Bárðarbunga- It’s a Volcano


Bárðarbunga, if you haven’t heard, is the latest Icelandic1 volcano to rear its head. I love stuff like this. And by stuff like this, I mean potentially hazardous, but exceptionally rare natural events. Nothing makes you feel alive like pondering the power and grace of a beast that is measured in cubic kilometers.

I figured there were two things I could do with the news that this thing could erupt at a moment’s notice. First, I could go around our office and see who can say Bárðarbunga six times fast without screwing it up. Not wanting to teach everyone how to pronounce Bárðarbunga, I went with option number two, which involves finding data around other volcanic eruptions and seeing if there are any cool or unconventional analyses I can do on them. Specifically, I grabbed a file from the Smithsonian Institution and built an app in TrackVia to analyze it. So here we go.

Not a Science Fair Project

As I mentioned earlier, volcanoes are dangerous. Naturally, the first thing I want to know is where these masses of minerals reside. Having a background in statistics (and not science), it figures that everything I assumed about the location of the world’s volcanic pyramids was wrong. I expected to find a great number of these scattered across small islands in the Pacific. As it turns out, there have been over 100 volcanic eruptions in South America. There have been 96 more in Mexico and Central America. That’s concerning. Not as concerning as if I lived in Chile, but scary nonetheless. 

Okay, so there are volcanoes all over the world. But who’s really at risk? It turns out that the Smithsonian Institution gives population data, as well as data about the different types of volcanoes that have had events. Well, it turns out that those of you who live near Volcanic Fields are not in luck. A sum total of 17.8 million people lived within 5km of volcanic events in Volcanic Fields. Contrast this with 295,000 people who lived within 5km of Stratovolcanoes when they became active. Here’s to settling near Stratovolcanoes! 

If you’re interested, take a look at a couple of the charts I put together (click the image to emlarge.) They show the regions where the most volcanic activity has occurred, as well as the sum of population living within 5km of each volcano type. 


Pretty cool stuff! Enjoy your weekend, and if you’re feeling bored try to get your friends to say Bárðarbunga six times fast. Bonus points for doing it on video and sending it to me.

1I always have to check myself on that- a local ski company here is named Icelantic. They’re awesome, you should check them out.