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Essay With Sources Cited Volcano

This article is about the geological feature. For other uses, see Volcano (disambiguation) and Volcanic (disambiguation).

For a broader coverage related to this topic, see Volcanism.

A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface.

Earth's volcanoes occur because its crust is broken into 17 major, rigid tectonic plates that float on a hotter, softer layer in its mantle.[1] Therefore, on Earth, volcanoes are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging, and most are found underwater. For example, a mid-oceanic ridge, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has volcanoes caused by divergent tectonic plates whereas the Pacific Ring of Fire has volcanoes caused by convergent tectonic plates. Volcanoes can also form where there is stretching and thinning of the crust's plates, e.g., in the East African Rift and the Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field and Rio Grande Rift in North America. This type of volcanism falls under the umbrella of "plate hypothesis" volcanism.[2] Volcanism away from plate boundaries has also been explained as mantle plumes. These so-called "hotspots", for example Hawaii, are postulated to arise from upwelling diapirs with magma from the core–mantle boundary, 3,000 km deep in the Earth. Volcanoes are usually not created where two tectonic plates slide past one another.

Erupting volcanoes can pose many hazards, not only in the immediate vicinity of the eruption. One such hazard is that volcanic ash can be a threat to aircraft, in particular those with jet engines where ash particles can be melted by the high operating temperature; the melted particles then adhere to the turbine blades and alter their shape, disrupting the operation of the turbine. Large eruptions can affect temperature as ash and droplets of sulfuric acid obscure the sun and cool the Earth's lower atmosphere (or troposphere); however, they also absorb heat radiated from the Earth, thereby warming the upper atmosphere (or stratosphere). Historically, volcanic winters have caused catastrophic famines.

Etymology

The word volcano is derived from the name of Vulcano, a volcanic island in the Aeolian Islands of Italy whose name in turn comes from Vulcan, the god of fire in Roman mythology.[3] The study of volcanoes is called volcanology, sometimes spelled vulcanology.

Plate tectonics

Main article: Plate tectonics

Divergent plate boundaries

Main article: Divergent boundary

At the mid-oceanic ridges, two tectonic plates diverge from one another as new oceanic crust is formed by the cooling and solidifying of hot molten rock. Because the crust is very thin at these ridges due to the pull of the tectonic plates, the release of pressure leads to adiabatic expansion (without transfer of heat or matter) and the partial melting of the mantle, causing volcanism and creating new oceanic crust. Most divergent plate boundaries are at the bottom of the oceans; therefore, most volcanic activity on the Earth is submarine, forming new seafloor. Black smokers (also known as deep sea vents) are evidence of this kind of volcanic activity. Where the mid-oceanic ridge is above sea-level, volcanic islands are formed; for example, Iceland.

Convergent plate boundaries

Main article: Convergent boundary

Subduction zones are places where two plates, usually an oceanic plate and a continental plate, collide. In this case, the oceanic plate subducts, or submerges, under the continental plate, forming a deep ocean trench just offshore. In a process called flux melting, water released from the subducting plate lowers the melting temperature of the overlying mantle wedge, thus creating magma. This magma tends to be extremely viscous because of its high silica content, so it often does not attain the surface but cools and solidifies at depth. When it does reach the surface, however, a volcano is formed. Typical examples are Mount Etna and the volcanoes in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Hotspots

Main article: Hotspot (geology)

Hotspots are volcanic areas believed to be formed by mantle plumes, which are hypothesized to be columns of hot material rising from the core-mantle boundary in a fixed space that causes large-volume melting. Because tectonic plates move across them, each volcano becomes dormant and is eventually re-formed as the plate advances over the postulated plume. The Hawaiian Islands are said to have been formed in such a manner; so has the Snake River Plain, with the Yellowstone Caldera being the part of the North American plate above the hot spot. This theory, however, has been doubted.[2]

Volcanic features

The most common perception of a volcano is of a conical mountain, spewing lava and poisonous gases from a crater at its summit; however, this describes just one of the many types of volcano. The features of volcanoes are much more complicated and their structure and behavior depends on a number of factors. Some volcanoes have rugged peaks formed by lava domes rather than a summit crater while others have landscape features such as massive plateaus. Vents that issue volcanic material (including lava and ash) and gases (mainly steam and magmatic gases) can develop anywhere on the landform and may give rise to smaller cones such as Puʻu ʻŌʻō on a flank of Hawaii's Kīlauea. Other types of volcano include cryovolcanoes (or ice volcanoes), particularly on some moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune; and mud volcanoes, which are formations often not associated with known magmatic activity. Active mud volcanoes tend to involve temperatures much lower than those of igneous volcanoes except when the mud volcano is actually a vent of an igneous volcano.

Fissure vents

Main article: Fissure vent

Volcanic fissure vents are flat, linear fractures through which lava emerges.

Shield volcanoes

Main article: Shield volcano

Shield volcanoes, so named for their broad, shield-like profiles, are formed by the eruption of low-viscosity lava that can flow a great distance from a vent. They generally do not explode catastrophically. Since low-viscosity magma is typically low in silica, shield volcanoes are more common in oceanic than continental settings. The Hawaiian volcanic chain is a series of shield cones, and they are common in Iceland, as well.

Lava domes

Main article: Lava dome

Lava domes are built by slow eruptions of highly viscous lava. They are sometimes formed within the crater of a previous volcanic eruption, as in the case of Mount Saint Helens, but can also form independently, as in the case of Lassen Peak. Like stratovolcanoes, they can produce violent, explosive eruptions, but their lava generally does not flow far from the originating vent.

Cryptodomes

Cryptodomes are formed when viscous lava is forced upward causing the surface to bulge. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was an example; lava beneath the surface of the mountain created an upward bulge which slid down the north side of the mountain.

Volcanic cones (cinder cones)

Main articles: volcanic cone and Cinder cone

Volcanic cones or cinder cones result from eruptions of mostly small pieces of scoria and pyroclastics (both resemble cinders, hence the name of this volcano type) that build up around the vent. These can be relatively short-lived eruptions that produce a cone-shaped hill perhaps 30 to 400 meters high. Most cinder cones erupt only once. Cinder cones may form as flank vents on larger volcanoes, or occur on their own. Parícutin in Mexico and Sunset Crater in Arizona are examples of cinder cones. In New Mexico, Caja del Rio is a volcanic field of over 60 cinder cones.

Based on satellite images it was suggested that cinder cones might occur on other terrestrial bodies in the Solar system too; on the surface of Mars and the Moon.[4][5][6][7]

Stratovolcanoes (composite volcanoes)

Main article: Stratovolcano

Stratovolcanoes or composite volcanoes are tall conical mountains composed of lava flows and other ejecta in alternate layers, the strata that gives rise to the name. Stratovolcanoes are also known as composite volcanoes because they are created from multiple structures during different kinds of eruptions. Strato/composite volcanoes are made of cinders, ash, and lava. Cinders and ash pile on top of each other, lava flows on top of the ash, where it cools and hardens, and then the process repeats. Classic examples include Mount Fuji in Japan, Mayon Volcano in the Philippines, and Mount Vesuvius and Stromboli in Italy.

Throughout recorded history, ash produced by the explosive eruption of stratovolcanoes has posed the greatest volcanic hazard to civilizations. Not only do stratovolcanoes have greater pressure build up from the underlying lava flow than shield volcanoes, but their fissure vents and monogenetic volcanic fields (volcanic cones) have more powerful eruptions, as they are many times under extension. They are also steeper than shield volcanoes, with slopes of 30–35° compared to slopes of generally 5–10°, and their loose tephra are material for dangerous lahars.[8] Large pieces of tephra are called volcanic bombs. Big bombs can measure more than 4 feet(1.2 meters) across and weigh several tons.[9]

Supervolcanoes

Main article: Supervolcano

See also: List of largest volcanic eruptions

A supervolcano usually has a large caldera and can produce devastation on an enormous, sometimes continental, scale. Such volcanoes are able to severely cool global temperatures for many years after the eruption due to the huge volumes of sulfur and ash released into the atmosphere. They are the most dangerous type of volcano. Examples include: Yellowstone Caldera in Yellowstone National Park and Valles Caldera in New Mexico (both western United States); Lake Taupo in New Zealand; Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia; and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Because of the enormous area they may cover, supervolcanoes are hard to identify centuries after an eruption. Similarly, large igneous provinces are also considered supervolcanoes because of the vast amount of basalt lava erupted (even though the lava flow is non-explosive).

Underwater volcanoes

Main article: Submarine volcano

See also: Subaqueous volcano

Submarine volcanoes are common features of the ocean floor. In shallow water, active volcanoes disclose their presence by blasting steam and rocky debris high above the ocean's surface. In the ocean's deep, the tremendous weight of the water above prevents the explosive release of steam and gases; however, they can be detected by hydrophones and discoloration of water because of volcanic gases. Pillow lava is a common eruptive product of submarine volcanoes and is characterized by thick sequences of discontinuous pillow-shaped masses which form under water. Even large submarine eruptions may not disturb the ocean surface due to the rapid cooling effect and increased buoyancy of water (as compared to air) which often causes volcanic vents to form steep pillars on the ocean floor. Hydrothermal vents are common near these volcanoes, and some support peculiar ecosystems based on dissolved minerals. Over time, the formations created by submarine volcanoes may become so large that they break the ocean surface as new islands or floating pumice rafts.

Subglacial volcanoes

Main article: Subglacial volcano

Subglacial volcanoes develop underneath icecaps. They are made up of flat lava which flows at the top of extensive pillow lavas and palagonite. When the icecap melts, the lava on top collapses, leaving a flat-topped mountain. These volcanoes are also called table mountains, tuyas, or (uncommonly) mobergs. Very good examples of this type of volcano can be seen in Iceland, however, there are also tuyas in British Columbia. The origin of the term comes from Tuya Butte, which is one of the several tuyas in the area of the Tuya River and Tuya Range in northern British Columbia. Tuya Butte was the first such landform analyzed and so its name has entered the geological literature for this kind of volcanic formation. The Tuya Mountains Provincial Park was recently established to protect this unusual landscape, which lies north of Tuya Lake and south of the Jennings River near the boundary with the Yukon Territory.

Mud volcanoes

Main article: Mud volcano

Mud volcanoes or mud domes are formations created by geo-excreted liquids and gases, although there are several processes which may cause such activity. The largest structures are 10 kilometers in diameter and reach 700 meters high.

Erupted material

Lava composition

Another way of classifying volcanoes is by the composition of material erupted (lava), since this affects the shape of the volcano. Lava can be broadly classified into four different compositions:[10]

  • If the erupted magma contains a high percentage (>63%) of silica, the lava is called felsic.
    • Felsic lavas (dacites or rhyolites) tend to be highly viscous (not very fluid) and are erupted as domes or short, stubby flows. Viscous lavas tend to form stratovolcanoes or lava domes. Lassen Peak in California is an example of a volcano formed from felsic lava and is actually a large lava dome.
    • Because siliceous magmas are so viscous, they tend to trap volatiles (gases) that are present, which cause the magma to erupt catastrophically, eventually forming stratovolcanoes. Pyroclastic flows (ignimbrites) are highly hazardous products of such volcanoes, since they are composed of molten volcanic ash too heavy to go up into the atmosphere, so they hug the volcano's slopes and travel far from their vents during large eruptions. Temperatures as high as 1,200 °C are known to occur in pyroclastic flows, which will incinerate everything flammable in their path and thick layers of hot pyroclastic flow deposits can be laid down, often up to many meters thick. Alaska's Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, formed by the eruption of Novarupta near Katmai in 1912, is an example of a thick pyroclastic flow or ignimbrite deposit. Volcanic ash that is light enough to be erupted high into the Earth's atmosphere may travel many kilometres before it falls back to ground as a tuff.
  • If the erupted magma contains 52–63% silica, the lava is of intermediate composition.
  • If the erupted magma contains <52% and >45% silica, the lava is called mafic (because it contains higher percentages of magnesium (Mg) and iron (Fe)) or basaltic. These lavas are usually much less viscous than rhyolitic lavas, depending on their eruption temperature; they also tend to be hotter than felsic lavas. Mafic lavas occur in a wide range of settings:
  • Some erupted magmas contain <=45% silica and produce ultramafic lava. Ultramafic flows, also known as komatiites, are very rare; indeed, very few have been erupted at the Earth's surface since the Proterozoic, when the planet's heat flow was higher. They are (or were) the hottest lavas, and probably more fluid than common mafic lavas.

Lava texture

Two types of lava are named according to the surface texture: ʻAʻa (pronounced [ˈʔaʔa]) and pāhoehoe ([paːˈho.eˈho.e]), both Hawaiian words. ʻAʻa is characterized by a rough, clinkery surface and is the typical texture of viscous lava flows. However, even basaltic or mafic flows can be erupted as ʻaʻa flows, particularly if the eruption rate is high and the slope is steep.

Pāhoehoe is characterized by its smooth and often ropey or wrinkly surface and is generally formed from more fluid lava flows. Usually, only mafic flows will erupt as pāhoehoe, since they often erupt at higher temperatures or have the proper chemical make-up to allow them to flow with greater fluidity.

Volcanic activity

Popular classification of volcanoes

A popular way of classifying magmatic volcanoes is by their frequency of eruption[according to whom?], with those that erupt regularly called active, those that have erupted in historical times but are now quiet called dormant or inactive, and those that have not erupted in historical times called extinct. However, these popular classifications—extinct in particular—are practically meaningless to scientists. They use classifications which refer to a particular volcano's formative and eruptive processes and resulting shapes, which was explained above.

Active

See also: Category:Active volcanoes, Category:Potentially active volcanoes, and List of currently erupting volcanoes

There is no consensus among volcanologists on how to define an "active" volcano. The lifespan of a volcano can vary from months to several million years, making such a distinction sometimes meaningless when compared to the lifespans of humans or even civilizations. For example, many of Earth's volcanoes have erupted dozens of times in the past few thousand years but are not currently showing signs of eruption. Given the long lifespan of such volcanoes, they are very active. By human lifespans, however, they are not.

Scientists usually consider a volcano to be erupting or likely to erupt if it is currently erupting, or showing signs of unrest such as unusual earthquake activity or significant new gas emissions. Most scientists consider a volcano active if it has erupted in the last 10,000 years (Holocene times) – the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program uses this definition of active. Most volcanoes are situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire.[11] An estimated 500 million people live near active volcanoes.[11]

Historical time (or recorded history) is another timeframe for active.[12][13] The Catalogue of the Active Volcanoes of the World, published by the International Association of Volcanology, uses this definition, by which there are more than 500 active volcanoes.[12] However, the span of recorded history differs from region to region. In China and the Mediterranean, it reaches back nearly 3,000 years, but in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada, it reaches back less than 300 years, and in Hawaii and New Zealand, only around 200 years.[12]

As of 2013, the following are considered Earth's most active volcanoes:[14]

As of August 2013[update], the longest ongoing (but not necessarily continuous) volcanic eruptive phases are:[15]

  • Mount Yasur, 111 years
  • Mount Etna, 109 years
  • Stromboli, 108 years
  • Santa María, 101 years
  • Sangay, 94 years

Other very active volcanoes include:

  • Mount Nyiragongo and its neighbor, Nyamuragira, are Africa's most active volcanoes .
  • Piton de la Fournaise, in Réunion, erupts frequently enough to be a tourist attraction.
  • Erta Ale, in the Afar Triangle, has maintained a lava lake since at least 1906.
  • Mount Erebus, in Antarctica, has maintained a lava lake since at least 1972.
  • Mount Merapi
  • Whakaari / White Island, has been in continuous state of smoking since its discovery in 1769.
  • Ol Doinyo Lengai
  • Ambrym
  • Arenal Volcano
  • Pacaya
  • Klyuchevskaya Sopka
  • Sheveluch

Extinct

"Extinct volcano" redirects here. For the category of extinct volcanoes, see Category:Extinct volcanoes.

Extinct volcanoes are those that scientists consider unlikely to erupt again because the volcano no longer has a magma supply. Examples of extinct volcanoes are many volcanoes on the Hawaiian – Emperor seamount chain in the Pacific Ocean (although some volcanoes at the eastern end of the chain are active), Hohentwiel in Germany, Shiprock in New Mexico, and Zuidwal volcano in the Netherlands. Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is famously located atop an extinct volcano. Otherwise, whether a volcano is truly extinct is often difficult to determine. Since "supervolcano" calderas can have eruptive lifespans sometimes measured in millions of years, a caldera that has not produced an eruption in tens of thousands of years is likely to be considered dormant instead of extinct. Some volcanologists refer to extinct volcanoes as inactive, though the term is now more commonly used for dormant volcanoes once thought to be extinct.

Dormant and reactivated

See also: Category:Dormant volcanoes and Category:Inactive volcanoes

It is difficult to distinguish an extinct volcano from a dormant (inactive) one. Volcanoes are often considered to be extinct if there are no written records of its activity. Nevertheless, volcanoes may remain dormant for a long period of time. For example, Yellowstone has a repose/recharge period of around 700,000 years, and Toba of around 380,000 years.[16]Vesuvius was described by Roman writers as having been covered with gardens and vineyards before its eruption of 79 CE, which destroyed the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Before its catastrophic eruption of 1991, Pinatubo was an inconspicuous volcano, unknown to most people in the surrounding areas. Two other examples are the long-dormant Soufrière Hills volcano on the island of Montserrat, thought to be extinct before activity resumed in 1995, and Fourpeaked Mountain in Alaska, which, before its September 2006 eruption, had not erupted since before 8000 BCE and had long been thought to be extinct. Climate change can reportedly trigger volcanic activity in sensitive areas by changing pressure of ice or seawater and extreme weather.[17]

Technical classification of volcanoes

Volcanic-alert level

The three common popular classifications of volcanoes can be subjective and some volcanoes thought to have been extinct have erupted again. To help prevent people from falsely believing they are not at risk when living on or near a volcano, countries have adopted new classifications to describe the various levels and stages of volcanic activity.[18] Some alert systems use different numbers or colors to designate the different stages. Other systems use colors and words. Some systems use a combination of both.

Volcano warning schemes of the United States

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has adopted a common system nationwide for characterizing the level of unrest and eruptive activity at volcanoes. The new volcano alert-level system classifies volcanoes now as being in a normal, advisory, watch or warning stage. Additionally, colors are used to denote the amount of ash produced. Details of the U.S. system can be found at Volcano warning schemes of the United States.

Decade volcanoes

Main articles: Lists of volcanoes and Decade Volcanoes

The Decade Volcanoes are 17 volcanoes identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) as being worthy of particular study in light of their history of large, destructive eruptions and proximity to populated areas. They are named Decade Volcanoes because the project was initiated as part of the United Nations-sponsored International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. The 17 current Decade Volcanoes are

  • Avachinsky-Koryaksky (grouped together), Kamchatka, Russia
  • Nevado de Colima, Jalisco and Colima, Mexico
  • Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy
  • Galeras, Nariño, Colombia
  • Mauna Loa, Hawaii, USA
  • Mount Merapi, Central Java, Indonesia
  • Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Mount Rainier, Washington, USA
  • Sakurajima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
  • Santa Maria/Santiaguito, Guatemala
  • Santorini, Cyclades, Greece
  • Taal Volcano, Luzon, Philippines
  • Teide, Canary Islands, Spain
  • Ulawun, New Britain, Papua New Guinea
  • Mount Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan
  • Vesuvius, Naples, Italy

The Deep Earth Carbon Degassing Project, an initiative of the Deep Carbon Observatory, monitors nine volcanoes, two of which are Decade volcanoes. The focus of the Deep Earth Carbon Degassing Project is to use Multi-Component Gas Analyzer System instruments to measure CO2/SO2 ratios in real-time and in high-resolution to allow detection of the pre-eruptive degassing of rising magmas, improving prediction of volcanic activity.[19]

Effects of volcanoes

There are many different types of volcanic eruptions and associated activity: phreatic eruptions (steam-generated eruptions), explosive eruption of high-silica lava (e.g., rhyolite), effusive eruption of low-silica lava (e.g., basalt), pyroclastic flows, lahars (debris flow) and carbon dioxide emission. All of these activities can pose a hazard to humans. Earthquakes, hot springs, fumaroles, mud pots and geysers often accompany volcanic activity.

Volcanic gases

The concentrations of different volcanic gases can vary considerably from one volcano to the next. Water vapor is typically the most abundant volcanic gas, followed by carbon dioxide[20] and sulfur dioxide. Other principal volcanic gases include hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen fluoride. A large number of minor and trace gases are also found in volcanic emissions, for example hydrogen, carbon monoxide, halocarbons, organic compounds, and volatile metal chlorides.

Large, explosive volcanic eruptions inject water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), hydrogen chloride (HCl), hydrogen fluoride (HF) and ash (pulverized rock and pumice) into the stratosphere to heights of 16–32 kilometres (10–20 mi) above the Earth's surface. The most significant impacts from these injections come from the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid (H2SO4), which condenses rapidly in the stratosphere to form fine sulfateaerosols. The SO2 emissions alone of two different eruptions are sufficient to compare their potential climatic impact.[21] The aerosols increase the Earth's albedo—its reflection of radiation from the Sun back into space—and thus cool the Earth's lower atmosphere or troposphere; however, they also absorb heat radiated up from the Earth, thereby warming the stratosphere. Several eruptions during the past century have caused a decline in the average temperature at the Earth's surface of up to half a degree (Fahrenheit scale) for periods of one to three years; sulfur dioxide from the eruption of Huaynaputina probably caused the Russian famine of 1601–1603.[22]

Significant consequences

Prehistory

A volcanic winter is said to have taken place around 70,000 years ago after the supereruption of Lake Toba on Sumatra island in Indonesia.[23] According to the Toba catastrophe theory to which some anthropologists and archeologists subscribe, it had global consequences,[24] killing most humans then alive and creating a population bottleneck that affected the genetic inheritance of all humans today.[25]

It has been suggested that volcanic activity caused or contributed to the End-Ordovician, Permian-Triassic, Late Devonianmass extinctions, and possibly others. The massive eruptive event which formed the Siberian Traps, one of the largest known volcanic events of the last 500 million years of Earth's geological history, continued for a million years and is considered to be the likely cause of the "Great Dying" about 250 million years ago,[26] which is estimated to have killed 90% of species existing at the time.[27]

Historical

The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora created global climate anomalies that became known as the "Year Without a Summer" because of the effect on North American and European weather.[28] Agricultural crops failed and livestock died in much of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in one of the worst famines of the 19th century.[29]

The freezing winter of 1740–41, which led to widespread famine in northern Europe, may also owe its origins to a volcanic eruption.[30]

Acid rain

Sulfate aerosols promote complex chemical reactions on their surfaces that alter chlorine and nitrogen chemical species in the stratosphere. This effect, together with increased stratospheric chlorine levels from chlorofluorocarbon pollution, generates chlorine monoxide (ClO), which destroys ozone (O3). As the aerosols grow and coagulate, they settle down into the upper troposphere where they serve as nuclei for cirrus clouds and further modify the Earth's radiation

A 2007 eruptive column at Mount Etna producing volcanic ash, pumice and lava bombs
Map showing the divergent plate boundaries (oceanic spreading ridges) and recent sub-aerial volcanoes
Izalco (volcano), located in the Cordillera de Apaneca volcanic range complex in El Salvador. Only a few generations old, Izalco is the youngest and best known cone volcano. Izalco erupted almost continuously from 1770 (when it formed) to 1958, earning it the nickname of "Lighthouse of the Pacific".
Cross-section through a stratovolcano (vertical scale is exaggerated):
  1. Large magma chamber
  2. Bedrock
  3. Conduit (pipe)
  4. Base
  5. Sill
  6. Dike
  7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano
  8. Flank
  9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano
  10. Throat
  11. Parasitic cone
  12. Lava flow
  13. Vent
  14. Crater
  15. Ash cloud
San Miguel (volcano), El Salvador. On December 29, 2013, San Miguel volcano, also known as "Chaparrastique", erupted at 10:30 local time, spewing a large column of ash and smoke into the sky; the eruption, the first in 11 years, was seen from space and prompted the evacuation of thousands of people living in a 3 km radius around the volcano.
Ash plume from San Miguel (volcano) "Chaparrastique", seen from a satellite, as it heads towards the Pacific Ocean from the El Salvador Central America coast, December 29, 2013
Kīlauea lava entering the sea.
Schematic of volcano injection of aerosols and gases
Solar radiation graph 1958–2008, showing how the radiation is reduced after major volcanic eruptions

research in volcano science. Chapter 6 provides overarching conclusions. Supporting material appears in appendixes, including a list of volcano databases (see Appendix A), a list of workshop participants (see Appendix B), biographical sketches of the committee members (see Appendix C), and a list of acronyms and abbreviations (see Appendix D).

Background information on these topics is summarized in the rest of this chapter.

1.2 VOLCANOES IN THE UNITED STATES

The USGS has identified 169 potentially active volcanoes in the United States and its territories (e.g., Marianas), 55 of which pose a high threat or very high threat (Ewert et al., 2005). Of the total, 84 are monitored by at least one seismometer, and only 3 have gas sensors (as of November 2016).1 Volcanoes are found in the Cascade mountains, Aleutian arc, Hawaii, and the western interior of the continental United States (Figure 1.4). The geographical extent and eruption hazards of these volcanoes are summarized below.

The Cascade volcanoes extend from Lassen Peak in northern California to Mount Meager in British Columbia. The historical record contains only small- to moderate-sized eruptions, but the geologic record reveals much larger eruptions (Carey et al., 1995; Hildreth, 2007). Activity tends to be sporadic (Figure 1.5). For example, nine Cascade eruptions occurred in the 1850s, but none occurred between 1915 and 1980, when Mount St. Helens erupted. Consequently, forecasting eruptions in the Cascades is subject to considerable uncertainty. Over the coming decades, there may be multiple eruptions from several volcanoes or no eruptions at all.

The Aleutian arc extends 2,500 km across the North Pacific and comprises more than 130 active and potentially active volcanoes. Although remote, these volcanoes pose a high risk to overflying aircraft that carry more than 30,000 passengers a day, and are monitored by a combination of ground- and space-based sensors. One or two small to moderate explosive eruptions occur in the Aleutians every year, and very large eruptions occur less frequently. For example, the world’s largest eruption of the 20th century occurred approximately 300 miles from Anchorage, in 1912.

In Hawaii, Kilauea has been erupting largely effusively since 1983, but the location and nature of eruptions can vary dramatically, presenting challenges for disaster preparation. The population at risk from large-volume, rapidly moving lava flows on the flanks of the Mauna Loa volcano has grown tremendously in the past few decades (Dietterich and Cashman, 2014), and few island residents are prepared for the even larger magnitude explosive eruptions that are documented in the last 500 years (Swanson et al., 2014).

All western states have potentially active volcanoes, from New Mexico, where lava flows have reached within a few kilometers of the Texas and Oklahoma borders (Fitton et al., 1991), to Montana, which borders the Yellowstone caldera (Christiansen, 1984). These volcanoes range from immense calderas that formed from super-eruptions (Mastin et al., 2014) to small-volume basaltic volcanic fields that erupt lava flows and tephra for a few months to a few decades. Some of these eruptions are monogenic (erupt just once) and pose a special challenge for forecasting. Rates of activity in these distributed volcanic fields are low, with many eruptions during the past few thousand years (e.g., Dunbar, 1999; Fenton, 2012; Laughlin et al., 1994), but none during the past hundred years.

1.3 THE STRUCTURE OF A VOLCANO

Volcanoes often form prominent landforms, with imposing peaks that tower above the surrounding landscape, large depressions (calderas), or volcanic fields with numerous dispersed cinder cones, shield volcanoes, domes, and lava flows. These various landforms reflect the plate tectonic setting, the ways in which those volcanoes erupt, and the number of eruptions. Volcanic landforms change continuously through the interplay between constructive processes such as eruption and intrusion, and modification by tectonics, climate, and erosion. The stratigraphic and structural architecture of volcanoes yields critical information on eruption history and processes that operate within the volcano.

Beneath the volcano lies a magmatic system that in most cases extends through the crust, except during eruption. Depending on the setting, magmas may rise

___________________

1 Personal communication from Charles Mandeville, Program Coordinator, Volcano Hazards Program, U.S. Geological Survey, on November 26, 2016.