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Volcanoes

Mount Bromo
Mount Bromo. / Roberto Marchegiani, Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

WorldBlue Described volcanoes

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WorldYellow What is included in this category?

This category includes most unusual and interesting volcanoes of the world.

What are volcanoes?

Over the last 10,000 years in some 1,500 places around the Earth through the crust of the planet has been emitted lava, ash, and gases from the mantle of Earth. Each of these places could be considered to be an active volcano. Every year some 50 – 70 volcanoes are erupting, at any moment there are some 20 – 30 eruptions ongoing.

Best known and visually most impressive are stratovolcanoes – tall and conical mountains with a vent that opens in the summit. But there are other types of volcanoes as well, such as shield volcanoes and fissure vents – linear rows of smaller volcanoes or even open fissures. Not always it is easy to decide whether the diverse closely located volcanic features are parts of a single volcano or separate volcanoes.

What defines "unusual volcanoes"?

The mission of Wondermondo is to describe all the unusual places ("wonders") around the world. Each of the 1,500 active volcanoes and also some of the inactive ones are such unusual places. But, as always in life, some are more unusual than others.

The most unusual volcanoes can have the following characteristics:

  • Record size or other superlatives;
  • Unusual volcanic and other geological processes;
  • Unusual geochemistry and characteristics which are linked to it;
  • Unusual shape.
Volcano records

The tallest active volcano on Earth (above the sea level) is the Ojos del Salado (Chile), 6,891 m tall. It contains also world’s highest located lake at the height of 6,390 m.

Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea. / pedrik, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The world’s tallest volcano as measured from it base is Mauna Kea (United States, Hawaii) which rises from the ocean floor 10,203 m tall. This is the tallest mountain in the world.

Chimborazo volcano (Ecuador) holds an unusual record – this 6,268 m tall mountain is the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the centre of Earth.

The deepest known volcano is located in Cayman Trough, Caribbean. These deep sea vents are located at the depth of some 5,000 m.

World’s biggest volcano – Tamu Massif under the waves of north-west Pacific – falls outside the scope of Wondermondo as its area exceeds 500 km² multiple times – it is some 311,000 km² large!

The oldest still-active volcano in the world is the giant Mount Cameroon (Cameroon). It has managed to have stamina (e.g. reservoir of magma unter it) for the last 30 millions of years at least.

Only few volcanoes in the world have lava lakes and the most persistant lava lake is in Erta Ale volcano (Ethiopia) – this volcano holds a lake of liquid stone since 1906 at least.

The largest intact volcanic caldera is Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania) – amazing structure with an area of 260 km² and surrounded by up to 610 m tall walls and steeps.

The largest lava lake was seen in Masaya Volcano (Nicaragua) in 1670 – it was approximately 1 km wide.

Unusual processes

There are few volcanoes in the world which are constantly active – constantly erupting. This offers predictable and magnificent sight. Among the most active ones can be mentioned Etna and Stromboli (Italy) which are erupting almost constantly for millenia, Kīlauea (Hawaiian Islands), Mount Yasur (Vanuatu), Piton de la Fournaise (Reunion) and others.

In most cases volcanoes are erupting from a single vent – there is a mountain with eruption at its summit. But there are times when Earth seems to open and from a long crack starts to flow lava. One such eruption took place in Iceland in 1783 – 1784, when simultaneously was erupting a chain of 130 craters – Laki fissure vent.

The Laki crater row
The Laki crater row. / Anne Schöpa, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Active volcanoes are dynamic and often – changing. Some of these changes and processes are very unusual and impressive. Thus, for example, there are volcanoes which are rising from the sea: there appears a new island – volcano… it is washed away by the ocean waves and rises again and then – again… Some examples are Home Reef (Tonga), Kavachi (Solomon Islands). Often such submarine volcano manages to rise successfully and new island persists – such as Surtsey (Iceland) which rised in 1963 – 1967. Curtis Island (Kermadec Islands) has rised earlier and continues to rise quickly, with almost daily earthquakes. And there are also volcanoes which are rising and soon they might reach the surface of ocean (Kick-’em-Jenny in Grenada).

A natural wonder, albeit often very unpleasant is volcanoes which suddenly rise from flat field. Such recent surprises have been ParĂ­cutin (Mexico) and ShĹŤwa-shinzan (Japan).

During the eruption one can witness liquid rocks – lava. But in very rare cases there form lava lakes which exist for longer time. Currently these volcanoes contain lava lakes:

Lava lake in Mount Nyiragongo
Lava lake in Mount Nyiragongo / Nina R, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

There existed or could exist some more lava lakes:

Some volcanoes emit poisonous and also rammish gases which affect wide environs – this is a kind of frequent chemical attack. For example Mount Asphyxia (South Sandwich Islands) frequently emits suffocating gases which together with the huge amount of penguin guano in the island can make the stay in Zavodovski Island unbearable. Large "field of acid" has been formed by Benbow and Marum volcanoes (Vanuatu), Masaya (Nicaragua), Poás volcano (Costa Rica).

Unusual geochemistry

Volcanoes exhibit interesting chemical properties rather frequently.

In rather many cases volcanic craters contain colourful, acid solutions. Such lakes of acid are found in the craters of Ebeko (Russia, Kuril Islands), Maly Semiachik (Russia, Kamchatka), Mount Douglas (United States, Alaska). Nakadake Crater Lake (Japan) is almost pure acid, with pH ranging from 0.5 to 1.7, similar acidity is in Ijen Caldera (Indonesia) but Laguna Caliente in Poás volcano (Costa Rica) sometimes reaches even the nearly impossible 0.0 pH. As if this is not enough, phreatic eruptions may eject this acid up to 1 kilometre high.

These lakes may have bright, unusual colors. These colors change over the time, turning from white into bright blue or green. Very unusual are Kelimutu crater lakes (Indonesia) – three closely located lakes, where each of them has different color – from bright red to green and blue.

Even volcanic flames sometimes have unusual colors. Thus the burning sulphuric gases in Ijen Caldera (Indonesia) in the night have impressive blue color.

Sometimes whole volcano consists of unusual substance. Such unique volcanoes are Ol Doinyo Lengai and Kerimasi in Tanzania – both are erupting very unusual natrocarbonatite lava which soon turns bright white as a snow.

Below the waters of oceans are located very weird volcanoes. Thus Daikoku Sulphur Cauldron (Northern Mariana Islands) contains a unique pool of liquid sulphur, NW Eifuku Champagne Vent (Northern Mariana Islands) emits almost pure liquid carbon dioxide.

Unusual shape
Molokini
Molokini. / Farid Askerov, Wikimedia Commons / public domain

Some volcanic formations have very unusual shape. For example, Molokini crater (Hawaii) is just a perfect, green crescent rising from the blue ocean. Somewhat similar, but on the land and even more imporessive is Fort Rock (United States, Oregon) which reminds ruins of a giant fortress. Suswa Volcano (Kenya) has unique double crater which looks like a deep pressed ring around its summit.

Many volcanoes are well known thanks to their perfect, symmetric shape. It is hard to say which one is the most symmetrical in the world but some of the most amazing ones are Mayon (Philippines), Mount Shishaldin (United States, Alaska) and the gorgeous Kronotsky (Russia, Kamchatka).

And many, many volcanoes are just beautiful in everything. Some are famous in the whole world (Mount Fuji in Japan), others – less known but not less gorgeous (Maelifell in Iceland).

Wondermondo has the following articles about volcanoes:

WorldViolet Top 25 volcanoes

Africa

Mount Kilimanjaro

Tanzania

The largest free-standing volcanic mass in the world. Also – the highest mountain in Africa, 5,895 m high. The volcano rises 4,877 m above the surrounding plain. Summit has a permanent glacier that is quickly disappearing. Mount Kilimanjaro includes several unique ecosystems, such as the highest cloud forest in Africa at 4,100 m height and stands of Dendrosenecio plants.

Mount Kilimanjaro, symbol of Tanzania
Erta Ale

Ethiopia

One of the most active volcanos in the world, with a constant lava lake (sometimes two lakes) in the crater, known since 1906. None of the other known lava lakes in the world have such a long lifetime.

Erta Ale lava lake, Ethiopia
Mount Nyiragongo

Democratic Republic of the Congo

One of the few volcanos in the world with a nearly permanent lava lake in it. Height of the mountain – 3,470 m. Depth of lava lake has reached up to 600 m. Eruptions produce very fluid lava of rare type. The speed of lava flows here can reach 100 km/h and the volcano is very steep.

The evilish glow of the lava lake of Mount Nyiragongo
Mount Teide

Canary Islands (Spain)

3 718 m high volcano. Around the summit of the volcano are numerous species of plants and animals that are found only here, such as Teide bugloss with up to 3 m tall, red inflorescences. Sacred mountain to Guanches, seen as a gate to hell.

Teide volcano, Tenerife
Ol Doinyo Lengai

Tanzania

The only known carbonatite volcano in the world (except for the neighboring Kerimasi volcano). The volcano produces natrocarbonatite lava with nearly unique minerals – nyerereite and gregoryite. Lava flows at very low temperature at 500 – 600 ° C. Carbonates react with the moisture of the atmosphere and quickly turn white, creating a unique volcanic landscape. Here in a steep cone has been observed formation of a new, nearly unique lava cave with enormous stalactites made of fragile natrocarbonatite.

Ol Doinyo Lengai, Tanzania
Ngorongoro Crater

Tanzania

The largest volcanic caldera in the world, up to 610 m deep and 260 km² large. Area of an exceptional concentration of wild animals, with 25,000 large animals living in the crater.

Mount Cameroon

Cameroon

Possibly the oldest still-active volcano in the world that has been active for 30 million years at least. This enormous mountain rises 4 040 m from the ocean and is located over one of the largest known reservoirs of magma.

Mount Cameroon from Bioko Island
Mount Nyamuragira

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Africa’s most active volcano, 3,058 m high. The volcano has erupted 30 times since 1880 and produces the major part of sulfur dioxide pollution in the world. The volcano has created lava fields. An intense eruption took place also in 2010 and damaged the virgin rainforest. The volcano contains an intermittent lava lake that seems to become more stable and permanent.

Mount Nyamuragira in January 2014

Antarctica and Subantarctic islands

Mount Erebus – the southernmost active volcano

Antarctica

One of the few constant glowing lava lakes in the world. Here are found large anorthoclase crystals in the center of the caldera of the volcano.

Mount Erebus

Asia

Mount Fuji

Japan

Symbol of Japan, highest mountain in the country, 3,776 m high. This volcano has a nearly perfect symmetrical form and has provided inspiration for many works of art.

Mount Fuji
Kelimutu crater lakes

Indonesia

System of three closely located crater lakes. Each of the lakes has a different, changing color – from bright red to green and blue.

Kelimutu crater lakes
Taal Volcano and Taal Lake

Philippines

400 m high, active volcano. An unusual feature is the fact that there is a lake on an island (Luzon), with a summit of the volcano as an island in this lake and crater lake in the middle of this volcano with a small island in it. In Taal Lake lives the only freshwater sardine in the world, the only freshwater seasnake, and many other endemic species.

Kawah Ijen

Indonesia

Turquoise-colored, extremely acid lake with a diameter of 1 km. Acidity – 0.5 pH. Nearly pure deposits of sulfur are located in the caldera. The burning sulfuric gas creates a very impressive blue flame in the night.

The blue fire of Kawah Ijen, Indonesia
Patomskiy Crater

Russia

Unusual crater – up to 40 m tall and 160 m wide mound/ring of limestone blocks with a smaller mound inside. Most likely it was created by a gaseous eruption some centuries ago.

Patomskiy Crater, Russia
Mount Bromo

Indonesia

Very active volcano, 2,329 m high. Sacred place with ancient tradition of offerings.

Volcanic landscape around Mount Bromo, East Java

Australia and Oceania

White Island

New Zealand

Active volcano rising 321 m high from the sea as an island. One of the most accessible active marine volcanoes in the world. Fumaroles and boiling mud pools. The crater contains a light blue lake.

Mauna Loa

United States

Volcano with the largest area in the world among the volcanoes that are above sea level. It rises 4 169 m above sea level and 9 170 m above its base.

Mauna Loa from the path to the summit of Mauna Kea
Halemaumau Crater with lava lake, Kilauea

United States

The most active volcano in the world could be Kilauea in Hawaii. The caldera of this volcano contains Halemaumau Crater, where until 2018 was a lava lake.

Kilauea Caldera with Halemaumau Crater, 2016

Europe

Surtsey

Iceland

This volcanic island is very new: it rose from the ocean in 1963 – 1967. The island is pristine and serves as a natural laboratory where the colonization process of plant and animal life is researched. The area of the island is decreasing.

Surtsey from air
Mount Etna

Italy

Very active, 3329 m tall volcano. Eruptions of this volcano have caused much damage.

Stromboli

Italy

Volcano on its own small island. It has been erupting nearly continuously over the last 2000 years.

Stromboli

North America

Masaya volcano

Nicaragua

Very active and unusual volcano (635 m) with several active craters. Santiago crater emits large amounts of sulfur dioxide that created acid rain and eliminated vegetation around the volcano. Masaya crater contains intermittent lava lakes – in 1670 in Nindiri crater it was up to 1 km large, by far the largest known lava lake.

Lava lake of Masaya Volcano
ParĂ­cutin

Mexico

This newly-born volcano appeared in a cornfield in 1943 and grew 336 m tall over one year, finally achieving a height of 424 m in 1952.

ParĂ­cutin
Poas Volcano and Laguna Caliente

Costa Rica

Very active and unusual volcano with Laguna Caliente – lake of extreme acidity reaching up to 0.0 of pH. Frequent phreatic eruptions may eject this acid up to 1 kilometer high. Around the volcano, all the vegetation is stunted brown and black by the extremely acid clouds coming from this lake.

Laguna Caliente in Poas crater, Costa Rica
Citlaltépetl (Pico de Orizaba)

Mexico

The most prominent mountain between Colombia and Yukon, 5,636 m high stratovolcano. The 7th topographically most prominent mountain in the world. Contains permanent snow.

Citlatepetl (Pico de Orizaba)

WorldYellow Recommended books

Volcanoes of the World


This impressive scientific resource presents up-to-date information on ten thousand years of volcanic activity on Earth. In the decade and a half since the previous edition was published, new studies have refined assessments of the ages of many volcanoes, and several thousand new eruptions have been documented. This edition updates the book’s key components: a directory of volcanoes active during the Holocene; a chronology of eruptions over the past ten thousand years; a gazetteer of volcano names, synonyms, and subsidiary features; an extensive list of references; and an introduction placing these data in context.

Volcanoes


Exceptional nonfiction for children from two of the most trusted names in science education: Seymour Simon and the Smithsonian Institution.


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