What happens when a volcano erupts?

(ORDO NEWS) — Volcanic activity is an exciting, frightening and absolutely necessary feature of our planet. Volcanoes are scattered everywhere, from the desert in Africa to the cold climates of Antarctica, islands in the Pacific Ocean and on all continents. Every day somewhere there is an eruption.

Earth’s volcanoes are familiar to most of us, such as the very active volcano Agung in Bali, Bardarbunga in Iceland, Kilauea in Hawaii and Colima in Mexico.

However, there are volcanoes on worlds throughout the solar system. Take, for example, Jupiter’s moon Io. It is highly volcanic and spews sulphurous lava from beneath its surface. According to experts, this small world will almost turn itself inside out over millions of years due to volcanic activity that carries material from the bowels to the surface and beyond.

Saturn’s more distant moon Enceladus also has geysers associated with volcanism. Instead of erupting molten rock, as on Earth and Io, it spews out slushy ice crystals. Planetary scientists suspect that many more such “ice volcanoes” (known as cryovolcanism) exist in the far reaches of the solar system.

Much closer to Earth, Venus is known to be volcanically active, and there is strong evidence of past volcanic activity on Mars. Even on Mercury, traces of volcanic eruptions are visible at the very beginning of its history.

Volcanoes participate in the construction of the world

Volcanoes perform the important work of forming continents and islands, creating deep ocean mountains and craters. By spewing lava and other materials, they also restore landscapes on Earth. Earth began its life as a volcanic world covered in a molten ocean.

Not all volcanoes that have erupted since the beginning of time are currently active. Some are long dead and will never be active again. Others are dormant (meaning they may erupt in the future). This is especially true on Mars, where several volcanoes exist among the evidence of their active past.

The Basics of Volcanic Eruptions

Most people are familiar with volcanic eruptions like the one that occurred in 1980 on Mount St. Helens in Washington state. It was a dramatic eruption that destroyed part of the mountain and rained billions of tons of ash into neighboring states.

However, this is not the only eruption in the region. Mount Hood and Rainier are also considered active, though not as active as their sister caldera. These mountains are known as “back-arc” volcanoes, and their activity is caused by the movement of plates deep underground.

The Hawaiian Islands chain originated from a hotspot, a weak point in the earth’s crust under the Pacific Ocean. The islands formed over millions of years as the Earth’s crust moved over the hotspot and lava flowed to the seafloor. Eventually, the surface of each island broke through the surface of the water and continued to rise.

The most active Hawaiian volcanoes are on the Big Island. One of them – Kilauea – continues to throw out thick lava flows that covered most of the southern part of the island. Recent eruptions from a vent on the side of this mountain have destroyed villages and homes on the Big Island.

Volcanoes also erupt throughout the Pacific Ocean, from Japan south to New Zealand. The most volcanic regions in the basin are located along the plate boundaries, and this entire region is called the “Ring of Fire”.

In Europe, the volcano Etna in Sicily and Vesuvius (the volcano that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD) are very active. These mountains continue to influence the surrounding regions with earthquakes and periodic eruptions.

Not every volcano raises mountains. Some vent volcanoes eject lava pads to the outside, especially during underwater eruptions. Vent volcanoes are active on the planet Venus, where they cover the surface with thick, viscous lava. On Earth, volcanoes erupt in a variety of ways.

How do volcanoes work?

Volcanic eruptions bring material deep below the Earth’s surface to the surface. They also allow the world to release its warmth. Active volcanoes on Earth, Io, and Venus feed on subsurface molten rock. On Earth, lava rises from the mantle (this is the layer below the surface). When there is enough molten rock, called magma, and enough pressure is applied to it, a volcano erupts. In many volcanoes, magma rises up the central tube or “throat” and exits at the top of the mountain.

Elsewhere, lava, gases, and ash flow through vents. As a result, they can form cone-shaped hills and mountains. Just such an eruption recently occurred on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Volcanic activity can be quite quiet, or it can be explosive. With a very active flow, clouds of gas can escape from a volcanic caldera. They are very deadly because they are hot and move fast, and heat and gas kill a person very quickly.

What happens when a volcano erupts 2

Volcanoes are often (but not always) closely associated with the movement of continental plates. Deep below the surface of our planet, huge tectonic plates are slowly moving and colliding with each other. At plate boundaries, where two or more plates come together, magma rises to the surface.

This is how the volcanoes of the Pacific coast arose, where plates sliding over each other create friction and heat, allowing lava to flow freely. Deep-sea volcanoes also erupt with the help of magma and gases. We don’t always see eruptions, but clouds of pumice (rock formed from an eruption) eventually make their way to the surface and create long, rocky “rivers” on the surface.

As mentioned earlier, the Hawaiian Islands are actually the result of a so-called volcanic plume under the Pacific Plate. Here are some scientific details about how it works: The Pacific Plate is moving slowly to the southeast, and as it does so, the plume heats up the crust and ejects material to the surface.

As the plate moves south, new areas heat up, and a new island forms from the molten lava that makes its way to the surface. The Big Island is the youngest of the islands to rise above the surface of the Pacific Ocean, although another is being built as the plate moves. It is called Loihi and is still under water.

In addition to active volcanoes, there are so-called “supervolcanoes” in several places on Earth. These are geologically active regions located on top of massive hotspots. The most famous of them is the Yellowstone Caldera in northwestern Wyoming in the United States. Here is a deep lake of lava that has erupted several times over geological time.

A scientific view of volcanic eruptions

Volcanic eruptions usually herald swarms of earthquakes. They testify to the movement of molten rock under the surface of the earth. When an eruption is about to occur, a volcano can spew lava in two forms, as well as ash and hot gases.

Most people are familiar with the tortuous-looking lava “pahoehoe” (pronounced “pa-hoi-hoi”). It has a consistency similar to melted peanut butter. It cools very quickly, forming thick layers of black rock. Another type of lava flowing from volcanoes is called “a’a” (pronounced “ah-ah”). It looks like a moving pile of coal chips.

Both types of lava contain gases that they release as they move. Their temperature can exceed 1200° C. Hot gases released during volcanic eruptions include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen, argon, methane and carbon monoxide, as well as water vapour.

The ash, which can be as small as dust particles or as large as rocks and pebbles, is composed of cooled rock and is ejected from a volcano. These gases, even in small amounts, can be quite deadly even on a relatively quiet mountain.

In highly explosive volcanic eruptions, ash and gases are mixed together in a so-called “pyroclastic flow”. Such a mixture moves very quickly and can be quite deadly. During the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington, the explosion of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, and the eruption near Pompeii in ancient Rome, most people died when they were swept over by such deadly flows of gas and ash. Others were buried in the ash or mud flows that followed the eruption.

Volcanoes are necessary for the evolution of the planet

Volcanoes and volcanic flows have been affecting our planet (and other planets) since the beginning of the solar system’s history. They enriched the atmosphere and soils, at the same time they caused radical changes and threatened life. They are part of life on an active planet and can teach valuable lessons to other worlds where volcanic activity occurs.

Geologists study volcanic eruptions and related activities, and work to classify each type of volcanic land feature. What they learn gives them a greater understanding of the inner workings of our planet and other worlds where volcanic activity occurs.

Volcanoes as part of planetary geology

Volcanoes are often (but not always) closely associated with the movement of continental plates. Deep below the surface of our planet, huge tectonic plates are slowly moving and colliding with each other. At plate boundaries, where two or more plates come together, magma rises to the surface.

This is how the volcanoes of the Pacific coast arose, where plates sliding over each other create friction and heat, allowing lava to flow freely. Deep-sea volcanoes also erupt with the help of magma and gases. We don’t always see eruptions, but clouds of pumice (rock formed from an eruption) eventually make their way to the surface and create long, rocky “rivers” on the surface.

As mentioned earlier, the Hawaiian Islands are actually the result of a so-called volcanic plume under the Pacific Plate. Here are some scientific details about how it works: The Pacific Plate is moving slowly to the southeast, and as it does so, the plume heats up the crust and ejects material to the surface.

As the plate moves south, new areas heat up, and a new island forms from the molten lava that makes its way to the surface. The Big Island is the youngest of the islands to rise above the surface of the Pacific Ocean, although another is being built as the plate moves. It is called Loihi and is still under water.

In addition to active volcanoes, there are so-called “supervolcanoes” in several places on Earth. These are geologically active regions located on top of massive hotspots. The most famous of them is the Yellowstone Caldera in northwestern Wyoming in the United States. Here is a deep lake of lava that has erupted several times over geological time.

A scientific view of volcanic eruptions

Volcanic eruptions usually herald swarms of earthquakes. They testify to the movement of molten rock under the surface of the earth. When an eruption is about to occur, a volcano can spew lava in two forms, as well as ash and hot gases.

Most people are familiar with the tortuous-looking lava “pahoehoe” (pronounced “pa-hoi-hoi”). It has a consistency similar to melted peanut butter. It cools very quickly, forming thick layers of black rock. Another type of lava flowing from volcanoes is called “a’a” (pronounced “ah-ah”). It looks like a moving pile of coal chips.

Both types of lava contain gases that they release as they move. Their temperature can exceed 1200° C. Hot gases released during volcanic eruptions include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen, argon, methane and carbon monoxide, as well as water vapour.

The ash, which can be as small as dust particles or as large as rocks and pebbles, is composed of cooled rock and is ejected from a volcano. These gases, even in small amounts, can be quite deadly even on a relatively quiet mountain.

In highly explosive volcanic eruptions, ash and gases are mixed together in a so-called “pyroclastic flow”. Such a mixture moves very quickly and can be quite deadly.

During the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington, the explosion of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, and the eruption near Pompeii in ancient Rome, most people died when they were swept over by such deadly flows of gas and ash. Others were buried in the ash or mud flows that followed the eruption.

Volcanoes are necessary for the evolution of the planet

Volcanoes and volcanic flows have been affecting our planet (and other planets) since the beginning of the solar system’s history. They enriched the atmosphere and soils, at the same time they caused radical changes and threatened life. They are part of life on an active planet and can teach valuable lessons to other worlds where volcanic activity occurs.

Geologists study volcanic eruptions and related activities, and work to classify each type of volcanic land feature. What they learn gives them a greater understanding of the inner workings of our planet and other worlds where volcanic activity occurs.

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