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50 Amazing Volcano Facts

Lava lakes

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The summit of Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano on the planet. (Image credit: Nick Powell National Science Foundation.)

The southernmost active volcano on the planet is Antarctica's Mount Erebus. It is also home to Earth's only long-lived lava lakes.

Odd combination

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(Image credit: Photograph by J.N. Marso on 14 August 1989)

"Lahar" is an Indonesian word that refers to a type of volcanic flow: a mixture of rock debris and water that originates on the slopes of the volcano. Typically it forms when snow or ice on a volcano is melted by volcanic material.

Dangerous avalanche

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Pyroclastic flow sweeps down the side of Mayon Volcano, Philippines, during an explosive eruption on 15 September 1984. Note the ground-hugging cloud of ash (lower left) that is billowing from the pyroclastic flow and the eruption column rising from the top of the volcano. (Image credit: Photograph by C. Newhall on 15 September 1984.)

A pyroclastic flow an avalanche of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments and volcanic gas that rushes down the side of a volcano, staying close to the ground can travel 62 mph (100 kph), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

High temperature

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Pyroclastic flows descend the south-eastern flank of Mayon Volcano, Philippines. (Image credit: Photograph by C. Newhall on 15 September 1984.)

The temperature within a pyroclastic flow may be greater than 932 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius), sufficient to burn and carbonize wood.

Namesake eruptions

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Close view of Stromboli Volcano erupting incandescent molten lava framgents. (Image credit: B. Chouet/USGS.)

The mild eruptions of Italy's Stromboli Volcano are so frequent and numerous that an entire style of volcanism "strombolian" is named after the volcano. Strombolian eruptions have nearly continuous lava fountaining along with emissions of gas, ash and volcanic bombs.

First in history

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This false-color image take by NASA's EO-1 satellite shows the eruption of Nabro volcano on June 24, 2011. It began erupting 11 days prior. (Image credit: NASA)

When Nabro, a stratovolcano in the northeast African nation of Eritrea, rumbled to life late in the evening of June 12, 2011, it was the first eruption of the volcano in recorded history, according to NASA.

Worldwide reach

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Volcanoes by Region (Image credit: Global Volcanism Program.)

There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, not including the continuous belt of volcanoes on the ocean floor.

Pele's hair

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Hundreds of strands of Pele's hair intertwined on the surface of a pahoehoe flow at Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i. The glass strands were erupted from Mauna Ulu, a shield that formed on the east rift of Kilauea between 1969 and 1974. (Image credit: D.W. Peterson on 27 March 1984.)

Hawaiian volcanoes can form a type of volcanic glass called Pele's hair, named for Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. The long, thin glass threads form as molten basaltic glass stretches out.

Pele's tears

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Assorted shapes of Pele's tears collected a few kilometers downwind from Mauna Ulu from along the Hilina Pali Road on Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i. U.S. dime for scale in lower right. (Image credit: Photograph by J.D. Griggs in November 1984.)

Bits of lava in lava fountains can cool quickly to form chunks of gas called Pele's tears. They are black and often found on the end of strands of Pele's hair.

Plinian eruptions

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In 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted cataclysmically, burying all of the surrounding cites with up to 30 m of ash. (Image credit: Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.)

When Pliny the Younger chronicled the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, he ended up lending his name to the explosive type of eruption Vesuvius exhibited: a plinian eruption.