Award-winning geologist warns of volcano threat

THE south-west could once again have erupting volcanoes and emergency services must be better prepared for it, a Melbourne geologist has warned.Internationally-respected Melbourne geologist and Geological Society of Australia member, Associate Professor Bernie Joyce, said that although it had been thousands of years since an eruption, volcanoes in the south-west still posed a risk.``We can't say with 100 per cent certainty that a significant volcano will strike tomorrow, next week, next year, or even 100 years down the track, but these geo-hazards are real and they must be given much more focus by emergency management authorities,'' he said.Professor Joyce will be awarded the coveted Selwyn Medal on Thursday in recognition of his contribution to geology during his 45-year career.He helped the south-west's Kanawinka Global Geopark become the first geopark in Australia declared by UNESCO.For a decade he has studied landforms in western Victoria to see what they could reveal about volcanic risk in the region.While volcanoes such as Tower Hill and Mount Leura were unlikely to erupt again, Professor Joyce said new volcanoes could develop nearby.``The geological record shows new volcanoes in these areas have erupted perhaps every 2000 years in the past 40,000 years and given there has not been a major eruption there for the past 5000 years, a significant eruption seems well overdue.''He said there was a five per cent chance of a new volcano erupting in the next 100 years but communities needed to be prepared now.``Its red-hot lava and explosive ash would be a major fire hazard on the dry grassland plains of western Victoria and lava flows could continue for up to 20 years and for distances of more than 60 kilometres down river systems, cutting off essential water supplies and destroying infrastructure like towns, farming land, roads, railways and bridges. An education process is needed to inform the community about how to avoid these situations if they arise.''