Volcanoes are an intriguing phenomenon of nature that we haven’t yet fully understood. From just one volcanic eruption, we can see how nature is related to one another. It usually starts with earthquakes, then volcanic eruption, to tsunamis and sudden climate change globally. Some of us may live in places that are prone to these happenings, some just see the effects of it. Learning deeper about volcanoes will help us unravel other mysteries of the earth. So, let’s start with these 16 fun facts about volcanoes.
1. The Center of The World’s Volcanoes
75% of the world’s volcanoes, at least 450 volcanoes, are located in the Ring of Fire. 90% of the earthquakes that happen in the world. The huge amount of volcanoes and earthquakes are due to the amount of movement of the tectonic plates in this area. The Ring of Fire or the Circum-Pacific Belt stretches from New Zealand to Japan and along North America down to the southern tip of South America.
2. Volcanic Winter
Throughout history, there have been many eruptions happening around the world that have caused quite a casualty. The most powerful eruption noted in history is the Tambora Mountain in the year 1815. It is located in Indonesia and killed 92,000 people. The eruption was so big that the following year is called ‘the year without summer’ because the eruption temporarily lowered the temperature.
This phenomenon is what we call the Volcanic Winter. It is devastating because it results in starvation due to failed harvests caused by the sudden drop in temperature globally after the eruption. After the eruption, Mount Tambora became much smaller than it was and remained an active volcano up to this day.
3. Smallest Volcano
Cuexcomate Volcano is located in Puebla, Mexico and is the smallest volcano standing at 13 meters high with a diameter of 43 meters. It was formed in 1664 as an offshoot parasitic cone during the eruption of its mother volcano, the Popocatépetl.
The Cuexmocate is considered inactive and it is the only volcano with a spiral staircase inside it. On the other hand, the smallest active volcano is Mount Taal located near the city of Tagaytay in the Philippines. Its size is about 39 times bigger than the Cuexcomate Volcano at 508 meters high.
4. Most Active-Volcanically Country
America is the country that has the most volcanoes. However, if you consider its activity, Indonesia has the most active volcanoes in the world. Throughout history, two of the most powerful volcanic eruptions have happened in Indonesia: Tambora and Krakatoa Volcanoes.
It is home to hundreds of volcanoes, even the major ones are located in Indonesia. The Volcanological Survey of Indonesia (VSI) operates 64 volcano observatories which continuously monitor 59 volcanoes daily. There is at least one major volcano eruption that happens in Indonesia every year.
5. Continuous Eruption
The world’s longest ongoing erupting volcano is the Kilauea Volcano located in Hawaii. Its crater Puu Oo has been spitting lava since 1983. The typical Hawaiian volcanoes have basalt lava, a type of lava that flows really easily.
They don’t build up into a steep peak, but they spread out making a broad and shallow dome. This is why volcanoes in Hawaii are observed very closely. Tourists are often shocked that they are actually standing on the volcanoes.
6. Key To Life On Earth
We tend to connect volcanoes with destruction most of the time. Do you know, however, that 80% of the earth’s surface both above and below sea level is volcanic in origin? Many call volcanoes Earth’s geological architects. Due to the explosion, it crafts mountains and craters.
The lava flowing from it is packed with nutrients which creates a remarkably fertile soil which is key to a flourishing civilization. This is why despite volcanic eruption being something that is not very pleasant, its fruit in the long run is truly remarkable and necessary for life to flourish on earth.
7. Lava Will Not Kill You
When the lava first brokes out to the earth’s surface, its temperature will be between 1300 to 2200 °F ( 700 to 1200 °C). It is at least seven times hotter than boiling water. However, it is nearly impossible to be killed by flowing lava. Lava flows slow enough, giving you enough time to escape.
Also, it will eventually cool back down into rocks. At first it cools down so fast that it creates a layer on top of the actual lava flow. This actually causes the lava flow to take more time for it to actually cool down entirely. Even so, it is best to stay away as far as possible if you have seen signs of a volcano erupting near you.
8. World’s Fastest Growing Volcano
The Parícutin Volcano is located in Mexico and it is the world’s fastest growing volcano. Starting with a shocking emergence in the middle of a corn field, in the year 1943, it grew to 80% of its total 424 meter height in just a span of one year. However, it grew less active the following year until it went dormant in 1952.
Despite this, the area around it has been destroyed and people were forced to be relocated to other places. Its lava fields have covered the surrounding area and the famous ruins that resulted from it are the remnants of the church of San Juan. Only the bell tower still stands above the frozen lava. It is considered as one of the wonders of the natural world.
9. Largest Active Volcano
The Mauna Loa in Hawaii is the largest active volcano in the world. It has been erupting since 1984 following a series of earthquakes in 1983. Ever since then, it has erupted 33 times and has grown bigger and bigger due to the eruption.
From the base to the summit, the Mauna Loa is taller than Mount Everest at 8,848 meters high. However, half of it is under sea level. The Hawaiian Petrel lives in the Mauna Loa. It is an endangered seabird species, with only about 50 to 60 pairs left.
10. Strangest Volcano In The World
In Tasmania, the Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano is well known for its unique low temperature carbonalitic lava. It is probably the only one in the world that has carbonalitic lava. Unlike other lava, the carbonalitic lava contains mostly calcium, thus it is less viscous than the usual lava. Since it is less viscous, it erupts at a much lower temperature around 480 to 590 °C while usual lava erupts at around 1100 to 1200 °C.
Its calcium content also makes it react differently with water or humid weather. When it erupts it is in black or gray color, then changes color to stark white as it cools down. Interestingly, Ol Doinyo Lengai has been erupting carbonalitic lava for only recent millennia. It started as an alkaline-silicate lava volcano and slowly turned to calcium-enriched lava, then a carbonalitic lava volcano.
This ties up to the fact that nobody knows exactly where this carbonalitic lava came from. Thus, this is why Ol Doinyo Lengai is considered to be the strangest volcano in the world.
11. Slows Down Global Warming
When an eruption of a volcano is big enough, it will lower the global temperature. This is possible because the eruptions inject small ash particles to the air. These ash particles naturally shade us from incoming solar radiation.
This phenomenon raises an idea whether volcanic eruptions could help us slow down global warming. In 1998, a study on climatic implications of volcanic cooling assessed the change in temperature on both land and sea due to a volcanic eruption as big as the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.
They find that there is a decrease in temperature for up to 20 years due to it. Even though it is debatable we still need further study about it. However, the scientists believe that due to the global warming that is happening excessively these days the earth will be facing a huge volcanic eruption before the year 2100.
12. Volcanoes Exist In Other Planets
In our solar system, other planets and the moon also have volcanoes. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars, and Jupiter’s Moon, Io are known to have volcanoes. Right now, we only know that active volcanoes are only found on Earth and Jupiter’s moon Io. Io is the most volcanically active body in the entire solar system.
Its entire surface is covered with volcanic centers and lava flows. In general, volcanoes exist on planets or moons that are still hot. The larger the planet, the slower it cools, thus only big planets and the moon have volcanoes. Only in some cases like Io, it still has active volcanoes despite its small size due to the tidal heating.
13. Volcanoes Make Sunset More Beautiful
Another phenomenon of the volcanic eruption is that it makes the sunset look extra beautiful. When the eruption happens, it ejects sulfur dioxide which eventually reacts to form sulfate aerosols. Along with the ash, both particles will be suspended in the air and scatter the sun’s rays.
This eventually gives sunset its beautiful red and orange color. People who witness this in person say that after a volcanic eruption, the sunsets are in a vivid red color. This phenomenon may last for days depending on how big and how long the eruptions continue to happen.
14. Floating Stones
There are unique things that you can find in volcanoes. One of them is the only type of rock that could float on water: pumice. Pumice stones, also known as volcanic rock, are super lightweight, enabling them to float on water. It is made when the magma cools down really quickly when it is in water. You can see air bubbles or pores on the pumice stone which makes it less dense and could float.
What is even more fascinating is that even when it is immersed in water, it will keep floating for quite a long time before it absorbs all the water like a sponge and starts to sink. This phenomenon leads to the use of pumice stones as an indicator of an underwater volcano eruption. The presence of it would help signify that an underwater eruption may have just taken place.
15. A Place to Practice Living On Mars
The Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation or the Hi-Seas is located approximately at 8200 feet above sea level in Mauna Loa volcano. It is made for training crews to familiarize themselves with the condition when they are out on Mars in order to enable them to do high fidelity geological and astrobiological field work.
The geological condition is very similar to that on the moon or Mars which are also volcanic. Throughout the training period, they will study the behavior of the crew in dealing with the stress that is due to the isolation and lack of communication with earth. By knowing this, they will know best how to prepare themselves for the real visit to Mars.
16. The Most Beautiful Volcanoes In The World
Despite how dangerous it is to stay near the volcanoes, its beauty is inevitable. This is why volcanoes are an attractive place for tourists. Some of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world are Mount Teide in Spain which was regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 due to its very diverse geological condition.
It is also home to some of the most amazing beaches you would ever see. If you want to go for something that is more exciting, you can consider visiting Sakarujima in Japan. It is a very active volcano, erupting on average three times a day. A perfect destination for the adrenaline junkie. The photographers would love Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa for its beautiful picturesque snow peak feature. Snow on top of a volcano in Africa, what would be more beautiful than this?
The Kelimutu Volcano in Indonesia is decorated with lakes that are in a pretty gradation color. You might want to visit it before an eruption erases this pretty colored lake. There are more beautiful volcanoes, but you might want to start with these.
After reading all the 16 facts above, volcanoes are surely fascinating. It grows and works in such a unique way. It also contradicts itself on several occasions. Lastly, you will never know when it will choose to go inactive forever or just temporarily. It is truly a remarkable creation.