Volcanoes/Volcanic Eruptions – Notable

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Table: Volcanic Eruptions – Notable

† The Volcanic Explosivity Index, or VEI, was proposed in 1982 as a way to describe the relative size or magnitude of explosive volcanic eruptions. It is a 0-to-8 index of increasing explosivity. Each increase in number represents an increase around a factor of ten. The VEI uses several factors to assign a number, including volume of erupted pyroclastic material (for example, ashfall, pyroclastic flows, and other ejecta), height of eruption column, duration in hours, and qualitative descriptive terms. Eruptions designated a VEI of 5 or higher are considered “very large” explosive events, which occur worldwide only on an average of about once every 2 decades.[1]

Date Location – Magnitude – Description
c. 1.3 million BP

Yellowstone, Wyoming, US
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7 to 8

The Yellowstone Caldera is the volcanic caldera located in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, sometimes referred to as the Yellowstone Supervolcano. The caldera is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, in which the vast majority of the park is contained. The major features of the caldera measure about 34 by 45 miles (55 by 72 km).

c. 760,000 BCE

Long Valley, California, US
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7

Long Valley Caldera is a depression in eastern California that is adjacent to Mammoth Mountain. The valley is one of the earth’s largest calderas, measuring about 20 mi (32 km) long (east-west) and 11 mi (18 km) wide (north-south), and up to 3,000 ft (910 m) deep. Long Valley was formed 760,000 years ago when a huge volcanic eruption released very hot ash that later cooled to form the Bishop tuff that is common to the area.

c. 640,000 BCE

Yellowstone, Wyoming, US
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 8

The Yellowstone Caldera is the volcanic caldera located in Yellowstone National Park in the United States, sometimes referred to as the Yellowstone Supervolcano. The caldera is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, in which the vast majority of the park is contained. The major features of the caldera measure about 34 by 45 miles (55 by 72 km).

c. 74,000 BCE

Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 8

The Toba supereruption was a supervolcanic eruption that occurred sometime between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago at Lake Toba (Sumatra, Indonesia). It is recognized as one of the Earth’s largest known eruptions. The related catastrophe hypothesis holds that this event caused a global volcanic winter of 6-10 years and possibly a 1,000-year-long cooling episode.

The Toba eruption has been linked to a genetic bottleneck in human evolution about 50,000 years ago, which may have resulted from a severe reduction in the size of the total human population due to the effects of the eruption on the global climate.

According to the genetic bottleneck theory, between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, human populations sharply decreased to 3,000–10,000 surviving individuals. It is supported by genetic evidence suggesting that today’s humans are descended from a very small population of between 1,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs that existed about 70,000 years ago.

c. 26,500 BCE

Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 8

Lake Taupo lies in a caldera created by a supervolcanic eruption which occurred approximately 26,500 years ago. According to geological records, the volcano has erupted 28 times in the last 27,000 years. The initial event 26,500 years ago is the largest eruption and ejected an estimated 1170 cubic kilometres of material and caused several hundred square kilometres of surrounding land to collapse and form the caldera that filled with water. It is possible that the Lake Taupo event contributed to starting the Last Glacial Maximum.

c. 6640 BCE

Kurile Lake, Russia
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7

The Kurile lake caldera is a large caldera containing a crater lake located at the southern tip of Kamchatka Peninsula. It was formed by two large volcanic explosions, one 41,500 radiocarbon years ago and the other around 6440 BC. The huge amount of material ejected during the second explosion, comparable to some of the largest eruptions in recorded history, produced thick pyroclastic flow deposits around the countryside, and some ash fell more than 1000 km away on the Asian mainland.

c. 5,600 BCE

Crater Lake, Oregon, US
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7

Crater Lake is a caldera lake located in the south-central region of the U.S. state of Oregon. It is the main feature of Crater Lake National Park and famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. The lake partly fills a nearly 2,148-foot (655 m) deep caldera that was formed around 7,700 (± 150) years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. The main features of the lake are its deep blue color, water clarity and Wizard Island.

c. 4500 BCE

Kikai-Akahoya, Japan
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7

Kikai is a massive, submarine caldera with three small islands (Osumi Islands), parts of the caldera rim, that project above sea level in the Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. Kikai Caldera was the source of the Akahoya eruption and is one of only six known eruptions reaching that magnitude during the Holocene, or the last twelve thousand years. It dramatically changed vegetation in Southern Kyūshū.

c. 1650 BCE

Thera, Greece
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7

The eruption of Thera (Santorini), was a major catastrophic volcanic eruption and was one of the largest volcanic events on Earth in recorded history. The eruption devastated the island of Thera, including the Minoan settlement at Akrotiri, and generated a 35 to 150 m (115 to 490 ft) high tsunami that devastated the north coast of Crete, 110 km (68 mi), as well as communities and agricultural areas on nearby islands. Additionally, it has been speculated that the Minoan eruption and the destruction of the city at Akrotiri provided the basis for or otherwise inspired Plato’s story of Atlantis.

1645 BCE

Aniakchak, Alaska, US
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 6

Mount Aniakchak is a 3,700 year old volcanic caldera (about 10 kilometers (6 mi) in diameter) located in the Aleutian Range of Alaska, United States. Aniakchak caldera formed during a major eruption, which left evidence in ice cores dated to 1645 BC. Surprise Lake within the caldera is the source of the Aniakchak River, a National Wild River.

50 AD

Ambrym, Vanuatu
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 6

Ambrym is a volcanic island in the archipelago of Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides). It is well known for its highly active volcanic activity that includes lava lake formation. Ambrym is a large basaltic volcano with a 12-km-wide caldera, and one of the most active volcanoes of the archipelago. The caldera is the result of a huge plinian explosion, which took place around 50 AD and ranks as the second highest in the in recent geological history.

79 AD

Vesuvius, Italy
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 5

Mount Vesuvius is a stratovolcano in the Gulf of Naples, Italy. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Vesuvius consists of a large cone partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and originally much higher structure. Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. An estimated 16,000 people died due to hydrothermal pyroclastic flows.

186 AD

Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7

The second large eruption of this volcano, which was the biggest in the last 5000 years, resulted in the sky to turn red over Rome and China. Records from Rome and China attest to this eruption as well as the mention of hearing the explosion. The initial event 26,500 years ago was the largest eruption and ejected an estimated 1170 cubic kilometres of material and caused several hundred square kilometres of surrounding land to collapse and form the caldera that filled with water.

1452 AD

Kuwae, Vanuatu
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7

Kuwae is a submarine caldera between Epi and Tongoa islands. Kuwae Caldera cuts through the flank of the Tavani Ruru volcano on Epi and the northwest end of Tongoa. The Kuwae eruption of 1452 has been linked with the second pulse of the Little Ice Age, which had started two centuries earlier with a series of four unidentified eruptions. Around 36 cubic km of magma was erupted, making the Kuwae eruption one of the largest in the last 10,000 years.

1783 – 1784 AD

Laki and Grimsvötn Eruptions, Iceland
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 6
Lakagigar (also called Skaftar) was the vent for the 1783-1784 eruption of Grimsvotn caldera. Deaths included a million in Japan, a similar number in France, many in the rest of northern Europe and in Egypt. Killed 9,350 people in Iceland, about 25% of the island’s population. In North America, the winter of 1784 was the longest and one of the coldest on record. A huge snowstorm hit the south, the Mississippi River froze at New Orleans and there was ice in the Gulf of Mexico.

1815 AD

Mount Tambora, Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7

Mount Tambora is an active stratovolcano on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia. The April 10, 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora was one of the most powerful in recorded history. The eruption caused global climate anomalies that included the phenomenon known as “volcanic winter”: 1816 became known as the “Year Without a Summer” because of the effect on North American and European weather. Crops failed and livestock died in much of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in the worst famine of the 19th century. The death toll was at least 71,000 people, of whom 11-12,000 were killed directly by the eruption.

1883 AD

Krakatoa, Indonesia
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 7

Krakatoa is a volcanic island situated in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. The Krakatoa volcano, began in May 1883 and culminated with several destructive eruptions of the Krakatoa caldera on 26 August 1883, causing massive tsunamis and killing at least 36,417 people, while simultaneously destroying over two-thirds of Krakatoa island. The final eruptions were accompanied by large tsunamis, which are believed to have been over 30 meters (100 ft) high in places. Weather patterns continued to be chaotic for years, and temperatures did not return to normal until 1888.

1912 AD

Katmai, Alaska, US
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 6

Mount Katmai is a large stratovolcano (composite volcano) on the Alaska Peninsula in southern Alaska. It is filled with a central lake caldera about 3 by 2 mi (4.5 by 3 km) in area. On June 6-9th, 1912, the most spectacular Alaskan eruption in recorded history and the largest volcanic eruption in the world of the twentieth century resulted in the formation of a large summit caldera at Katmai volcano.

1980 AD

St. Helens, Washington, US
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 5

Mount St. Helens, Washington, is the most active volcano in the Cascade Range. Its most recent series of eruptions began in 1980 when a large landslide and powerful explosive eruption created a large crater. The May 18, 1980, event was the most deadly and economically destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States. Fifty seven people were killed and 200 houses, 27 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed.

1983 AD

Kilauea, Hawai’i, US
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 0

Kilauea is a shield volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, the most active of the five volcanoes that together form the island of Hawai’i. Like all Hawaiian volcanoes, Kīlauea was created as the Pacific tectonic plate moved over the Hawaiian hotspot in the Earth’s underlying mantle. Kīlauea’s current eruption dates back to January 3, 1983, and is by far its longest-lived historical period of activity, as well as one of the longest-lived eruptions in the world; as of January 2011, the eruption has resurfaced 123.2 km2 (48 sq mi) of land.

1991 AD

Pinatubo, Luzon, Philippines
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 6

Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano located on the island of Luzon. The volcano’s eruption on June 15, 1991 produced the second largest eruption of the 20th century. On the same day, Typhoon Yunya struck the island, passing about 75 km (47 mi) north of the volcano and the rains mixed with ash deposits and caused massive lahars. The former summit of the volcano was obliterated and replaced by a caldera 2.5 km (1.6 mi) wide.

 

References:

  1. USGS – Volcano Hazards Program: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/images/pglossary/vei.php

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