5 Things You Might Not Know About Volcanoes

Volcanoes are continuously shaping our world, even if their eruptions can be extremely dangerous.

1. Magma and Lava are Not the Same

Magma is the molten liquid rock that exists under the Earth’s surface. Once it reaches the surface, it becomes lava.

2. Most Volcanoes Are in the Ring of Fire

You can find three-quarters of the world’s active volcanoes within a 25,000-mile area called the “Ring of Fire.”

Despite its name, this string of volcanoes (and earthquakes) along the edge of the Pacific Ocean is actually horseshoe-shaped.

Spanning from the tip of South America to the West Coast of North America, through Russia, Japan and New Zealand — running through a total of 15 countries.

3. Volcanoes Can Be Deadly

Since the late 1700s, volcanoes have contributed to more than 250,000 deaths. Besides the actual lava flow, ash and volcanic gasses can cause major harm, and even death.

Photo: Eriks Cistovs

The ash is particularly harmful to people with respiratory issues such as asthma or emphysema.

By far, the deadliest volcanic effects are from pyroclastic flows — an incredibly fast, downhill-moving mass of lava, ash and gasses.

In 1902, as Mount Pelée erupted, the town of Saint-Pierre was engulfed by a pyroclastic flow that killed nearly 30,000 people

4. Volcanoes Are Related to Other Natural Disasters

Because it can be a precursor to an eruption, we can use this knowledge as a warning system.

Photo: Suhairy Tri Yadhi

There is a connection between volcanoes and other potentially devastating natural events. One is volcanic earthquakes. These earthquakes, or volcanic tremors, indicate magma activity.

Volcanoes have also caused tsunamis. The worst one was a tsunami caused by an eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. With waves reaching 130 feet, it killed 36,000 people.

5. Volcanoes Formed Hawaii

Volcanic activity is responsible for 80 percent of the Earth’s surface, both above and below sea level.

Photo: Nick Wehrli

Hawaii has a total of 137 islands — which started forming tens of millions of years ago from underwater volcanic eruptions.

As the lava cooled off, it solidified and created islands.

Shifts in the Pacific Plate continue to shape the Hawaiian Islands to this day.

The largest active volcano in the world, Mauna Loa, is located in Hawaii.

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