Facts About Volcanoes
When I was a kid, I used to play a game where everything was lava…Except for the couch.
And if you were stuck on the floor, then you’d get burned by lava.
But little did I know: The lava I was referring to came from a volcano, which is a real risk in life.
So even when you were a kid, you knew the stuff that came out of volcanoes can be pretty deadly.
Today, we’re going to look at little-known facts about volcanoes. Enjoy.
1. Ash from volcanoes can spark lightning
Lightning commonly occurs in sync with volcanic eruptions. The intense electrical activity associated with volcanic eruptions can trigger lightning strikes, creating a spectacular and potentially hazardous phenomenon. But how come?
As the ash from a volcano rises, it builds static electricity the same way clouds do. It interacts with the weather system which allows lightning to strike.
2. The Ring of Fire contains 75% of volcanoes
The Pacific Ring of Fire is a string of volcanoes where the Pacific Ocean seafloor is subducting under the continents. It brings water causing volcanic eruptions from stratovolcanoes.
75% of the world’s volcanoes are in the Ring of Fire. This includes the deadliest volcanoes in the United States, Japan, and the Philippines. Indonesia is the most volcanically active country on the Ring of Fire.
3. Lava from volcanoes build new land
Volcanoes are areas inside the planet that make their way to the surface. They create new land like in Hawaii. They are not only creators of land but also powerful forces of geological change, shaping the Earth’s surface over millions of years.
Continents would be smaller if it wasn’t for volcanoes. The majority of Earth’s surface is volcanic rock. All ocean seafloor is created by basalt coming out at mid-ocean ridges.
4. Mauna Loa is taller than Mount Everest
It’s a little-known fact that the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii is taller than Mount Everest. This is because most of the Mauna Loa is below the ocean surface.
From sea level base to its summit, it’s 9,170 meters in height. That’s 300+ meters higher than Mount Everest. Mauna Loa has also been very active erupting 33 times since 1832.
5. Volcanoes released water vapor for us to drink
Volcanoes created much of the water we drink and the air we breathe. Degassing is the process that water existed inside the rocks that made up the Earth itself.
Because Earth’s interior contains minerals with hydrogen and oxygen, volcanoes continually degas releasing H2O as water vapor.
6. Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the solar system
On Mars, the largest volcano is Olympus Mons. But not only on planet Mars, but it’s also the largest in the whole solar system. Olympus Mons formed billions of years ago.
Mars didn’t have plate tectonics. And it didn’t have surface geology like Earth. But it did have a period of active degassing where huge amounts of gases like water and carbon dioxide were ejected out from the interior of Mars.
7. The mysterious case of Paricutin
A cinder cone volcano “Paricutin” appeared out of nowhere in a cornfield in Mexico. It baffled scientists and became a popular tourist destination for volcanologists to study.
During 9 years of volcanic activity, it left a 420-meter tall cone without erupting ever again. It’s now become one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.
8. Kilauea in Hawaii poses the highest threat in the United States
The United States has a large geographic footprint of volcanoes with >10% of active volcanoes. The extensive presence of active volcanoes in the United States highlights the dynamic geological processes shaping the country’s landscapes.
According to the USGS National Volcanic Threat Assessment, Kilauea in Hawaii poses the highest threat in the United States because developed areas still exist on the flanks. Next on the list are Mount St. Helens and Rainier as the most deadly.
9. Mudflows (Lahars) are deadly hazards at volcanoes
Lahars are deadly mudflows resulting from volcanoes. They are capable of sweeping people to death and tearing down infrastructure. According to USGS, lahars caused the deaths of more than 44,000 worldwide between 1600-2010.
Lahars are among the most serious ground-based hazards at volcanoes. The destructive power of lahars underscores the importance of early warning systems and preparedness measures in volcanic regions to mitigate their devastating impact on communities.
10. Temperatures can reach up to 1200+°C at volcanoes
When volcanoes erupt, lava, pyroclastics, and volcanic smog (VOG) are among the most dangerous:
- Lava is molten hot rock. Temperatures reach up to 1200+°C.
- Then, pyroclastics are deadly because they’re fast, hot, and poisonous. This type of flow can travel at speeds up to 700 mph.
- Finally, VOG is a form of air pollution mixing sulfur dioxide and other particles from volcanic eruptions.
11. Yellowstone’s super-eruption
The largest eruption from Yellowstone occurred 2.1 million years ago, depositing the Huckleberry ash bed. Yellowstone flung 2,200 km3 of material from Wyoming to Idaho. Since then, super-eruptions also occurred 640,000 and 1.3 million years ago.
These colossal super-eruptions from Yellowstone serve as a stark reminder of the immense volcanic forces that shape our planet’s landscape and the need for ongoing monitoring and research to better understand their behavior.
Little-Known Facts About Volcanoes
While volcanoes often capture our attention with their spectacular eruptions and fiery displays, they are also shrouded in mystery and intrigue.
These 10 little-known facts about volcanoes have peeled back some of the layers of their complexity, revealing the vital role they play in shaping our planet’s geology, climate, and even the origins of life itself.
Now, it’s time to go back to you. What did we miss for volcano facts? Please let us know with a comment below.