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Redefining active volcanoes: a discussion


The analysis of the current definitions of active volcanoes indicates that they are empirical, conventional, inaccurate, nongeological, and arbitrarily constraining. Redefinition is therefore needed. One possible approach is to refine the current empirical definitions. A statistically reasonable and practical redefinition using a geologically based time convention-Holocene or 10000 years-is suggested. A set of time conditions according to volcano typology-i.e. 1000; 10000 and 100000 years for high-frequency basaltic shields, andesitic-dacitic composite volcanoes and low-frequency large silicic calderas, respectively-as further refinement of the empirical definition is also envisaged. Devising a phenomenological definition as a theoretical approach is another possibility, but in practice extant “diagnostic” means are still unsatisfactory to discriminate accurately between dormant and extinct volcanoes. As a consequence of the redefinition, a classification of volcanoes according to their eruptive status is proposed. Redefinition of active volcanoes might increase accuracy in the usage of basic terms in volcanology and influence volcanic hazard assessment and risk mitigation projects.

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Szakács, A. Redefining active volcanoes: a discussion. Bull Volcanol 56, 321–325 (1994).

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Key words

  • Active volcanoes
  • Definition
  • Conceptual volcanology