The Case for Volcano Monitoring

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"The Case for Volcano Monitoring"

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Andrew Thompson has a nice piece up explaining what the deal is with the volcano monitoring funding that Bobby Jindal deems so objectionable:

The $140 million to which Jindal referred is actually for a number of projects conducted by the United States Geological Survey, including volcano monitoring. This monitoring is aimed at helping geologists understand the inner workings of volcanoes as well as providing warnings of impending eruptions, in the United States and in active areas around the world where U.S. military bases are located, such as the Philippines.

Among the scenarios in which the USGS’s monitoring can assist – the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, which killed 57 people (including a geologist monitoring the mountain) and was the deadliest and costliest volcanic eruption in U.S. history ($2.74 billion in 2007 dollars). This event was preceded by thousands of earthquakes in the two months before the volcano blew its top; some of these prompted the Governor of Washington to declare a state of emergency and many residents were evacuated from a designated danger zone. […]

Volcano monitoring likely saved many lives – and significant money – in the case of the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines (where the United States has military bases) […] The USGS spent less than $1.5 million monitoring the volcano and was able to warn of the impending eruption, which allowed authorities to evacuate residents, as well as aircraft and other equipment from U.S. bases there. The USGS estimates that the efforts saved thousands of lives and prevented property losses of at least $250 million (considered a conservative figure).

But, look, the Bush administration did a terrible job handling disaster relief at Katrina, so what we need is for the government to just not try at all to stave off these problems. That’s just common sense.

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