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3 Types of Volcanoes: Stratovolcano, Shield and Cinder Cone

Shield Volcano

The 3 types of volcanoes are:

  • Stratovolcanoes
  • Shield volcanoes
  • Cinder cones

Let’s dive into the differences between these types of volcanoes:

1. Stratovolcanoes (Composite Cones)


Stratovolcanoes are tall and cone-shaped. Instead of flat shield volcanoes like in Hawaii, they have bigger peaks. They build up by layering lava, ash, and tephra.

When ash falls or lava flows, it solidifies and makes a narrower cone. At the peak, stratovolcanoes usually have a small crater. But if you blow the whole thing away, you get a large caldera.

Most stratovolcanoes are at subduction zones. If you travel along the Pacific Ring of Fire, these are mostly this type of volcano. The Pacific Ocean seafloor is subducting under the continents. It brings water causing eruptions from stratovolcanoes. Stratovolcanoes run through cycles with lots of small eruptions.

Examples of stratovolcanoes include:

  • MOUNT FUJI: Mount Fuji is a dormant stratovolcano that last erupted in the early 1700s.
  • MOUNT TOBA: Mount Toba in Sumatra is 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide is a caldera.

2. Shield Volcanoes

Shield Volcano

Shield volcanoes earned their name because they’re shaped like a shield. Hawaiian volcanoes are quintessential shield volcanoes. If you go to Hawaii, they are broad and flat. These volcanoes can be hundreds of kilometers wide.

Shield volcanoes tend to erupt fluid basalt lava. Violent explosions are possible. But they’re not as common for shield volcanoes.

Because basalt has a low viscosity (more watery), it can flow on the surface better. When these types of volcanoes erupt, lava flows out large distances.

Examples of shield volcanoes include:

  • MAUNA LOA: Mauna Loa in Hawaii is the world’s largest active shield volcano. From base below sea level to its summit, it’s also the tallest mountain in the world.
  • FERNANDINA ISLAND: Fernandina Island is an active shield volcano in the Galapagos Islands.

3. Cinder Cones

Cinder Cone Diagram

Cinder cones (scoria cones) are small in comparison to the other types of volcanoes. In fact, they’re only tens of hundreds of meters in size. But at the same time, they’re very steep typically with a bowl-shaped crater at the summit.

Cinder cones form out of tephra, magma, and ash that it ejects. When cinder cones spew out lava, it splits it up in the air and splatters. Eventually, it cools down and becomes part of its steep cone-like feature.

Examples of cinder cones include:

  • CERRO NEGRO: Cerro Negro is an active cinder cone in Nicaragua. It’s the youngest in Central America first appearing in 1850.
  • PARICUTIN: Paricutin volcano in Mexico is a cinder cone that suddenly erupted in a corn field. The eruption left a 420 meter tall cone without erupting ever again.

Overview of the types of volcanoes

Based on their geography, volcanoes take different appearances. We classify them as stratovolcanoes, shield volcanoes, and cinder cones.

Are you interested in learning more about the types of volcanoes? These online courses offer in-depth information about this topic. If you are interested, then check out these courses for more details.

Would you like to know anything more about the types of volcanoes? Please let us know with a comment below.


  1. Does the caldera (not mentioned here) stop erupting completely? It’s the one that is formed when a strato collapses.

  2. What kind of eruption does the Cinder cone volcano have? I know you said something on that topic, but I personally would like it if you elaborate on that a bit more. 🙂

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