Top 10: The world’s most unusual volcanoes
Plate tectonics defines our world, forging and shaping the Earth’s crust as continental plates crash, rub, and rise on top of each other. Most of the volcanoes on our stunningly unique planet were formed by activity near the boundaries of these plates, although many of them also form on or near faults.
But there are other volcanoes that defy the common understanding of how volcanoes should behave, sometimes displaying shield and stratovolcano characteristics simultaneously.
From super-fruitful streams of cold lava to mysterious volcanoes formed in the middle of deserts, here are 10 of the world’s most unusual volcanoes.
10. Clear Lake Volcano, U.S. Photo: toptenz.net
Located 90 miles (145 km) north of San Francisco, California, Clear Lake Volcano is extremely strange because it’s still not entirely clear how it could have formed. According to one theory, this volcanic field was the result of a rift in the plate boundary between North America and the plate off the west coast, but this is largely just speculation on the part of scientists. In fact, most of the potential explanations for the formation of this volcanic field are rather hypothetical in nature.
Clear Lake Volcano is quite far to the west of the active volcanoes of the Cascade Mountains, and it is absolutely massive – with a magma chamber believed to be as large as 1,400 cubic kilometers. The volcano is also thought to be in the pre-caldera stage of its evolution, making it similar to Long Valley Caldera, east of Clear Lake.
Moreover, the volcano is not in a zone of movement (one tectonic plate under another) or in a rift zone, and no hot zones are visible below the surface. Although it is on the edge of the San Andreas Fault, this still does not explain its formation.
9. Mount Cameroon, Cameroon photo: toptenz.net
Rising 4,040 meters above the western part of Cameroon, this volcano is one of the largest on the African continent. Its barren summit is bordered by tropical rainforest. Travelers traversing its trails encounter cold temperatures and the occasional snowfall.
Although it doesn’t look too strange from a distance, it is absolutely ancient (perhaps even the oldest active volcano on Earth), dating back 30 million years. The fact that this volcano is still active has geologists seriously curious, because it is not really known how a volcano that appeared during the rift of the North American and South American continental plates can still be so active, which makes it even more unusual.
8. Volcano Hecla, Iceland
After a terrible eruption in 1104, the Hekla Volcano became infamous among Icelanders as the “Gateway to Hell. For a time it was even believed that the birds flying near the volcano were actually lost souls, and that witches were supposed to gather on the volcano at Easter.
Hecla is 1,491 meters high. Its frequent volcanic activity (20 times in the last 1,000 years) has caused fluorine-rich deposits that poison the environment for sheep and other local animals.
Oh, and it also has a bad habit of “launching” 12-ton lava bombs into the surrounding region, which have been discovered by geologists trying to unravel the secrets of this volcano.
Hecla is more than an unusual volcano, since most of its eruptions are not accompanied by seismic activity. But the strangeness of this volcano does not end here, as it seems to behave like a typical shield volcano, but it also has properties that are unique to stratovolcanoes.
The 1104 eruption of Hecla Volcano is believed to have been comparable to the 1980 eruption of St. Helens Stratovolcano, and local geologists are beginning to believe that another eruption may soon occur.
7. Mount Teide and the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands photo: toptenz.net
The third highest and most massive volcano on the planet after Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Teide is also one of the oldest active volcanoes in the world, having surpassed 12 million years of age.
Mount Teide is located on one of the Canary Islands, which are themselves hot zones of volcanic activity. Although it is well known that this activity is caused by hot zones, the reasons for its formation are unknown. Although the 2012 theory made an attempt to explain it by suggesting that marginal convection was the main cause, it remains to be seen whether it will stand up to criticism.
The comparison with Hawaiian shield volcanoes is appropriate because Teide on the island of Tenerife is remarkably similar. It is believed that it spent the first few million years of its life in a very unrestrained state and for some unknown reason became unusually explosive. The island has had eruptions of every possible kind and magnitude from 0 to 7, despite the fact that it is a shield volcano. This is quite unusual because other shield volcanoes do not behave in this way, and while scientists believe that the reason for Teide’s strange explosive behavior is the growth of overburdened magma pockets that allow more explosive magma to evolve, it is not really clear why this does not happen with other island shield volcanoes.
6. Lake Taupo, New Zealand photo: toptenz.net
In the center of New Zealand’s North Island is Lake Taupo, which forms the caldera of the rhyolite supervolcano of the same name, responsible for one of the strongest eruptions on Earth. Rhyolite is a viscous magma rich in quartz. If the magma contains a low amount of gas, eruptions usually consist of the formation of a magma dome, but if the amount of gas is high, rhyolite can lead to an extremely intense reaction.
This supervolcano is thought to erupt once every 1000 years, although given its recent history, it has been asleep for an unusually long period of time. The magma chamber is located 6-8 kilometers below the surface of the lake. The current caldera was formed about 27,000 years ago. However, the most recent eruption (known as the “Taupo Eruption”) occurred 1,800 years ago and is considered the most violent eruption ever to occur on our planet in the last 5,000 years.
The Taupo eruption threw a plume of ash 50 km high into the stratosphere and covered all of New Zealand with a centimeter-long layer of ash.
So, what’s unusual here? There are 12 known supervolcanoes on Earth, each larger than Tambora Stratovolcano in Indonesia. But each of these volcanoes is unique and extremely difficult to see because they are so massive that they easily blend into their surroundings.
5. emi Kussi, Republic of Chad photo: toptenz.net
When viewed from the air (or in images taken from space), Emi Koussi’s volcano looks like something you’d rather see on Mars than on Earth. The extinct volcano towers over the Sahara Desert and is one of several volcanoes (or corpses of volcanoes?) to be found in such a hot and dry climate.
The oddity associated with Amy Kussi is that it is not on a fault or even in a subduction zone. The most likely explanation for its formation is a hot zone that has yet to be found, which makes this dead volcano rather mysterious.
But what is even stranger is the fact that it was a complex volcanic system that was located in the center of the craton. Cratons are super-thick portions of the continental plate; the one that was penetrated by this volcano’s magmatic plume is at least 130 km thick. The very existence of this volcano raises questions about the mechanics of magma column formation and how it could become so powerful as to penetrate such a thickness.
4. ol Doinho-Lengai, Tanzania photo: toptenz.net
Speaking of volcanoes up close or on cratons, Ol Doinyo Lengai (or Mountain of God in Maasai language) is an extremely active symmetrical stratovolcano. What makes it strange is its magma, because unlike most other volcanoes on Earth (and unlike any other volcano that is part of the Great Rift Valley), it is much colder than other types of magma. This particular magma is called carbonatite lava and is composed of a unique mixture of potassium and sodium carbonate, rather than the typical silicate-based magma characteristic of other volcanoes.
This lava is so cold (only 590°C) that it appears completely black in the sunlight. The lava that forms here is highly variable, usually turning into a gray, almost concrete-like material immediately after eruption, creating one of the most unique landscapes on the planet. This magma is also extremely fertile, so although streams of flowing magma usually block the formation of tree roots, the land is covered with meadows.
But why does Ol Doño-Lengai Volcano have such rare, unique and fertile magma? Because it is located on the edge of the Tanzanian craton, scientists believe that a column of magma (rising from the level of the lower mantle to the level of the lithosphere) deep underground mixes with the minerals of the craton.
3. lake Toba, Indonesia photo: toptenz.net
Lake Toba is the location of the world’s largest quaternary caldera, 35 by 100 km wide. Supervolcanoes are extremely unique hot zones for geological activity, and Toba volcano is no exception. It was formed 1.2 million years ago during the main Pleistocene period and is characterized by ignimbrite eruptions. The unique elongated shape of the caldera is thought to be the result of the interaction of the magma chamber and the Sumatran Fault along the western side.
But perhaps the strangest thing about this volcano is the fact that there is an island in the center of the caldera (or lake). Geologists believe that something happened to the old magma chamber after the supervolcano last erupted about 70,000 years ago, causing the ground to rise up. It is unclear whether this happened because the older magma was “reactivated” or some other mechanism, but the bottom of the magma chamber rose so far that it actually broke through the water level, forming Samosir Island.
2. California supervolcano Long Valley, USA photo: toptenz.net
More than 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma flows beneath the state of California, forming the Long Valley supervolcano (which can be translated as “Long Valley”). It is one of the largest supervolcanoes on Earth, but it has been asleep for almost 100,000 years.
Unlike the previous two supervolcanoes on this list, the Long Valley Caldera is not a lake, but a massive depression adjacent to Mammoth Mountain in Eastern California. The current caldera is thought to have been formed during a colossal eruption that occurred 760,000 years ago, which released 583 cubic kilometers of material from the supervolcano.
If such an eruption were to occur today, it would be 500 times more destructive than the St. Helens Stratovolcano eruption, which ejected 1.2 cubic kilometers of erupted material. If the entire 1,000 cubic kilometers of material had been ejected, the eruption would have been 800 times more powerful than the St. Helens eruption.
1. Yellowstone, USA photo: toptenz.net
The Yellowstone Caldera hydrothermal system is truly unique because no other volcanic system in the world is like it, making it one of the most stunning geological features on the planet. While other volcanoes are also characterized by geysers and hot springs, none is as massive as Yellowstone.
It is also the only supervolcano formed by a hot zone, since most of the others are in subduction zones.
One of the mysteries of Yellowstone is how and why it went from basaltic lava eruptions to the violent mega-eruptions that form the caldera.
The caldera itself is 55 km wide by 72 km wide, and the last known mega-eruption occurred about 640,000 years ago. This eruption was 700-2500 times more powerful than the St. Helens volcano.
While there is much media hype and conspiracy theories that any sign of Yellowstone activity is a sign of impending disaster, scientists do not believe an eruption is imminent. Though the fact that seismic activity in Yellowstone has been gradually increasing in recent years, with the ground rising 14.22 cm per year from 2013 to 2015, is certainly intriguing.
Top 10 most famous volcanoes in the world you’ve definitely heard of
Volcanoes are some of the most amazing, mysterious, and exciting natural formations on Earth. An erupting volcano inspires sacred awe with its power and the onslaught of fire. Rising clouds of steam and smoke can be seen dozens of kilometers away, and ash and lava can turn the surrounding area into a lifeless “Martian landscape” in a few hours.
But eruptions do not occur very often. A dormant volcano provides life-giving heat, and the loose soil, saturated with ash, is fertile. That’s why so many dormant volcanoes are oases. But who knows when such an oasis can suddenly turn into a desert?
We decided to list the most famous volcanoes of the world, the names of which are familiar to everyone.
10. Krakatoa (Indonesia)
Located in Indonesia , Krakatoa volcano is actually a chain of separate islands. For a very long time the “main vent” was also actually an island – the largest in the group. But in 1883 a powerful eruption destroyed it completely. Aren’t these events the basis of Jules Verne’s novel “The Mysterious Island”?
Such, literally, “dispersion” is explained by the structure of the volcano. Its activity is caused by the influx of magmatic masses from beneath the sinking oceanic plate. Magma solidifies along the way, forming numerous plugs. Therefore each eruption is accompanied by powerful explosions and the discovery of new ways of magma exit. One of such explosions destroyed the “mysterious island”.
9. St. Helens (USA).
Located in the northern USA, St. Helens volcano is similar in construction to Krakatoa, but just as violent. In 1980, a sudden eruption killed 57 people.
The peculiarity of this eruption was that the volcanic masses were not directed vertically through the usual crater. In 1980, the eruption literally shot sideways like a cannon and literally knocked observers not expecting such treachery.
One of the dead was a photographer who was filming the process of the eruption that had begun. Robert Landsburg died on the spot, but managed to conceal the camera with the priceless footage. A feature film of the same name was made based on these events.
8. Popocatepetl (Mexico)
This Mexican volcano is still puffing a little today. The name “Popocatepetl” is translated from the language of the natives of Mexico as “the smoky hill.
Incidentally, its peak is only slightly lower than the highest Mexican mountain, and rises above sea level at 5426 m.
Next to Popocatepetl is another mountain – also a volcano, but long since extinct, Istaxihuatl. There is even an ancient legend about this couple.
Around the two volcanoes there are numerous villages, towns and cities (including the capital, Mexico City). The total population of the “anthill” more than 20 million.
7. Soufriere (India)
Where is it located? In the West Indies . But this is very vague, “West Indies” is not a small area that covers several countries and seas. The explanation is simple: the Soufrière is several volcanoes of the same name located on different islands. However, deep underground, these volcanoes are combined into a powerful volcanic group, and therefore have a common name.
However, the individual volcanoes of this group manifest themselves in different ways. Soufrière on St. Vincent is a moderately “breathing” mountain, around which many volcanological laboratories are set up.
Soufrière on the island of Montserrat woke up quite suddenly in 1995 – so much so that it destroyed the capital of the island-state and literally swept away half the island. This volcano continues to erupt to this day.
6. Merapi (Indonesia)
This is the most active active volcano in Indonesia. Merapi, located on the island of Java, is a real beauty: a neatly built cone-shaped mountain continuously puffs out of a crater located almost 3 km high.
Every seven years Merapi puts on a grand show. Every two years it gives a “modest request concert”. In 1963 it went wild, sweeping and filling almost half of the island with ash, while destroying several villages.
The last catastrophic eruption was in 2010 and killed almost 400 people. Moreover, on the slopes of the volcano you can easily find the bodies of tourists who have not cleaned up, suffocated and covered with ash.
5. Kliuchevskaya Sopka (Russia)
Klyuchevskoy peak is a calling card of the Kuril Ridge. The Kliuchevskoi Sopka with its 4835 meters height is the highest peak of Russia after the Caucasus Mountains. In addition, this magnificent mountain for a minute does not stop its volcanic activity.
Kliuchevskaya Sopka is quite young (by geological standards) volcano, its age is about 7000 years. Large eruptions occur every 4-6 years. But there are no special catastrophes for the following reasons: almost completely deserted terrain, considerable height of the mountain and a powerful but stable character of eruptions.
4. Mont-Pelais (island of Martinique)
Located on the island of Martinique volcano named “Bald Mountain” (Montagne-Pele) is not too high (about 1300 m) and booming. The greatest fame – and a sad one, at that – was brought to it by the 1902 eruption.
In April 1902, the island of Martinique began to shake slightly. The inhabitants were used to living near a smoking mountain, and treated moderate earthquakes with the usual calm. But around 8 a.m. on March 8, a terrible rumble sounded, and dirty yellow clouds began to swell over Bald Mountain, pierced by lightning.
A powerful torrent of lava rushed toward the town at the base of the volcano. In just a few minutes the town and its 30,000 inhabitants were burned to the ground. Lava reached the port and burned, broke and sank all the ships.
3. Etna (Italy)
According to Greek legend, when the gods quarreled with the giants, the enraged Athena crushed Enfelad by this mountain. Enfelad was an immortal giant, so the only way to get rid of the enemy was to immobilize him. And because the giant is immortal, he is tossing and turning under the mountain, shaking the ground, and his breath is escaping here and there through more and more cracks.
The legend describes the character of Etna very figuratively. The permanently active volcano has no “main” crater. Each new eruption passes through one or more of the older ones, but often new magma and gas outlets appear.
Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe (3295 m) . Not for nothing, according to the same legends, it was on Etna where Hephaestus lived.
2. Fujiyama (Japan)
To visit Japan and not see Mount Fuji? Unthinkable! On Honshu Island, just 90 km from Tokyo rises majestically the highest (3,776 m) peak of Japan. The volcano is considered to be slightly active.
Right on top of the sacred mountain is the main Shinto shrine of Japan (by the way, the entire mountain is considered private property of Shintoists).
The majestic tranquility of the shrine attracts tourists from all over the world. UNESCO has registered the volcano as a World Heritage Site. The status of a National Park in Japan will preserve the natural identity of a unique geological formation.
1. Vesuvius (Italy)
The Italian “angry uncle” is quite a venerable age. According to volcanologists, Vesuvius appeared about 25,000 years ago. But the “smoking mountain” (the origin of the name Vesuvius is uncertain, but linguists agree on this interpretation) does not grow old.
Vesuvius never stops smoking. Without any regularity, about once in 10-15 years the volcano erupts violently, and about once in 30 years with an explosion.
The unpredictability of eruptions, their power and the catastrophic consequences led to the fact that one of the most destructive eruptions, which destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, was generally considered a beautiful legend.