Volcanic phenomena between media simplification and the need for a better understanding of human-environment interaction, with particular reference to Italy


  • Lisetta Giacomelli Italian Association of Volcanology, Italy
  • Roberto Scandone INGV-Osservatorio Vesuviano, Naples, Italy


When talking in public about volcanology, or even more generally about geology, the first obstacle to overcome is the amount of wrong information and clichès that have been created due to the hasty, incomplete or inaccurate news spread by the media. It is not uncommon for authoritative journals or famous science communicators to resort to definitions or use notions far from an acceptable scientific level. To argue that certain simplifications help to clarify complex phenomena is not a good reason to misrepresent fundamental concepts. The Italian territory is subject to different types of geological risks and it is necessary for the population to develop a culture in the field of Earth Sciences, rather than being tormented by sensational announcements and approximate information. Poor information does not help people to develop the care for natural phenomena and their impact on humans and the environment. A good starting point for understanding each other, between people exchanging information, is the appropriate use of the terms which, in the case of volcanology, are those that define the products of the eruptions, the eruptive processes, the different variables that occur and that allow us to understand the volcanic activity itself and to decipher its possible consequences. Errors and false news can originate from bad faith, ignorance, superficiality or other, due to lack of accuracy in the opinions expressed and in the verification of those that are collected, even if they come from competent figures or institutions. The possibility of trivial errors has further expanded with the use of the net and social media that are able to spread the most varied theories like wildfire, without any possibility of control. There are also complex circumstances, in which an incorrect assessment can derive from the objective difficulty of interpreting the evolution of natural events and cases that require dealing with uncommon situations, with a large margin of possibility of unsuitable choices. In this paper we discuss the most widely errors made by generalist media and misunderstanding of volcanic phenomena as well as the unknown beneficial aspect of volcanic activity.


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