Beautiful photos of volcano activity around the world
Volcanic eruptions in history.
The photos of smoke from the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in Iceland may be beautiful, but the consequences of the event are potentially devastating. Already, global flight patterns have been disrupted and noxious gases have been released, and acid rain and damage to local water supplies remain possibilities. Experts worry that the explosions might trigger further eruptions in nearby volcanoes. But this eruption isn’t nearly as bad as some of history’s biggest blasts.
La Garita Caldera, Colorado
This Colorado eruption spewed out more than 1,200 cubic miles of lava, enough to cover the basin of Lake Michigan. Pictured are the ash formations still present from the eruption, which happened 28 million years ago. The caldera—or collapsed volcanic basin—measures some 21 miles by 45 miles.
Plagued by deadly earthquakes and volcanoes, Indonesia is part of the so-called Ring of Fire. And in 1815, it experienced the deadliest and largest eruption in history when Mount Tambora, located on the island of Sumbawa, erupted. The explosion robbed North America and Europe of a summer the following year, as volcanic ash in the air led to a drop in temperatures and caused one of the worst famines of the 19th century. The combined death toll of the eruption exceeded 70,000, not counting those who died from its aftereffects.
In 1883, a volcano erupted on Krakatoa, an island between Java and Sumatra. The eruption was so violent that residents of the island nation of Mauritius, located 3,000 miles away, could hear the roar. With the power of 200 megatons of TNT, the eruption was 13,000 times the force of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It sent a cloud of ash and particles all over Europe; the resulting red skies are said to have inspired Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. Here, a lithograph of the explosion.
In 1912, the Novarupta Volcano in Katmai erupted for more than 60 hours, covering more than 40 square miles in ash. It was one of the most powerful volcanoes on record, collapsing the summit of Mount Katmai—the explosion had 40 times the force of that at Mount St. Helens. However, because of its remote location, there were no casualties. After the blast, the area surrounding the volcano was made into a national park. This photo, taken in 1915, shows some of the residual destruction.
After Katmai, this eruption was the second most powerful volcanic event of the 20th century, but in this case, the human toll was severe. Around 800 people were killed when Mount Pinatubo, nestled on the west coast of the Philippine island of Luzon, erupted in 1991. The volcanic discharge was carried by a tropical storm that struck at the same time. As a result ash, cinders, and volcanic blocks rained down over the entire island, killing hundreds of people.
The entire island of Hawaii is made of several connected volcanoes, but most are dormant. Kilauea, however, began erupting in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since, making it the planet’s most active volcano. (The name Kilauea means “spreading” or “spewing.”) Lava from the volcano flows dramatically into the Pacific Ocean, making it a popular tourist destination. Here, visitors gather at sunset to watch the eruption.
Mount St. Helens, Washington
The deadliest volcanic eruption in U.S. history was tiny compared with its predecessors, but it still caused almost $3 billion in damages and killed 57 people. Dormant for almost 100 years, the volcano erupted in 1980, causing hot volcanic ash to rise 80,000 feet into the air and lopping almost 1,400 feet off the mountain peak. President Jimmy Carter called the resulting landscape “more desolate than a moonscape.”
Smoke and ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano shot high into stratosphere and drifted south, settling over England and parts of Europe and causing many flights throughout the continent to be canceled.
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