Facts About Volcanoes – The 3 Main Types

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

How Much Information Do You Have About Volcanoes?

A volcano is an extremely interesting topic for kids to read about. What actually are Volcanoes? What do they look like? How are they formed? Where are they located? What happens when a volcano erupts?

There is a history of volcanoes. There are also different types of volcanoes. Also, there are various stages of volcanoes. There are different categories of volcanoes. They are active, dormant and extinct. 

Volcanology is the branch of geology that concentrates on volcanoes. Volcanoes usually have some effects after the eruption. Volcanoes have positive effects as well as negative effects.  

What is a Volcano?

A volcano is an opening in Earth’s crust. It is a gap in the Earth from which molten rock and gas erupt. Volcanic eruptions may be very destructive. But they also create new landforms. There are more than 1,500 likely active volcanoes in the world nowadays.

How Are Volcanoes Formed?

Volcanoes are made when magma at the centre of the Earth moves its way upwards through the Earth through a long shaft. If the magma travels through the Earth’s crust it emerges as lava. As soon as this lava has erupted onto the Earth’s surface, it cools then hardens into a pile of rock. 

What are the Different Stages of Volcanoes?

Scientists have created three major categories for volcanoes. Active volcanoes, dormant volcanoes and extinct volcanoes are the three categories. An active volcano is one that has lately erupted and there is a chance that it may erupt soon. 

A dormant volcano is one that has not erupted for a while but there is a chance it can erupt in the future. An extinct volcano is one which has erupted thousands of years ago and there’s no chance of an eruption.

What are the Different Types of Volcanoes?

Volcanoes are classified into four types: cinder cones, composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes and lava volcanoes.

Cinder Cones

Cinder cones are circular or oval cones composed of small pieces of lava from a single vent that have been burst into the air, cooled and fallen around the vent.

Cinder cone volcanoes are the smallest kind of volcanoes. They are seldom more than 1,000 feet tall. Cinder cone volcanoes frequently form on the surface of larger volcanoes, creating a very active surface. They normally do not erupt for very long.

The summit of Cinder Cone has a crater with a double rim probably made by two different stages of one eruptive period. The cone also has an extended ash deposit typical for 8 to 10 miles (13 to 16 km) from the cone. Blocks of red, cemented scoria within the Painted Dunes lava flows are fragments of this earlier cone, which were taken away by the flowing lava.

Cinder cones are a ‘friendly face’ of volcanic activity because their fire-fountain eruptions are beautiful and dramatic.  Since their lava goes to fall straight down and cool quickly, they don’t threaten thousands of lives or lay waste to vast areas. It can be quite safe to view these eruptions’ close-up.

Cinder Cone is located in Northern California, within the United States. Located 1.5 miles southwest of Butte Lake and 2.2 miles southeast of Prospect Peak. It is also sometimes called a Black Butte or Cinder Butte. 

Composite Volcanoes 

What is a Composite Volcano?
What is a Composite Volcano?

Composite volcanoes are steep-sided volcanoes made of many layers of volcanic rocks, usually created from lava, ash and rock debris. Some examples of this type of volcano are Mt. Rainier and Mount St. Helens.

Composite volcanoes take hundreds of years to create their steep sides through periods of eruptions and sleep. Volcanoes first form if a vent in the Earth’s crust goes down into pockets of molten rock called magma. 

Magma escapes from the vent and creates a mound around it as it cools and hardens. In stratovolcanoes, this mound typically develops to be a huge mountain as is seen in Mt. Fuji, in Japan. 

Composite volcanoes have steep slopes, making a mainly symmetrical shape. The last eruption of the volcano may have even created a bowl, a caldera, at its peak, making it look as if the top of the mountain was cut off, or it may have been ruined from its own weight. 

Composite volcanoes are different in size, depending on how long they have been active, how many eruptions they’ve had and how much they’ve eroded with time. Mount Shasta, for example, stands 14,163 feet above sea level, in the Cascade mountain range in Northern California.

Composite volcanoes, which are also called stratovolcanoes, stand tall on various continents and grow from the waters of some of the world’s oceans. One of the most popular places to find a composite volcano is in the Ring of Fire, which is a half-circle of volcanoes that have composed a border around the upper part of the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. is home to some famous composite volcanoes.  An example of a composite volcano is Mount Hood, which is the tallest mountain in Oregon. It’s an active volcano but has only developed two main periods of eruption in the last 1,500 years

Shield Volcanoes

What is a Shield Volcano?
What is a Shield Volcano?

Shield volcanoes are volcanoes created like a bowl or shield in the middle with long soft slopes made by basaltic lava flows. Basalt lava comes from these volcanoes are called flood basalts.

Shield volcanoes may not be tall, yet they are wide. The width of a shield volcano is frequently about 20 times its height. This flattened shape is because, in part, of the watery lava, or hot molten rock, that comes out of them.

Since the lava is not very thick, it tends to run out in all various directions. Imagine a shield volcano’s lava is as milk spilling from a glass, and lava from other volcanoes is as slow-flowing syrup. The fluid lava can move a longer distance before it cools and hardens, which saves it from piling into tall mounds.

Shield volcanoes form initially in the oceans although they can form anywhere on Earth. Scientists evaluate there are over one million seamounts on the ocean floors. Scientists estimate there are about 4,000 submarine volcanoes for every million square miles of the ocean floor in the Pacific Ocean. 

Oregon and Washington experience a number of shield volcanoes that have formed on the continent. Newberry Volcano is a huge shield volcano that is weird because it has erupted not only basalt lava but also andesite and rhyolite lavas.

Mauna Loa is the largest Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. Shield volcanoes can be so giant; they are sometimes considered a mountain range, such as the Ilgachuz Range and the Rainbow Range, both of which are in Canada.

Shield volcanoes are known to develop on other planets. The largest known mountain in the solar system is a shield volcano which is called Olympus Mons on Mars. Shield volcanoes on Mars are higher and much huge than those on Earth.

 What Causes Volcanoes to Erupt?

Before answering this question, we need to identify the three layers of the earth. The crust is defined as the outer layer of Earth. It ranges about 18 miles thick. It is the part we live on. The second layer is called the mantle. It is about 1,800 miles thick. The inner layer is defined as the core.

The Earth’s crust is composed of huge slabs called plates, which fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. These plates sometimes move.

Between the Earth’s crust and the mantle is a material called magma which is composed of rock and gases. When two plates crash, one section slides on top of the other, the one below is moved down. Magma is crushed up between two plates.

What Happens in an Eruption?

During a volcanic eruption, a hot melted rock called magma escapes from a vent, or opening, in Earth’s surface, or crust. Magma released from a volcano is known as lava.  It glows red as it flows out of the volcano’s opening. As it cools, it hardens into rock.

Strong volcanic eruptions throw bits of magma into the air. These bits cool into tiny pieces of rock, called volcanic dust or volcanic ash. Wind can carry volcanic dust thousands of miles away. Volcanic ash can coat the land for miles around the volcano.

Steam and poisonous gases also escape from volcanoes. Sometimes these gases are mixed with ash and other hot debris. This mixture travels outward in destructive fiery clouds, called pyroclastic flows.

Volcano Diagram for Kids
Volcano Diagram for Kids

What is the Difference Between Lava and Magma?

Magma is composed of molten rock and is stored in the Earth’s crust. Lava is magma that reaches the surface of our planet through a volcano vent.

Mafic magmas tend to form when the heavier crust that forms the ocean floor melts. They’re also the hottest variety of magma, reaching temperatures of between 1000 and 1200oC. 

Silicic magmas, on the other hand, tend to form when the lighter continental crust melts. They’re also cooler than mafic magmas. silicic magmas are more dangerous

What is the Ring of Fire?

The Ring of Fire is the geographical area around the borders of the Pacific Ocean. It is called so because it is formed like a horseshoe. It is an area of recurring earthquakes and volcanic eruptions covering the basin of the Pacific Ocean. 

What is the Ring of Fire
What is the Ring of Fire?

The Ring of Fire includes 452 volcanoes and is home to over 50% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 81% of the world’s most violent earthquakes happen along the Ring of Fire.

The ring of fire was due to the movement of the tectonic plates. These plates are nothing but giant slabs of the Earth’s crust that move, break and then match with each other like pieces of a puzzle. 

Tectonic plates are frequently moving and most tectonic activity happens in the Ring of Fire region. These plates crash into each other, causing stress on the surface, breaking, slipping, getting stuck, build pressure causing earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Most of the active volcanoes are located on the Western edge of the ring of fire. They vary from the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia through the islands of Japan, South East Asia and then moves into New Zealand. One of the most active volcanoes is Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand. 

How Many Volcanoes are There in the World?

There are almost 1,510 active volcanoes in the world. For the time being, we know 80 or more that is located under the oceans.

What is the Largest Active Volcano?

The largest, active volcano in the world is Mauna Loa in Hawaii, where famous coffee is planted in the rich volcanic soils. Mauna Loa is 13,677 feet over sea level. From its base beneath sea level to its summit, Mauna Loa is taller than Mount Everest.

Kilauea Volcano

Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano. It lies in the southeastern part of the island of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. It is the most active of the five volcanoes that together compose the island of Hawaii. The volcano is between 210,000 and 280,000 years old and occurred above sea level about 100,000 years ago.

The name Kilauea means “Much Spreading” in Hawaiian. The volcano reaches 4,090 feet high. It is a long dome made of lava eruptions. Kilauea contains Halemaumau Crater. It is the most active vent of the volcano.

Kīlauea erupted partly frequently from 1983 to 2018, resulting in considerable property damage, including the destruction of the towns of Kalapana in 1990, and Vacationland Hawaii and Kapoho in 2018. 

Paricutin Volcano

The Paricutin Volcano lies in the state of Michoacán in Mexico. This volcano is actually one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It is popular as a cinder cone volcano; this steep conical shape was composed of debris.

Paricutin is a name of a volcano located in Mexico in the state of Michoacán. It is an element of the Ring of Fire. It is the youngest volcano that lies in the western hemisphere, started in 1943. It is now 1,353 feet (424m) over the valley and 9,186 feet (2,800m) over sea level.

This particular volcano grew very quickly. It developed as small eruptions of ash and stones. These small eruptions develop into eruptions the height of five stories in only a week! it kept on growing and in a year the volcano had got to 336 meters. The final height that the volcano got to by the end of its life was 424 meters.

The Paricutin Volcano kept erupting for eight years until 1952. The volcano has remained silent since then. It is believed to be a monogenetic volcano which means that if it is done erupting it will never explode again.

Yellowstone Caldera

The Yellowstone caldera lies in the Western United States. The area is also popular as Yellowstone Supervolcano. The caldera weighs 55 x 72 km in size. It is located in Yellowstone National Park. The caldera at Yellowstone Park is the site of a minimum of 3 huge supervolcano eruptions in the past.

The caldera formed if pyroclastic material burst out of the volcano partly emptying the magma chamber making the roof collapse. When the roof fell over the magma chamber it made a bowl-shaped depression in the ground.

Major eruptions of the Yellowstone Volcano occur about every 600,000 to 800,000 years. Two of the past explosions have been among the most violent ever. The giant magma chamber in the Yellowstone Volcano measures about 37 miles long, 18 miles wide and up to 7 miles deep in parts.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 earthquakes occur each year at the Yellowstone Volcano. At the beginning of 2010, there were over 1,600 small earthquakes within a few weeks. Geologists learning volcanic activity at the park predict that a giant volcanic eruption might not happen for a minimum of another 30,000 years.

Arenal Volcano

The Arenal Volcano is the main feature of the national park in the northwest region of Costa Rica. It is mostly a perfect cone with a height of 1633 m. The volcano has recurring eruptions which forms one of the most peculiar natural landscapes of Costa Rica. 

One of the most active volcanoes in Central America is Arenal Volcano. Recent eruptions made a lava dome near this volcano. The temperature in the area varies between 16°C in higher altitudes to 24°C in lower altitudes. 

It remained silent between 1500 and 1900. People started considering it extinct. After keeping silent for these 400 years, this volcano erupted on July 29, 1968. Between 1995 and 2008, the Arenal displayed activity both eruptive and seismic.

Submarine Volcano

Submarine volcanoes are volcanoes that are under the surface of the world’s oceans. There are a minimum of 1,500 active volcanoes on the surface of the earth, but it is measured that there may be more than 10,000 volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean alone.

Almost all submarine volcanoes are found near the boundaries of two adjacent tectonic plates. Since the tectonic plates move away or towards each other, lava that existed beneath the surface of the earth, is thrown out with pressure through a crack on the earth’s surface. 

Surtsey Island, south Iceland are one of the latest examples of underwater volcanic eruptions. The earth’s surface under the sea was literally lifted up during the eruption, and this resulted in the formation of Surtsey Island!

Magma exists in the mantle, the layer beneath the earth’s crust. If a crack reduces the pressure, the magma ascends upward along with gases. This is popular as the eruption of an underwater volcano. Underwater magma cools and hardens much faster because of the presence of water. It often gets changed into a volcanic glass.

Since most underwater volcanoes erupt at a depth of about 2200 meters below sea level, where the pressure is more than 218 atmospheres, water cannot boil. The absence of boiling sound makes it difficult to detect an underwater eruption, even with the help of hydrophones. 

Fuego Volcano

Fuego volcano is an active stratovolcano in Guatemala. It is considered one of Central America’s most active volcanoes. It sits around 16 kilometres west of Antigua Guatemala. It has erupted constantly since the Spanish conquest. Fuego lately erupted on 3 June 2018.

“Fuego” is popular for being almost frequently active at a low level. Small gas and ash eruptions happen every 15 to 20 minutes, but larger eruptions are seldom. On 9 August 2007 Fuego erupted, releasing lava, rock and ash. A new round of activity started on 19 May 2012, with lava flows and ejections of ash, and has continued into January 2016.

Kawah Ljen

Kawah Ijen is a composite volcano located in the easternmost part of Java island in Indonesia. The volcano is one of several active stratovolcanoes built over the 20 km wide Ijen caldera, the largest caldera in Java. 

Kawah Ijen is composed of more than 10 stratovolcanoes, lay within a radius of 20 km near the caldera of 1 km width and 200 meters depth. The crater lake of Ijen volcano is considered the largest acid lake all over the world. Depending on the volcano’s activity, the lake can change its colour from turquoise to green and even grey.

The volcano erupts to the lake’s surface not lava but methane gas. Under the lake, there is volcano magma, which is called lava if it moves to the surface. Since the lake is very deep with dense water, magma stays locked at the bottom.

Kirishima Volcano

Kirishima is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes.  Kirishima is a group of 20 volcanoes. These volcanoes include  Karakunidake, Tairoike, Ohachi, Takachihonomine, Nakadake, Ohatayama, and Shinmoedake. 

Kirishima has erupted a minimum of 67 times since 742 AD. The most recent eruption was in 1992. Eruptions release pyroclastic material: scoria, lapilli, and ash. Lava has not been noticed at any eruption of Kirishima in historic times. 

Mauna Loa Volcano

Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that create the Island of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. It is an active shield volcano with quite soft slopes, with a volume calculated at nearly 18,000 cubic miles. It has a space of 6 square miles and is 600 feet deep.

Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843. Its last eruption was in 1984.  Lava eruptions from Mauna Loa are silica-poor and so fluid, and they go to be non-explosive. This is a shield volcano and for this reason, it is wide with gently sloping sides. Their eruptions are not violent.

Mayon Volcano

Mount Mayon is an active volcano located in the Philippines. It is known as the world’s most perfect volcanic cone due to its symmetrical shape. It is an element of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Mount Mayon is 2,642 metres high. It is the Philippines’ most active volcano as it has erupted about 50 times in the past 400 years. 

The first-ever eruption of Mount Mayon happened in 1616. There were three eruptions that occurred in the 20th century 1984, 1993, and then in 1999. The most up-to-date eruption of this volcano happened on January 13, 2018. The explosion included steam, ash, and lava flow.

Bezymianny Volcano

Bezymianny was considered extinct until it erupted severely in 1955-56, after lying dormant for probably 1000 years. In Kamchatka, Bezymianny is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes. It can be found on the southeast slope of the extinct volcano Kamen. 

A large portion of the volcano is made of a thick mass of light grey hornblende and andesites. Most of these lavas on the lower slopes of Bezymianny are masked by loose pyroclastic deposits. Many lava flows can be located on the upper portions of its slopes.

Mount Rainier Volcano 

the highest mountain of the Cascade Range is Mount Rainier in the U.S. It is an active volcano found in the southeast of Seattle, Washington. It last erupted in 1894. The top of the mountain is mainly covered by snow and glaciers. The mountain is 14,410 feet tall.

Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most threatening volcanoes in the world. The mountain is thought to be 500,000 years old. This volcano had various names including Tacoma, Tall, Tahoma, Tacobeh, and Pooskaus. 

Krakatau Volcano 

Krakatoa is an Indonesian volcano that is responsible for an eruption that happened in August 1883. It was one of the most fatal volcanic eruptions of modern history. This explosion was so severe that it triggered a tsunami that caused the death of more than 36,000 people.

Krakatoa is an element of the Ring of Fire. The explosion from Krakatoa was so violent to an extent that ash fell over an area of some 300,000 square miles. The sun was blocked out for many days because of the volcanic eruption in the atmosphere. The first recorded signs of volcanic activity on Krakatoa go back as far as 416 AD.

Abu Volcano

Abu volcano is a band of 56 smaller volcanic centres without an individual large central volcano. It is located along the Japan Sea coast. It is composed of basaltic-to-dacitic lava flows, small shield volcanoes as well as lava domes. 

Some of the volcanic centres of Abu volcano create offshore islands or submarine vents. The latest eruption at the volcano was a central vent eruption at Kasa-Yama ca. 8000 years ago.

Grímsvötn Volcano

 The most active volcano in Iceland is the Grimsvotn volcano. The volcano’s caldera is located beneath an ice shelf that is 200 meters thick. It has an elevation of 1,725 m. It is a basaltic volcano that has the highest eruption occurrence of all the volcanoes in Iceland.

The last eruption started on May 21, 2011, when plumes of ash shot into the air. Many earthquakes referred that magma being on the move. The ash cloud gets to a height of 20 km. The eruption unleashed 2000 tons of ash per second during the first 48 hours of the explosion. The ash was so thick in parts of the island that it changed day into night. 

Popocatépetl Volcano

Popocatépetl is a volcano located in central Mexico. It is an active stratovolcano, which means it is formed like a cone and includes a crater at the top. The second-highest peak in Mexico is Popocatépetl. It rises to 17,930 feet. Popocatépetl is one of the world’s most violent volcanoes. 

After almost 50 years of sleep, El Popo came back to life in 1994. Since then, the volcano has had frequent periods of activity, including another explosion in 2000. In 2000, the eruption of the peak was the most violent for over a thousand years. 

Stromboli Volcano

Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and has been exploding almost frequently since 1932. It lies at Stromboli Island in Italy. It is among three active volcanoes in Italy. The last main eruption of the volcano happened in 2019.

Stromboli is commonly known for its peculiar eruptions. Strombolian eruptions can eject cinders, lava bombs, and lapilli to heights of many dozen to many hundred meters.  Lava flows in Strombolian explosions are more violent but short-lasting.

What is a Volcanic Neck?

A volcanic neck is the “throat” of a volcano and is made of a pipe-like conduit covered with hypabyssal rocks. It resembled the top of a toothpaste tube but was created of solid rock. In reality, a volcanic neck is the solidified magma held inside a volcano. 

After millions of years, the softer outer layer of the volcano breaks down, and all that stays in the volcanic neck. Volcanic necks are somewhat seldom because if a magma plug is created within a volcano, it frequently leads to an explosive eruption. 

There are some very popular volcanic necks around the world. Probably the most well known is Devils Tower in Wyoming. It goes up to 386 meters above the surrounding landscape, only the prominence of rusty red rock.

What is Volcanic Lightning?

Volcanic lightning is a weird phenomenon that commonly happens at the early stages of a volcanic eruption. It happens in two places. These places are nearby the ground in dense ash clouds and high up close to the stratosphere in the plume of volcanic smoke. 

Volcanic lightning happens often within the cloud of ash during an eruption and is made by the friction of the ash moving to the surface. It is made in a volcanic plume. Volcanoes that need a thick volcanic plume usually need volcanic lightning. 

Regarding  Sky-high volcanic lightning, the plume of ash and water vapour is released from the volcano, and ice starts to form in its highest layers. Then, lightning shapes the same way it does in a thundercloud. 

List of  Most Famous Volcanoes

1-  Mount Vesuvius, Italy: It is one of the most known volcanoes of all time. Its last explosion was in 1944, although it popularly erupted in AD 79. 

2- Krakatoa, Indonesia: This volcano on Indonesia’s Rakata Island exploded in 1883 and was one of the most violent volcanic eruptions in history. Ash clouds scattered up to 50 miles high with eruptions so loud they could be heard in Australia, 2,200 miles away.

3- Mount St. Helens, United States: It is an active volcano lay in Washington State, USA. The volcano is known for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980.

4- Olympus Mons: Olympus Mons is one of the most popular volcanoes in space. It is lay on Mars and, according to scientists, is the biggest volcano in the solar system at 16 miles high and 374 miles in diameter.

Damage Caused by Volcanoes

Volcanic explosions can cause damage hundreds of miles away. Volcanic ash results in aeroplane engines failing, destroying crops, polluting water, and damaging electronics and machinery. The ash covers the ground, ruining everything, sometimes even making buildings collapse.

Other explosive eruptions make fast-moving, hot clouds of volcanic ash, gas and rocks that move down the sides of the volcanoes and ruin almost everything in their path.

Property damage from volcanic eruptions is hard to estimate, due to varying value systems and changes in land use. One study measures an average of $1 billion per year in property damage all over the world from volcanic explosions.

The Benefits of Volcanoes

Despite the huge damage caused by volcanoes, they also help us to live. Volcanic ash supplies food for the soil around volcanoes which helps us grow plants to eat. The heat from some volcanoes is used to create energy to power lights, fridges, and other home appliances.

Most of the metallic minerals mined all over the world like copper, gold, silver, lead, and zinc is related to magmas that develop deep within the base of extinct volcanoes. For more than 4.5 billion years, the amount of water that has been made by volcanoes has basically provided us with the water that we have on Earth. 

Hot water and steam held below the surface have been used to heat homes and greenhouses and to produce electric power in many countries, including Italy, Japan, Iceland, New Zealand, and the United States.

Volcanoes are openings of the Earth’s surface. When a volcano erupts lava, ash and gas are expelled from it. The hole at the top is famous as the volcanic crater. Volcanoes can be active, dormant or extinct. Volcanoes trap a very hot liquid called magma. Once a volcano explodes, the magma will go out of the top of the volcano. After leaving the volcano, it is called lava.

The biggest volcano in our solar system isn’t on planet Earth. It’s on Mars! The volcano is called Olympus Mons. There are around 1,500 which are active. Most volcanoes develop in countries that have coastlines on the Pacific Ocean. The largest volcano on Earth lies in Hawaii. It’s called the Mauna Loa. 

If you enjoyed this article why not check out some more Geography Facts and Topics: Mountains, Rainbows, Hurricanes, Thunderstorms, Islands, Blizzards, Deserts and Continents.

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