One of the most frightening weapons of mass destruction in Mother Nature’s weapons arsenal is a volcano. Unlike humans, Nature has absolutely no intentions of neutralizing its most destructive forces.
In fact, there are thousands of potentially active volcanoes throughout the world that, if unleashed together, will invariably mean – Doomsday! But what are these volcanoes? How terrible are they? Do they only bring death?
There are many questions like these. Let us learn 65 interesting facts about volcanoes and in the process, find out the answers to those questions. Are you ready?
Volcano Facts: 1-5
1. There is an endangered bird species known as the Maleo. It is the only known bird species on earth that uses geothermal energy from the volcanoes to incubate the eggs.
2. The mama bird lays eggs that are 5 times bigger than chicken eggs. It is not possible for the mama bird to incubate them all together and hence, she seeks out exposed volcanic areas where the eggs can hatch using the geothermal energy from the volcanoes.
3. Volcanoes spew out lava, rocks, ashes and deadly gases. That’s frightening but volcanoes can take terror to a whole new level by screaming just before exploding. There is one volcano in this world that did this. Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano erupted in 2009, but right before erupting, the volcano started screaming. Listen to the scream here.
4. In Hawaii you will find two mountains – Mauna Lao and Mauna Kea. Do, you know what they are? They are massive volcanoes and they cover almost entire Hawaii.
Did you know?
Mauna Kea is the bigger one between Mauna Lao and Mauna Kea. Above the sea level it measures 4,205 meters. However, the height of the mountain when measured from the ocean floor is 10,210 meters. So, how big is that?
Heard of Mount Everest? It is considered to the highest mountain and measures 8,850 meters from base to tip. So, if we are to measure from base to tip (whether the base is above sea level or on ocean bed), Mauna Kea is the highest mountain in this world.
5. Volcanoes are of three types – ‘the cinder cone’, ‘the composite volcano’ and ‘the shield volcano’.
Volcano Facts: 6-10
6. The cinder cone volcano is the commonest type we can think of. It looks like a mountain with a hollow top having a lava pit.
7. The composite volcano is nothing but a symmetrical steep mountain and is composed of layers of cinder, ash, lava vents and other several other materials. When this type of a volcano erupts, it shoots out rocks and lava in form of flying bombs known as lava bombs.
8. The shield volcano is nothing but a relatively flat mountain that can span over an area of 100 miles or 160 kilometers. Inside the shield volcano one can usually find massive lava flows. Mauna Lao and Mauna Kea are shield volcanoes.
9. There is a fourth type of volcano but is not usually considered as a volcano. It is known as lava dome. These are formed after lava flow from a volcanic eruption is trapped in a caldera or valley.
10. The lava fails to flow far enough and forms a dome-like structure. The dome then gradually cools from inside. It may look harmless but can be a potential threat because the hot magma inside the dome can erratically explode and lead to massive eruptions.
Volcano Facts: 11-15
11. There is only one volcano in this world that spews out a type of lava that geologists often call as the ‘lava from another planet’. The volcano’s name is Ol Doinyo Lengai, and it is in Tanzania.
12. Ol Doinyo Lengai is 2,200 meters tall and spews out ‘black lava’. Black lava is nothing but carbonatite substance which looks like mud and is dark in color.
13. The black lava is cooler than usual lava and its temperature can reach a maximum of 540℃. When the volcano erupts the lava usually cools while in air and falls in form of glass shards. It is a very active volcano but is relatively harmless.
14. Java’s stratovolcano known as Ijen is in the area which has very high volcanic activity. As a result of this, the site is rich in sulfur concentration providing huge mining reserves.
15. Unfortunately, the area where Ijen sits is also known to have some of the most lethal acid lakes in the world. The sulfur turned the water in surrounding lakes in sulfuric acid.
Volcano Facts: 16-20
16. Especially in the crater of the volcano is the lake Kawah Ijen, which is the world’s most lethal and largest acidic lake. The water in this lake is so acidic that it can literally eat up metals. The fumes that are released by the lake are also lethal.
17. If Ijen erupts, not only the lava flow, ashes and lethal gases will cause destruction, but the lake will also pose enormous threat. The acidic water from the lake can lead to acidic lahars. Lahars are nothing but mudslides and volcanic debris mixed with water.
18. In 1982 scientists came up with what is known as VEI or Volcanic Explosivity Index. This is used to determine the power of a volcanic eruption.
19. The VEI runs from 0 to 8. Eruptions with VEI 0-2 occur weekly or even daily. Scale 3 is considered severe. A category 3 volcanic eruption will shoot out ashes up to 15 kilometers high in sky. These eruptions usually occur once a year.
20. Scale 4-5 are volcanic eruptions that take place once every few decades or centuries. Volcanic ash can shoot up to 25 kilometers in sky. These are highly destructive eruptions.
Volcano Facts: 21-25
21. Scale 6-7 are called colossal eruptions and super-colossal eruptions respectively. They will shoot out lava bombs that can travel well over hundred miles or more, cause tsunamis and more!
22. In 1883 we experience a colossal explosion. The Krakatoa volcano erupted and was a category 6 explosion. It killed 36,417 people by thermal trauma and tsunamis.
23. 8 on the VEI scale is a mega-colossal explosion. How powerful is it? It is at least 100 times more powerful than a category 6 eruption.
24. One explosion of VEI-8 can mean end of this world. Luckily human race has never experienced one. A VEI-8 explosion can create a caldera that can accommodate a small country!
25. Of several super-colossal eruptions, three VEI-8 explosions that took place are:
- 24,500 B.C. in Taupo Volcano in New Zealand.
- 74,000 B.C. in Sumatra, Indonesia (Toba Supervolcano).
- 640,000 B.C. in Yellowstone.
Volcano Facts: 26-30
26. Anything that humans cannot control or are afraid of has been associated with gods and divinity. Volcanoes are no different. Ancient cultures had their own versions of volcano gods. Ancient Greeks had Hepaistos – the god of craftsmanship and fire.
27. Hepaistos of Greeks inspired god Vulcan for the Romans. For Romans Vulcan was blacksmith of gods. It is being said that Vulcan’s forge was on Vulcano, a volcanic island from which the volcanoes derived their names.
28. Like Vulcan, we have Pele among Hawaiians. Pele is the goddess of volcanoes. According to stories and legends, Pele once fought with her sister Namakaokahai, and this resulted in the creation of volcanoes, and that Pele became the supreme commander of the volcanoes.
29. Native Americans are not far behind and their concept of gods of volcanoes is somewhat like that of Hawaiians. Native American legends say that volcanoes were created by a duel between gods named Skell and Llao. Interestingly different tribes of Native Americans have their own version of legends.
30. The Aztec Empire gives the most interesting version of volcano gods. They humanized the twin volcanoes Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl.
Volcano Facts: 31-35
31. People went as far as building statues with human faces and worshiped those statues. Of these two volcanic mountains, the bigger one is represented by Gregorio – a person with wavy, blond and long hair.
32. Did you know that volcanoes can appear suddenly from the middle of nowhere? Paricutin, the Mexican volcano is a perfect example. Farmers, back in 1943, heard rumbling noises and noticed a long crack on the ground. They did not really pay attention because it was only shin-deep.
33. Moments later, the crack started widening with the rumbling noises deepening. They noticed that the earth gradually started rising. Within hours they noticed ash and sulfur coming out of the ground. Yes, Paricutin was born literally from the middle of nowhere.
34. After initial phase, the volcano was merely 6 meters tall. 24 hours later it was 165 meters tall and in 6 days it was 230 meters tall. The lava flow the Paricutin gradually consumed a town named San Juan.
35. The volcano kept erupting for 9 years and eventually died out, but before it died, it had covered 10 sq. mi. of fertile and cultivable land trapped under lava.
Volcano Facts: 36-40
36. The Paricutin volcano is a cinder cone volcano which rose to the height of 424 meters or 1,391 feet before it eventually died in 1952.
37. This volcano is a monogenetic volcano. A monogenetic volcano is a type of volcano that never erupts again once it dies. So, Paricutin will never erupt again.
38. Volcanoes can dramatically impact global climate. A volcanic eruption releases huge amounts ash that gets trapped in atmosphere and prevents sun rays from reaching the Earth. This results in a temperature drop and the climate cools down. This is a long-term effect.
39. In case you are wondering about immediate short-term effects, the acid that is released by volcanic eruptions destroys the ozone layer, letting in harmful UV rays of Sun.
40. Apart from that, these eruptions also release enormous amounts of carbon dioxide which is responsible for greenhouse effect that leads to immediate spike in temperature.
Volcano Facts: 41-45
41. The Krakatoa volcanic eruption in 1883 led to a temperature drop of 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit in Northern Hemisphere.
42. Stratovolcanoes or composite volcanoes are usually found in areas where one of the tectonic plates moves beneath another tectonic plate and produces magma.
43. Shield volcanoes are world’s largest volcanoes. They have gentle and broad slopes which are made of fluid basalt lavas.
44. World’s largest active volcano is in Hawaii. Known as Mauna Loa, it rises 4,170 meters or 13,677 feet above the sea level. If measured from deep ocean floor, it measures a total of 8,534 meters or 28,000 feet. The total volume of Mauna Lao is 19,000 cubic miles, which is equivalent to 80,000 cubic kilometers.
45. Indonesia ranks first in terms of number of active volcanoes throughout history. Second position is taken by Japan while U.S. ranks third in the list.
Volcano Facts: 46-50
46. Almost 80% of earth’s surface below or above sea level has volcanic origins.
47. Over last 10,000 years, a total of 1,500 or more volcanoes have erupted.
48. Of all volcanoes present on Earth, majority are located on seafloor. They are mostly located in mid-ocean ridge. The ridge is a chain of volcanoes that ring or encircle our planet Earth.
49. Mount Erebus is world’s southernmost active volcano. Located in Antarctica, Mount Erebus houses world’s longest-living lava lakes.
50. Pyroclastic flow is a term often associated with volcanic eruptions. It refers to an avalanche of volcanic gases, rock fragments, pumice and hot ash rushing down the slopes of a volcano at an amazing speed of 100 kilometers or 62 miles per hour.
Volcano Facts: 51-55
51. Pyroclastic flows are extremely hot and temperature usually exceeds 500 degree Celsius or 932 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature wood not only burns but gets carbonized.
52. In Italy there is a volcano named Stromboli Volcano which erupts frequently but eruptions are mild. The eruptions are so frequent that scientists have named this type of volcanism as Strombolian eruption.
53. Above sea level there are nearly 1,500 potentially active volcanoes. This number excludes the mid-ocean ridge volcanoes.
54. Hawaiian shield volcanoes form a type of glass known as Pele’s hair. Pele as mentioned before is the volcano goddess of Hawaii. These volcanic glasses are thin and long glass threads or strands. They are formed through stretching of molten basaltic glass from lava.
55. There is something called Pele’s tear. Pele’s tears are nothing but lava bits in lava fountains cooling quickly forming glass chunks or droplets or spherules. Usually black, Pele’s tears can be found at the ends of strands of Pele’s hair.
Volcano Facts: 56-60
56. We have heard of volcanic or lava bombs but what exactly are they? They are nothing but fragments of lava that take a rounded shape while flying through air.
57. World’s oldest and longest document activity is of Mount Etna. It has been active and erupted since 1500 B.C.
58. World’s largest and active supervolcano is Yellowstone Caldera. On top of the Caldera is the Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone supervolcano erupted thousands of years ago, but till date fuels nearly 10,000 hot springs and geysers (half of world’s geothermal features).
59. Volcanoes are often associated with what are known as Phreatic eruptions. These are nothing but eruptions caused by streams. What happens is that water either above or beneath the ground is heated to such an extent that it starts boiling and forms steam, which in turn causes the eruption.
60. Our entire world is threatened by what is known as Pacific Ring of Fire. It is a volcano string around Pacific Ocean’s perimeter. The Pacific Ring of Fire is responsible for giving some of the world’s deadliest eruptions. This is the area where several tectonic plates move beneath each other.
Volcano Facts: 61-65
61. The Pacific Ring of Fire houses 452 volcanoes that cover 75% of world’s total dormant and active volcanoes above sea level.
62. We have used the term caldera several times. What really is it? It is nothing but a circular depression formed at the summit of a volcano after a large eruption. Once a big eruption takes place, the volcano collapses in on itself and spews out gases, lava and ash that flow down from the edges of the circular depression or caldera.
63. There is a type of volcanic rock known as pumice. This rock is the only type of rock on Earth that can float on water.
64. Typical pumice will have numerous bubbly holes. These holes are created when the rock cools and hot gases get out of the rock in form of jets.
65. Gases and ash spewed out by a volcanic eruption can change sunset colors. Why? This happens because sunlight needs to travel through greater number of obstacles as usual and the sunrays are broken down towards the spectrum’s red end. This makes the sunset appear more reddish.