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There are currently about 1500 active volcanoes on Earth (Tilling 1989). Eruptive activity presents in many different styles, ranging from highly explosive eruptions to non-explosive or effusive behaviour, which vary greatly in the hazard that they pose. Currently, millions of people are at risk from volcanic hazards. The average annual death toll as a result of volcanic hazards is rising because more people are living in close proximity to active volcanoes. Our understanding of the physical processes and parameters involved in the generation and evolution of volcanic flows is now advanced, and sophisticated process-oriented numerical models exist that describe eruptive processes well. There are hundreds to thousands of eruptions each year on Earth and many volcanoes are monitored around the clock by dedicated observatories. Thus, volcanology is rich in statistical data and statistical modelling is an emergent and rapidly growing area of interest. This volume is aimed at presenting the current state of statistical modelling within volcanology. The purpose of this paper is to give a general introduction to volcanic eruption processes, data and modelling, as well as an overview of the volume as a whole.

This Special Publication is restricted to terrestrial volcanism (i.e. on land) and in the absence of large volumes of water, such as groundwater, sea or lake water, or snow. ‘Phreatomagmatic’ volcanism, which results from the interaction of magma and water, has been reviewed by Zimanowski (1998).

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