5 Reasons to be Thankful for Volcanoes

Last week, we celebrated Thanksgiving here in the United States.  For many, it is a time to reflect on all of the things that we are thankful for in our lives, and the many blessings that we have.  No matter what the season is in one’s life, there are countless things to be thankful for and it would take far more than a single day to count them all.  How many of you added volcanoes to your list of things to be thankful for?  Here are 5 reasons we should all be thankful for the volcanoes that (literally) rock our world.  

1) They’re the Greatest Show on Earth

Step aside, P.T. Barnum.  Volcanoes truly are the greatest show on earth. Many volcanoes send spectacular rivers of molten lava gushing down their slopes in shades of red, gold, orange, and even blue (yes, I’m looking at you Kawah Ijen).  Other volcanoes launch house-size boulders into the sky and send roiling pyroclastic clouds racing down their steep slopes. Lava lakes churn and splash. Howling fumaroles create a music all their own as steam dances freely above the volcano’s slopes.  

There is no feeling in the world quite like watching one of these volcanoes in action.  Especially if you are close enough to feel the ground vibrate beneath your feet or the heat on your skin.  Volcanoes are so incredibly powerful, and some so immense you are just a speck on their slopes. But they are packed full of spunk and energy, and endless creativity. The shows that they put on are nothing short of breathtaking.

2)  They Keep the World Growing

We tend to forget that volcanoes do more than spew lava and destroy things.  Volcanoes are the land builders of this planet.  New islands appear all the time in the middle of the ocean, and existing ones grow.  Kilauea volcano constantly adds acreage to the island of Hawaii, and a new island, Loihi, is growing offshore.  

Landscapes near volcanoes can be reshapen by volcanic forces.  Think of how different the terrain around Mt. St. Helens in Washington looks since the 1980 eruption changed things.  And Laki has left a dramatic fissure across southern Iceland.  But this constant changing landscape is not necessarily a bad thing.  

Volcanic eruptions can have the same effect as forest fires, clearing out old brush and leaving space cleared for new growth.  Volcanic materials, once broken down and eroded, make incredibly fertile volcanic soil.  Given the right climate conditions, anything can grow, and grow extremely well.  Civilizations for thousands of years have fed their people because of the soil volcanoes produced.  

Need an example? Think of your favorite coffee.  My favorite cup of joe is brewed from coffee beans grown on the slopes of mighty Mauna Loa. Chances are, your favorite coffee was grown on a volcano’s slopes somewhere around the world.  Latin America, South America, Indonesia…they all have rich volcanic soil where the coffee is grown.  With every sip, you can taste the rich earthiness of the soil it was grown in.  Cheers!

3)  They’re Home Builders

Volcanoes are also creators of fantastic habitats for all manner of creatures.  My favorite example is Yellowstone.  The caldera and surrounding area of this massive volcano is home to a wide array of animal and plant species, some not found anywhere else in the world.  Bears, elk, moose, and wolves, just to mention a few, thrive here.  But so do some of the most unexpected creatures you can imagine: thermophiles.  These tiny creatures absolutely relish the bubbling hot springs and the minerals that rise from them.  In a place where nothing else could possibly survive, this form of life is happily at home.  

4)  They Keep us Healthy and Happy

Have you ever sat back and soaked in a natural hot spring?  The hot water and minerals wash away all your aches and stress as you sit watching the clouds float by.  That hot spring was created by volcanic forces.  Minerals harvested from volcanoes help in a plethora of heath and healing aids that we use in traditional and modern medicine. Volcanic minerals are are also used in products that we use every day.

Volcanoes also offer inspiration for the soul.  They are encouragers of the human nature to explore and learn.  Hikers that cover volcanic landscapes are often in for the workout of their lives, which keeps their bodies healthy and in shape. And many people are inspired to write songs, poetry, or create volcano-inspired artwork.  

So unless you’re standing on top of a volcanic vent and are breathing in the fresh volcanic gasses (which I don’t recommend), chances are a volcano has had a role in keeping your outlook on life happy and healthy.

5)  They Create our Climate

Volcanoes shape the climate of Earth with every eruption.  While it is true that a major eruption can impact the climate negatively and cause temporary cooling, gases emitted from volcanoes (such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, water vapor, etc.) promote the greenhouse effect on our planet, which keeps it warm and cozy.  Without this continual refreshing of the atmosphere, Earth would go the way of Mars and become freezing cold and nothing could survive. 

These are just a few reasons to count volcanoes on your “Thankful” list this year. Can you think of any other reasons we should be thankful for them? Tell me in the comments!

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