Vulcanologist) was derived from the English volcanology (volcano + -logy), which was derived from the French volcanologie (or vulcanologie), which was further derived from the French word volcan (“volcano”), which was even further derived from Vulcanus, the Latin name of the Roman god of fire and metalworking. The Latin word is of Estrucan origin, but unknown meaning.

Vulcan (mythology) Ancient Roman god of fire, volcanoes, and metalworking

Vulcan is the god of fire including the fire of volcanoes, deserts, metalworking, and the forge in ancient Roman religion and myth. He is often depicted with a blacksmith's hammer. The Vulcanalia was the annual festival held August 23 in his honor. His Greek counterpart is Hephaestus, the god of fire and smithery. In Etruscan religion, he is identified with Sethlans.

Fire Rapid oxidation of a material

Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition.

Metalworking process of making items from metal; production and processing of shaped workpieces made of metals

Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large-scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills, processes, and tools.

Job Overview

Job description

Volcanologists attempt to decipher what clues rocks leave behind about the inner workings and chemistry of the earth. While there are many exciting aspects to a volcanologist career, most assignments study the remains of either dead or dormant volcanoes.


Volcanologists earn an average of $90,890 per year, with the highest 10% earning around $187,200 and the lowest 10% earning around $48,270. Most of these scientists work for different levels of government, universities, and private research institutes.

Work environment

Typically, Volcanologists split their workdays between conducting fieldwork and working in a laboratory. During fieldwork, scientists may be required to venture to exotic or isolated locations where active or dormant volcanoes reside. They must collect various samples and data, generally in an outdoor area. Those hoping to become a Volcanologist must be prepared to travel, spend extended periods of time away from home, perform strenuous physical activities, and brave adverse weather conditions. Once they have finished collecting samples, they return to their laboratory to analyze their data. They then must communicate their findings to a group of scientists. Volcanologists employed by universities may also be required to spend time in a classroom environment.

Most of these scientists work full-time and may be required to work extended hours when performing fieldwork, which is quite frequent.

Job outlook

The job demand for Volcanologists is expected to grow 16% in the next 10 years, which is faster than the average profession.[ citation needed ] The public's increasing interest in environmental protection, safety, and management will spur the upcoming growth in positions.


Volcanologists require a bachelor's degree at minimum in geology, geophysics, or earth science. However, a bachelor's degree typically provides little specialized knowledge of volcanoes and will only allow someone to obtain an entry-level position in the field. Most Volcanologists possess either a master's or doctorate degree, allowing them to acquire more advanced knowledge of volcanoes specifically. Those wishing to be employed by universities or seek academic funding would be well served by earning a Ph.D.

In some areas, becoming a Volcanologist that predicts the eruption of volcanoes may require a special license.

Interdisciplinary fields


See: Volcanology

Current and developing research topics

Notable volcanologists

Plato Classical Greek Athenian philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

Pliny the Elder Roman military commander and writer

Pliny the Elder was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor Vespasian.

Pliny the Younger Roman writer

Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo, better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him.

See also

Related Research Articles

Katia and Maurice Krafft French volcanologists

Catherine Joséphine "Katia" Krafft and her husband, Maurice Paul Krafft, were French volcanologists who died in a pyroclastic flow on Mount Unzen, in Japan, on June 3, 1991. The Kraffts were known for being pioneers in filming, photographing and recording volcanoes, often getting within feet of lava flows. Their obituary appeared in the Bulletin of Volcanology. Werner Herzog's documentary Into the Inferno mentions them.

Mount Unzen mountain in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan

Mount Unzen is an active volcanic group of several overlapping stratovolcanoes, near the city of Shimabara, Nagasaki on the island of Kyushu, Japan's southernmost main island.

David A. Johnston American volcanologist

David Alexander Johnston was an American United States Geological Survey (USGS) volcanologist who was killed by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. A principal scientist on the USGS monitoring team, Johnston was killed in the eruption while manning an observation post six miles (10 km) away on the morning of May 18, 1980. He was the first to report the eruption, transmitting "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" before he was swept away by a lateral blast. Despite a thorough search, Johnston's body was never found, but state highway workers discovered remnants of his USGS trailer in 1993.

Harry Glicken American geologist and volcanologist

Harry Glicken was an American volcanologist. He researched Mount St. Helens in the United States before and after its 1980 eruption, and was very distraught about the death of fellow volcanologist David A. Johnston, who had switched shifts with Glicken so that the latter could attend an interview. In 1991, while conducting avalanche research on Mount Unzen in Japan, Glicken and fellow volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft were killed by a pyroclastic flow. His remains were found four days later, and were cremated in accordance with his parents' request. Glicken and Johnston remain the only American volcanologists known to have died in volcanic eruptions.

Volcano tectonic earthquake

A volcano tectonic earthquake is an earthquake induced by the movement of magma. The movement results in pressure changes in the rock around where the magma has experienced stress. At some point, the rock may break or move. The earthquakes may also be related to dike intrusion and may occur as earthquake swarms. An example is the 2007–2008 Nazko earthquake swarm in central British Columbia, Canada.

Galeras Volcanic mountain in Colombia

Galeras is an Andean stratovolcano in the Colombian department of Nariño, near the departmental capital Pasto. Its summit rises 4,276 metres (14,029 ft) above sea level. It has erupted frequently since the Spanish conquest, with its first historical eruption being recorded on December 7, 1580. A 1993 eruption killed nine people, including six scientists who had descended into the volcano's crater to sample gases and take gravity measurements in an attempt to be able to predict future eruptions. It is currently the most active volcano in Colombia.

Decade Volcanoes

The Decade Volcanoes are 16 volcanoes identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) as being worthy of particular study in light of their history of large, destructive eruptions and proximity to populated areas. The Decade Volcanoes project encourages studies and public-awareness activities at these volcanoes, with the aim of achieving a better understanding of the volcanoes and the dangers they present, and thus being able to reduce the severity of natural disasters.

Prediction of volcanic activity

Prediction of volcanic eruption is an interdisciplinary monitoring and research effort to predict the time and severity of a volcano's eruption. Of particular importance is the prediction of hazardous eruptions that could lead to catastrophic loss of life, property, and disruption of human activities.

Mount Ragang stratovolcano on Mindanao island, Philippines

Mount Ragang, also called Mount Piapayungan and Blue Mountain by the local people, is a stratovolcano on Mindanao island in the Philippines. It is the seventh highest mountain in the Philippines and the highest point in Lanao del Sur.

Mount Sinabung volcano mountain in North Sumatra, Indonesia

Mount Sinabung is a Pleistocene-to-Holocene stratovolcano of andesite and dacite in the Karo plateau of Karo Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia, 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the Lake Toba supervolcano. Many old lava flows are on its flanks and the last known eruption, before recent times, occurred 1200 years before present, between 740 - 880 CE. Solfataric activities were last observed at the summit in 1912; recent documented events include an eruption in the early hours of 29 August 2010 and eruptions in September and November 2013, January, February and October 2014. A pyroclastic flow in May 2016 killed seven people. Between 2013 and 2014, the alert for a major event was increased with no significant activity. On 2 June 2015, the alert was again increased, and on 26 June 2015, at least 10,000 people were evacuated, fearing a major eruption. The long eruption of Mount Sinabung is similar to that of Mount Unzen in Japan, which erupted for five years after lying dormant for 200 years.

Types of volcanic eruptions Basic mechanisms of eruption and variations

Several types of volcanic eruptions—during which lava, tephra, and assorted gases are expelled from a volcanic vent or fissure—have been distinguished by volcanologists. These are often named after famous volcanoes where that type of behavior has been observed. Some volcanoes may exhibit only one characteristic type of eruption during a period of activity, while others may display an entire sequence of types all in one eruptive series.

Dwight Raymond "Rocky" Crandell was an American volcanologist who alongside Donal R. Mullineaux correctly predicted that Mount St. Helens would erupt before the end of the 20th century.

Montserrat Volcano Observatory observatory on the Caribbean island of Montserrat

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) is a volcano observatory which is located on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, where the Soufrière Hills volcano (SHV) has been actively erupting since 1995.

Barry Voight is an American geologist, volcanologist, author, and engineer. After earning his Ph.D. at Columbia University, Voight worked as a professor of geology at several universities, including Pennsylvania State University, where he taught from 1964 until his retirement in 2005. He remains an emeritus professor there and still conducts research, focusing on rock mechanics, plate tectonics, disaster prevention, and geotechnical engineering.

Katia Krafft, was a French volcanologist who died in a pyroclastic flow on Mount Unzen, in Japan, on June 3, 1991. Krafft was known for being a pioneer in filming, photographing and recording volcanoes, often getting within feet of lava flows. She fell in love with volcanoes when she saw pictures of them and redirected her interest toward an education in geology. Using her love of volcanoes and photography, Katia established a career as a volcanologist. It is because of her that we have up-close footage and data, as well as a better understanding of active volcanoes today.