A meeting of the Volcanic Studies Group was held at Burlington House on 6 December 1989, to review establkhed and innovative techniques used in monitoring active volcanoes. Ten of the fourteen papers offered were presented orally.
The meeting was topical, being held on the eve of the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, and at the end of a decade which saw the worst series of volcanic crises and disasters since 1902 (Tilling 1989). During the 1980s, three major volcanic events at Mount St Helens, USA (1980); El Chichon, Mexico (1982); and Nevado del Ruiz, Columbia (1985), accounted for over 25 000 deaths. These and volcano-related phenomena, both increased the level of volcanological research, and raised the public awareness of the problems associated with living on or near active volcanoes.
The great majority of the world's active volcanoes are situated in the third world or in developing countries that are experiencing high rates of population growth. Competition for living space and for the fertile volcanic soils that break down to produce prime agricultural land, is resulting in a dramatic increase in the numbers of people living within the ‘danger zones’ around active volcanoes. This trend is not confined simply to the less developed parts of the world where both the expertise and funding for useful volcano monitoring are deficient. Population densities have also increased significantly on the slopes of active volcanoes in the industrialized countries, in particular, around volcanoes such as Vesuvius, which have demonstrated no real activity