Towering infernos!!!

Towering infernos!!!


So what if the title’s ispired from the 1974 hit? Hello friends, after my post on Mesoamerican civilizations, I wanted to extend my repertoire to other topics of interest. This time it’s Geography/Geology. We all have heard of volcanoes. Most of us have seen on TV and even in movies. I loved the 1997 hit ‘Volcano’ starring Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, and Don Cheadle. Equally interesting was another 1997 hit – ‘Dante’s Peak’ starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton. Both movies’ themes draw eerie references to Yellow Stone national park and a Colombian Volcano respectively.

Most of us have studied about volcanoes in geography classes in school. We all (presumably) know that the word ‘volcano’ is derived from the name of Vulcano, a volcanic island in the Aeolian Islands of Italy whose name, in turn, comes from Vulcan, the god of fire in Roman mythology. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)
Simply put, it’s a mountain or hill, mostly conical, having a crater or vent through which lava, rock fragments, hot vapor, and gas are (or have been) erupted from the earth’s crust.

Based on their lifestyles – volcanoes can be broadly classified as follows:

Volcano Classification - Activity
Volcano Classification – Activity

You got it right by now – in very simple terms an active volcano is one that can erupt any time – very unpredictable (like your significant other?). A dormant volcano is like me – COOL; it hasn’t erupted in a while but can do so anytime – just that this ‘time’ is not anytime soon. Maybe next year – but this guy is still dangerous. He still CAN erupt. Highly deceptive as they are, one of them – Vesuvius, in 79AD, decimated Pompeii and Herculaneum, 2 great Roman cities. Another volcano worth mentioning here is Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. It shot to fame (rather: infamy) in 1991 when it erupted as an unpleasant surprise, destroying life and property. An extinct volcano is almost like a dinosaur – gone forever. Typically, one that has not erupted in the past 10,000 years is considered extinct. They serve as excellent and safe tourist destinations.

Trivia: The Indonesian archipelago alone has more than 100 volcanoes, most of them are active! Beware the next time you plan a trip to Jakarta or Aceh.

Volcanoes in Indonesia
Volcanoes in Indonesia

Don’t let this map scare you though. The Indonesians have been living there since the ‘Java Man’.

Volcanoes come in many shapes are sizes. Let’s see the most common types. Before we do that, let’s see why do the volcanoes do what they so notoriously do. I remember reading somewhere, a volcano is an angry mountain that keeps blowing its top off. Now, to understand why does it blow it’s top off every now and then. It’s worth noting that when a volcano erupts, the most powerful ones have produced sounds audible enough to almost half of the globe to hear. I’m referring to the Indonesian superstar – Krakatoa.

A volcanic eruption can be likened to a burp or a fart or let’s say like a champagne bottle popped open. Just like in these cases; there’s a buildup of gases that the body (mostly, a mountain) cannot contain. After a point, when the going gets tough, the body expels this unwanted cargo – violently. That’s what we call a volcanic eruption. To be a little more precise, a volcano erupts when magma (subterranean molten rock) owing to its low density (and being subjected to high pressure) rises to the surface. How high – well, the rocks, that weigh down this subterranean layer, will decide. Heavier the rocks, shallower the rise. As the magma rises – it’s already angry (it’s molten, you see) – it’s bubbling (thanks to the gases within) and it is this bubbling that helps the magma rise to glory. Once the threshold (the amount of pressure, magma can withstand) is crossed, magma is thrown in the air, to great heights, with a thunderous sound. That’s an ERUPTION.

Alright, guys, this is different from ejaculation?. Can we focus now?

Based on their prowess and their shapes – they can be classified as follows:

Volcano Classification - Formation
Volcano Classification – Formation

Note: These are not the only types – these are the main ones – the celebrities. There are several other poorer (volcanic) cousins – just that did not make it to my list, that’s.

In this post, we’ll just sample some trivia. In my following posts, we’ll discuss the aforesaid volcanoes in in details. This is just because I (painstakingly) figured out that cramming all that info into one would be equivalent to putting all eggs in one basket. I can’t stand that eggy mess. So here goes…

  • Volcanoes have their favorite hangout joint… it’s called the Ring of Fire (to be politically correct – the Pacific Ring of Fire). Most of the world’s badass volcanoes (75% of them) are found here. A very BAD place to be in case you’re packing your bags ?.
  • The entire state of Hawaii is a result of a volcanic eruption. I don’t know much about its timeline though.
  • Molten rocks – the main ingredient in the Volcanic recipe, is called MAGMA while it’s subterranean. It’s called LAVA once it has erupted and is out in the open and is cooling down.
  • Some celebrity eruptions:
    – 1883: Mount Krakatoa – King Kong of volcanoes – it’s eruption caused rumbling so loud that half of the globe could hear it.
    – 1912: Novarupta
    – 1980: Mount St Helens
    – 1991: Mt Pinatubo
  • A volcanoes power (rather destructive power) is classified in VEI (volcanic eruptivity index) with 1 being the wimp, 5 – the badass and 8 – the baddest-ass. Well VEI 8 volcanoes get the title SUPERVOLCANO.
  • Volcanoes have a kill zone of about 20 miles wide and about the same distance tall.
  • The largest volcano is actually not on Earth. It’s on Mars. It’s the Olympus Mons – a shield volcano, 22 km/13.6 mi/72,000 ft. tall. That’s practically 2.5 x Mount Everest.
  • Volcanoes are not just terrestrial, they are found in the ocean bed and under icecaps too.
  • Ingredients of volcanic gases:
    – water vapor
    – carbon dioxide
    – sulfur dioxide
    – hydrogen chloride
    – hydrogen fluoride
    – hydrogen sulfide (this rotten gas is present in almost everything that stinks e.g. rotten eggs)
  • Yellowstone in the US is the home to 4 devastatingly powerful (VEI 8) volcanoes: Bruneau-Jarbidge caldera, Heise volcanic field, Island Park Caldera and the Yellowstone Caldera. Shape-wise they are classified as CALDERAs however as per their destructive prowess, they are called Supervolcanoes. This makes the Yellowstone National Park seemingly the most dangerous place on earth. You don’t wanna know the kind of destruction a VEI 8 volcano is capable of unleashing. Let’s just say – they could wipe humans off the face of the earth, that’s all.
Yellowstone Calderas
Yellowstone Calderas
  • 2 of the world’s largest volcanoes Mauna Loa (largest on earth) and Mauna Kea are on the same Hawaiian island, just 25 mi/40km apart.

  • One byproduct of a volcanic eruption is also a beauty product – Pumice. Go figure.
  • Finally, there are at least 20 volcanoes erupting now, as you’re reading this.

That’s all for this time. Details about the classification and more, next time.


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