A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface.
Earth’s volcanoes occur because its crust is broken into 17 major, rigid tectonic plates that float on a hotter, softer layer in its mantle. Therefore, on Earth, volcanoes are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging. For example, a mid-oceanic ridge, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has volcanoes caused by divergent tectonic plates pulling apart; the Pacific Ring of Fire has volcanoes caused by convergent tectonic plates coming together. Volcanoes can also form where there is stretching and thinning of the crust’s interior plates, e.g., in the East African Rift and the Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field and Rio Grande Rift in North America. This type of volcanism falls under the umbrella of “plate hypothesis” volcanism. Volcanism away from plate boundaries has also been explained as mantle plumes. These so-called “hotspots”, for example Hawaii, are postulated to arise from upwelling diapirs with magma from the core–mantle boundary, 3,000 km deep in the Earth. Volcanoes are usually not created where two tectonic plates slide past one another.
Erupting volcanoes can pose many hazards, not only in the immediate vicinity of the eruption. One such hazard is that volcanic ash can be a threat to aircraft, in particular those with jet engines where ash particles can be melted by the high operating temperature; the melted particles then adhere to the turbine blades and alter their shape, disrupting the operation of the turbine. Large eruptions can affect temperature as ash and droplets of sulfuric acid obscure the sun and cool the Earth’s lower atmosphere (or troposphere); however, they also absorb heat radiated up from the Earth, thereby warming the upper atmosphere (or stratosphere). Historically, so-called volcanic winters have caused catastrophic famines.
Types of Volcanoes
- Shield volcanoes
- Cinder cones
- Composite volcanoes
A shield volcano is a type of volcano usually built almost entirely of fluid magma flows. They are named for their large size and low profile, resembling a warrior’s shield lying on the ground. This is caused by the highly fluid lava they erupt, which travels farther than lava erupted from stratovolcanoes. This results in the steady accumulation of broad sheets of lava, building up the shield volcano’s distinctive form. The shape of shield volcanoes is due to the low-viscosity magma of their mafic lava.
2- Cinder cones
Cinder cones are the simplest type of volcano. A cinder cone or scoria cone is a steep conical hill of loose pyroclastic fragments, such as either volcanic clinkers, cinders, volcanic ash, or scoria that has been built around a volcanic vent. They consist of loose pyroclastic debris formed by explosive eruptions or lava fountains from a single, typically cylindrical, vent. As the gas-charged lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as either cinders, clinkers, or scoria around the vent to form a cone that often is beautifully symmetrical; with slopes between 30-40°; and a nearly circular ground plan. Most cinder cones have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit.
3- Composite volcanoes
A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a conical volcano built up by many layers (strata) of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic explosive eruptions and effusive eruptions, although some have collapsed craters called calderas. The lava flowing from stratovolcanoes typically cools and hardens before spreading far due to high viscosity. The magma forming this lava is often felsic, having high-to-intermediate levels of silica (as in rhyolite, dacite, or andesite), with lesser amounts of less-viscous mafic magma. Extensive felsic lava flows are uncommon, but have travelled as far as 15 km (9.3 mi).
Stratovolcanoes are sometimes called “composite volcanoes” because of their composite layered structure built up from sequential outpourings of eruptive materials. They are among the most common types of volcanoes, in contrast to the less common shield volcanoes. Two famous stratovolcanoes are Krakatoa, best known for its catastrophic eruption in 1883 and Vesuvius, famous for its destruction of the towns Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 CE. Both eruptions claimed thousands of lives. In modern times, Mount Saint Helens and Mount Pinatubo have erupted catastrophically.
Existence of stratovolcanoes has not been proved on other terrestrial bodies of the solar system with one exception. Their existence was suggested for some isolated massifs on Mars, e.g., Zephyria Tholus.