Scientist helps to create hottest card game around.

The Volcano Top Trumps which Dr Jenni Barclay has helped develop.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY The Volcano Top Trumps which Dr Jenni Barclay has helped develop. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
4:40 PM

What beats a job visiting volcanoes around the world? The chance to turn them into an iconic game. Rowan Mantell talks to the Norwich scientist holding all the trump cards.

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Top 10 Volcanic Facts

• On any given day 20 volcanoes are likely to be erupting somewhere in the world.

• The world’s largest active volcano is Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

• The eruption of Krakatau in Indonesia in 1883 is said to be the loudest sound reported in history.

• The Lake Toba eruption in Indonesia almost 75,000 years ago blocked out the sun and triggered an ice age.

• The eruption of the volcanic Mediterranean island of Thera or Santorini, 3,500 years ago, destroyed an entire civilisation.

• The word volcano comes from the name of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan.

• One in 10 of the world’s population live within the danger range of an active volcano.

• The biggest known volcano in the solar system is on Mars.

• One of the world’sBritain’s largest active volcanoes is called Belinda. It is on Montagu Island, off the coast of Antarctica.

• There are no active volcanoes on mainland Britain, but plenty of evidence of extinct volcanoes including Arthur’s Seat and Castle Rock in Edinburgh and much of the Lake District.

If it’s wow factor you want this Christmas, meet the collection of volcanoes spitting fire and lava erupting into family festivities thanks to Norfolk scientist Jenni Barclay

The newest, fiercest, most fiery and destructive Top Trumps game pits the wow factor of Eyjafjallajökull against the devastation potential of Krakatoa.

And the explosive facts and figures behind Volcano Top Trumps were devised by a team led by a Norwich volcanologist.

“As Top Trumps fans we couldn’t believe there wasn’t one for volcanoes,” said Jenny.

So she wrote to the company - and was thrilled to get the go-ahead to create the first volcanic version of the iconic game.

The scientists ranked 30 volcanoes around the world for explosivity, deadliness, devastation potential, height, unpredictability and wow factor – and then fought Top Trumps battles to fine-tune their game.

Jenni’s two daughters, 11-year-old Morven and nine-year-old Eilidh, joined the fun. “They play Top Trumps a lot so they gave us some feedback,” she said. Now the first edition of Volcano Top Trumps is selling fast and the cards don’t just focus on the stunning power of volcanoes. They also reveal the devastating trail of destruction they can create, so all profits will go to people suffering from the effects of volcanic activity.

Jenni leads a group of experts from UEA, and the universities of Oxford and Plymouth, who work together to research volcanoes and help people living in threatened areas. The Strengthening Resilience in Volcanic Areas (STREVA) Project explores ways of predicting and mitigating the impact of eruptions as well as researching volcanic activity. Dr Paul Cole of Plymouth University said: “Through Top Trumps, we are highlighting those serious and important messages in a fun and informative way.”

Volcanologists from around the world contributed stunning pictures of both dormant and erupting volcanoes to use on the cards and Jenni’s team decided on the facts and fine-tuned the figures used in the game. Her favourite category is “Wow Factor!” and for her, the volcano with the most wow factor is Crater Lake in Oregon.

“It had this incredibly large eruption which left a beautiful lake. It’s not until you go and see it you realise how big that explosion must have been,” she explained. But her favourite card in the deck is of Soufrierre Hills in Montserrat. “It’s not necessarily a big winner but it is ‘my’ volcano!” she said. “I have visited it many times.”

Jenni is one of the country’s leading volcanologists and shared her passion for all things volcanic with BBC viewers, as a presenter of the prime time Volcano Live! series.

Her fascination with volcanoes began as a child. “My mum has a school project from when I was small, called ‘The Violent Earth!’” she said.

She would have loved the chance to play Volcano Top Trumps as a child – but had to make do with sets featuring dinosaurs and cars. Now her daughters are delighted to be able to pit fiery mountains against explosive eruptions – but still believe the Dr Who cards trumps even volcanoes.

And Jenni is still just as awed by volcanoes as she was as a child.

“They are the most obvious manifestation of the huge amount of energy within the earth, and they show us some of the amazing processes that take place. It’s almost impossible to watch an eruption and not erupt yourself in amazement and wonder!” she said.

She studied geology at university and worked at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory before arriving at the University of East Anglia. She is married to UEA professor, Ian Renfrew, an expert in polar weather systems.

It has been a busy year for Jenni. As well as helping create the first ever Volcano Top Trumps, her presentation, Pompei Live, was beamed to cinemas around the country in association with the major British Museum exhibition on Pompei. She also led the team which created a new volcano in Norwich to celebrate UEA’s 50th anniversary. The steam-hissing, fireworks-flaring volcano on the university campus was one of the highlights (literally) of the anniversary celebrations.

Next month Jenni will revisit her favourite volcano, on the Caribbean island of Montserrat – and take her pack of Volcano Top Trumps along. She will be working with local and international researchers on the island as they continue to study the volcano and learn more about how to predict eruptions and get information to those in danger. But during breaks in the serious science, participants will be honing their skills ready for a major Top Trumps tournament.