As a child learning about volcanoes, I always thought the only danger came from the lava that poured out. But that is only half the story. Volcanic ash caused from and eruption can be just as dangerous. The problems that are caused by the ash are rarely talked about. Most people, like me, did not know of the effects that came from ash. I never thought of how the ash effected the environment. This article tells about the different aspects of the ash that comes from an exploding volcano. Volcanic ash is particles of igneous rock that fly into the air when a volcano erupts. Ash is an irregularly shaped particle with razor-sharp, jagged edges. It is tiny with vesicular structures with several cavities. There is a scale that professionals use to identify the hardness of a rock. It is called the Mohs Hardness Scale. A one on the scale is the softest and a ten on the scale is the hardest, which is the diamond. On this scale, ash has 5+ hardness. This is the same hardness and an average pocket knife. Although ash seems to be hard it has a low density which allows it to go far and wide.
A great example of volcanic ash spreading far is the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. During this explosion hot volcanic gasses shot up to 22 kilometers in less than ten minutes. And in less than four hours the ash spread to about 400 kilometers away. The wind carries these large clouds of ash and dust which are called ash plumes. But once the ash leaves the area of the volcano’s vent, the gases no longer support the ash. As a result, the ash falls down to the ground. The size of the particle can determine where the ash falls; the heavier and thicker particles drop first then the lighter ones. But wherever these particles fall, that area will most likely be negatively affected.
Ashes can have bad effects on people, animal, and the environment. Volcanic ash has been known to cause respiratory problems in those who have been exposed to it. In humans, this can also cause diseases, eye irritations, and some skin irritations. Livestock can also get respiratory problems. And volcanic ash covers the ground and the plants which effects to food sources of a lot of animals. If the grass is covered in ash, then animals can not graze. If the trees are covered with ash then some animals won’t have a place to live or food to eat. Volcanic ash can kill the plants in the area which cuts off a major food source for all types of living organisms. In cities, ash can assist in the destruction of buildings and other man made structures. Not only do they cover the structures but there can aide in the corrosion on the materials. Volcanic ash can have an electrical charge that interferes with radio waves and other broadcast transmitted through the air. The ash from a volcano can really be harmful.