There are approximately 1,550 potentially active volcanoes around the world. 2016 marks the 30th year that the Volcano Disaster Assistance program (VDAP) has worked to reduce loss of life and property, limit economic impact and prevent volcanic crises from becoming disasters. The USGS and U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) established VDAP in 1986 in response to the tragic eruption of Nevado del Ruiz Volcano in Colombia, which killed more than 23,000 people from volcanic mudflows. Since then, VDAP scientific teams have deployed in response to 30 major crises, assisted counterparts with hundreds of additional volcanic events, and strengthened response capacity in 12 countries since the program began.
To recognize the milestone, the USGS is highlighting some of the major responses, showing how the program has helped save countless lives. Read the USGS Top Story to learn how VDAP works to support international scientists and agencies at the invitation of a host country.
The world's largest volcanic eruption in the past 100 years is the June 15, 1991, eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. Several bursts of gas-charged magma exploded into umbrella ash clouds, hot flows of gas and ash descended the volcano's flanks and lahars swept down valleys. The collaborative work of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology saved more than 5,000 lives and $250 million in property by forecasting the eruption in time to evacuate local residents and the U.S. Clark Air Base.
As in 1991, the USGS continues to be supported by USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, providing scientific assistance to countries around the world though VDAP, the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. The program and its partners respond to volcanic unrest, build monitoring infrastructure, assess hazards and vulnerability, and improve understanding of eruptive processes and forecasting to prevent natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions, from becoming human tragedies. Read more about the Mount Pinatubo 1991 eruption.