Can we forecast volcanic eruptions?

The answer to the question above depends to a certain degree on whom you ask. Dan Miller of the Cascades Volcano Observatory, for one, is bearish. "I don't think eruptions can be consistently predicted," he told me. By contrast, volcanologist Bill Rose of Michigan Technological University is bullish. "If we have enough money," he said, "we can predict eruptions."

Why such widely divergent opinions? Can we or can't we?

The answer, perhaps not surprisingly, is complicated. In fact, Miller and Rose are not as far apart on this issue as they might sound. John Eichelberger, a volcanologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, may have summed up the situation best when I asked him if the field was well on its way to becoming an exact science or was still in its infancy. He chuckled and said, "Well, when it works, it's well on its way. When we have a spectacular failure, it's in its infancy."
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