One of the most spectacular, awesomely beautiful, and at times destructive displays of natural energy is an erupting volcano, belching fume and ash thousands of meters into the atmosphere and pouring out red-hot molten lava in fountains and streams. Countless eruptions in the geologic past have produced volcanic rocks that form much of the Earth's present surface. The gradual disintegration and weathering of these rocks have yielded some of the richest farmlands in the world, and these fertile soils play a significant role in sustaining our large and growing population. Were it not for volcanic activity, the Hawaiian Islands with their sugar cane and pineapple fields and magnificent landscapes and seascapes would not exist to support their residents and to charm their visitors. Yet, the actual eruptive processes are catastrophic and can claim life and property.