Dr. Mike Sheridan

It’s a wonderful time to live on planet Earth; violence is at the lowest level in recorded history; education is becoming more widely available for people in every corner of the globe; and science has explored more in the past century than ever before. But there is a looming threat beneath the feet of millions of humans: volcanoes.

As it turns out, despite moon landings, biological cloning, and record lifespans, scientists continue to struggle to understand volcanoes. Scott Pelley of CBS explored the alarming threat with help from University at Buffalo researcher Dr. Mike Sheridan (technically a “volcanologist”) in the series’ January 5 broadcast.

Sheridan helps Pelley understand his work:

We went for a look, up close, with American volcanologist Mike Sheridan. We flew over the cinder cone on the helicopters of the Guardia di Finanza a police force that helps keep watch the mountain.

Vesuvius is Sheridan’s life’s work. And he has warned the government it can’t count on evacuating the number of people in harm’s way.

Scott Pelley: And what is that number?

Mike Sheridan: Well, it depends on the type of explosion. If there’s one like the last big eruption that occurred in 1631 there would be about 600,000 people. But if it is an eruption like the 2,000 year ago eruption that destroyed Pompeii the number could be up to 3.5 million.

Watch the full segment at CBS News and learn about the University at Buffalo Department of Geology.

View the video on CBSnews.com