Mount Vesuvius, located in southern Italy, is considered the most dangerous volcano in the world. Famous for its violent eruption in 79 A.D., it buried the entire city of Pompeii. Since then, it has erupted dozens of times, and in 1631, it killed 3,000 people. Volcanoes are insidious because they will lie dormant for years, and then suddenly erupt, with little warning, belching red, hot flowing lava and ash, and spewing death and destruction in its path. A volcano is literally a rupture in the earth’s surface that allows melting lava, volcanic ash, and dangerous gases to escape from the magma chamber beneath the surface. There are numerous examples of this happening across the earth including a violent, stratovolcano named Mt. St. Helen’s in Washington state in 1980. Ashes from this volcano darkened the skies in Spokane, Washington, 250 miles away.
The infamous volcano that lies quietly beneath Yellowstone Park, located mostly in the northwestern corner of Wyoming, is a caldera, a bowl-shaped depression, and is 1,500 square miles in area. Calderas or massive, underground craters, were formed millions of years ago from eruptions that emptied the magma (molten rock) chamber and collapsed in on itself causing a bowl-like shape to form beneath the earth’s surface. There are three enormous calderas that contain hot, molten rock and are located over “hot spots” under the Yellowstone Plateau. Sometimes referred to as Yellowstone Supervolcano, it contains volcanic fields that can produce exceptionally large and violent eruptions. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago. Seismic activity is closely monitored by the Yellowstone Volcanic Observatory with the help of the University of Utah. To-date this “sleeping giant” lies quietly for now.
The Ring of Fire, located in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, is a horseshoe shaped area that contains an excessive amount of earthquake and volcanic activity. This area contains 452 volcanoes and 90% of the earth’s earthquakes and runs 25,000 miles. Most of the volcanoes and seismic activity occur under the sea. The explosive Krakatoa in the 1880s was able to mix sea water with air and magma creating such a powerful release that it blew all of the 2,600 ft. of mountain away leaving a volcanic peak of 820 ft. below sea level. The once solid land mass was almost entirely destroyed and exists as several smaller islands today. The volcanic ash affected global weather for several years.
The Hawaiian Islands were formed from volcanic activity. Volcanoes can form in areas known as “hot spots” where the magma pushes up and erupts through the ocean floor. The outer crust of the earth’s surface is made up of Tectonic plates, and when these plates move over the hot spots, volcanoes are formed. Therefore, this activity created the existence of the Hawaiian islands. In 2018, 1,700 Hawaiians had to evacuate their homes because of the Kilauea volcanic eruption, which produced a river of flowing lava.
Let’s hope and pray that these sleeping giants remain quiet and dormant for a very long time! Thankfully, in modern days, there are those who use scientific equipment to watch for and measure seismic activity which is a harbinger for volcanic activity. Hopefully, there will be ample time for humankind to escape if one of these sleeping giants awakes.
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