For thousands of years, volcanoes have both fascinated and scared people all around the world. They can be extremely dangerous, and even cause the extinction of cities and the loss of thousands of lives. If you plan on learning more about them, make sure to check out some of the most interesting facts we found online.
The word derives from the Latin “vulcanus” that translates to “burning mountain.” In Roman mythology, the god of fire and flames was named “Vulcan,” but the original meaning of the name is still debated. One theory claims that much like the entire ancient Roman history, it has its roots in Greek mythology. The name “Vulcan” is thought to derive from the ancient Cretan God of nature, “Velchanos.”
Similar to the Greek counterparts where the Olympus mountain was considered the house of Gods and Zeus, the Romans thought a small volcanic island close to Sicily is the home of the god Vulcan.
- Ancient history
Mount Vesuvius is one of the few remaining active volcanoes in Europe, with its last big eruption in 2014. The place is also linked to one of the most thriving communities of the former Roman Empire, the city of Pompeii. It was located near modern Naples, in the Campania region.
Along with all its surrounding areas, Pompeii was buried under 20 feet of pumice and volcano ash after the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, killing almost all its inhabitants. The site was lost and remained hidden from the world until the 18th century. Nowadays, Pompeii remains one of the most interesting tourist destinations in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to specialists, nearly 80% of the Earth’s surface, both below and above the sea level is linked to volcanic activity. The debris and hot magma from volcanic eruptions formed and shaped mountains, plains, islands, and plateaus.
Although we cannot tell the exact number of volcanoes that existed back in the days, geologists claim that, at a certain point, there were around 1,500 active volcanoes around the world.
The recent recorded history counts for around 500 active volcanoes formed above the sea level, out of which up to 60 are thought to erupt every year. However, their activity isn’t as intense as before and doesn’t possess a threat to the surrounding communities.
- Volcanoes now
The most important eruption of a volcano in the past century is believed to be that of Mount Pelee, in the Caribbean islands, on the island of Martinique. The volcano erupted in 1902, killing over 30,000 people. There were only two survivors – a shoemaker who lived on one edge of the island, and a prisoner.
However, Mount Etna remains the world’s biggest active volcano with a recorded history of eruptions dating back from 1500 A.D. Since then the volcano has erupted over 200 times, most recently in 2019.
- Super Volcanoes
A supervolcano counts for an eruption of magnitude 8, currently the largest value attributed by the Volcanic Explosivity Index. It is translated in a volume of deposits of over 240 cubic miles per eruption.
Geologists have recorded eight eruptions of supervolcanoes in the recent history of humankind, out of which five took place on the current territory of the United States, in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.
Lake Toba is a lake formed in the crater of a former supervolcano that last erupted around 75,000 years ago in Indonesia, and it was the one that sent the entire earth into a volcanic winter that lasted for several years. The eruption was also responsible for the formation of sulfuric acid in our atmosphere.
- The good behind active volcanoes
Apart from their destructive effects, volcanoes do serve positive purposes too. Volcano rocks are known for their calming and relaxing effects on the skin, while the highly volcanic areas represent some of the most fertile farmlands in the world.
The reason behind this is that eruptions bring to the surface essential nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium that feed the soil and make it fertile.
- Breathtaking beaches
Our planet is blessed with beautiful beaches with white, yellow, red, pink, and even black sands. Some volcanic islands like Hawaii or Iceland count for black sanded beaches that attract millions of tourists each year. The sand on these beaches is made of basalt, a type of rock formed after the lava erupted from a volcano cooled down and broke down into tiny particles.
- Muddy volcanoes
Although they are not exactly volcanoes since they don’t produce lava and are not driven by any magmatic activity, there is a rare phenomenon in the world known as “the muddy volcanoes.” These small volcano-shaped structures are usually 4-5 feet tall and are caused by the eruption of natural gases and mud, hence their name.
You can watch the phenomenon live in some regions of Europe such as Italy, Azerbaijan, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine.
These mud volcanoes create a strange moon-like landscape due to the absence of vegetation around. In these areas, due to the constant eruptions of natural gases, the soil is very salty and is not suitable for flora.
- Three types of volcanoes
Depending on their magmatic activity, volcanoes can be extinct, dormant or active. An active volcano is considered one that had at least one eruption in the past several thousand years, while an extinct volcano refers to one that erupted millions of years ago and won’t probably erupt again.
On the contrary, a dormant volcano had erupted at least once in historical times and has the potential to do it again, although it is unlikely.
- Booming growth
Although some volcanoes take more than a few thousand years to form and become active, some can literally grow overnight. It is the case of the Paricutin volcano formed in a Mexican cornfield in the 1940s. In nine years of growth, it reached a total height of 1388 feet.
For more fascinating facts about the world of volcanoes, we suggest you search for online articles and hard copy books. These represent thoughtful gifts for children of all ages and can help them improve their knowledge and increase their interest in science. And, since it’s never too early to start learning, you can put a volcano book in your child’s brand new baby play yard.