Top 28 World’s Most Important Volcanoes
When we think about volcanoes, most of us have mixed feelings. On the one hand, these majestic mountains are definitely some of the world’s most beautiful landmarks, but on the other hand, we are quite frightened of them since some of them are actually ticking time bombs. We find volcanoes all over the world, even underwater, but some of the most imposing and most notable are definitely on dry land. Volcanoes are grouped into 4 major categories (composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes, lava volcanoes and cinder cones), and scientists estimate that over 1500 of them are currently active. If you want to find out a bit more about some of the most incredible volcanoes in the world, then we invite you to have a look at our following list.
As the only volcano in the European mainland to have erupted in the last century, Mount Vesuvius is quite active and quite scary. This massive volcano is about 17,000 years old, and it last erupted in 1944. However, Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in the year 79 AD, when it obliterated the Roman cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Mount Vesuvius can be found in the Gulf of Naples in Italy, which is actually the world’s most populated volcanic area. The 3 million inhabitants living in close proximity to this potential monster are taking a chance every day, which is why Vesuvius is known as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world right now.
Krakatoa is actually a volcanic island in Indonesia that is remembered for its incredible 1883 eruption that destroyed a huge chunk of the island itself. This cataclysmic event also took the lives of 36,000 people and caused giant tsunamis, and the shock waves emitted by the explosion were so powerful that they were recorded all over the world by specialized equipment.
Since 1927, the eruptive center of Krakatoa is within a new island called “Child of Krakatoa”. The Krakatoa eruptions from 1883 were noted as the most violent in recorded history. Krakatoa boasts a summit elevation of 2,667 feet.
Mount Unzen in Japan
Mount Unzen is a conglomerate of multiple overlapping stratovolcanoes, and it can be found in close proximity to the city of Shimabara, on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Mount Unzen flaunts an elevation of 4,921 feet, and its most notable incident was in 1792, when one of its lava domes collapsed and caused a huge tsunami that claimed the lives of 15,000 people.
However, Mount Unzen also has a recent eruption under its belt, in 1991 to be precise, when it produced a deadly pyroclastic flow that ended up killing 43 people.
Mount St. Helens
The active and dangerous Mount St. Helens can be found in Skamania County, Washington, and it features an elevation of 8,365 feet. The volcano is placed just 96 miles south of Seattle, Washington, and it is a part of the infamous Pacific Ring of Fire. It was on May 18, 1980 that Mount St. Helens caused the most notable and most disastrous volcanic-related incident in the United States. The volcano did some serious damage to the USA infrastructure, since it destroyed 185 miles of highway as well as 15 miles of railway and 47 bridges. In addition, 250 people lost their homes in the wake of the incident, while 57 lost their lives.
The 9,350-foot tall Mount Tambora can be found on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. The most notable volcanic event involving Mount Tambora took place on April 10, 1815, and the eruption ejected about 38 cubic miles of matter, which is why it represented the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history at the time. Tambora caused the death of at least 71,000 people, out of which only 11,000 were killed by the explosion itself. The rest of them eventually died because of starvation or disease, since the massive cloud of ash that resulted from the eruption crippled all agricultural activity in the near vicinity of the blast. Moreover, the eruption caused great disturbance on a global scale, especially from a meteorological point of view, which resulted in one of the most terrible cases of famine in the 19th century.
Boasting an elevation of 13,679 feet, the massive Mauna Loa volcano is a part of the State of Hawaii, and therefore it can be found in the Pacific Ocean. Due to its imposing size, Mauna Loa is known to be the world’s largest subaerial volcano, but even though you might be inclined to think that this also makes it the most dangerous, you’d be wrong. Mauna Loa is an active shield volcano, but it erupts slowly and without explosions, albeit in a rather constant fashion.
Mauna Loa’s most recent eruption took place in 1984 and lasted from March 24 to April 15, and even though this particular volcano did not cause any fatalities in our history, the eruptions did destroy several villages in 1926 and in 1950.
Mount Redoubt is an active stratovolcano that can be found in Alaska, USA. As the highest summit in the Aleutian Range, this massive volcano impresses with an elevation of 10,197 feet, and it has been known to erupt quite a few times during the 1900s. The most notable events happened in 1902, 1922, 1966, 1989 and in 2009, but the one in 1989 was the most dangerous one because it caught a Boeing 747 aircraft mid flight with its plume. Fortunately, the aircraft landed safely at Anchorage, but the ash eventually ended up covering an area of 7,700 square feet.
Eyjafjallajökull (Island mountain glacier)
Eyjafjallajökull is a volcano that can be found in Iceland, and what makes it special is that it is completely covered by an ice cap. This ice cap spreads across an area of about 39 square miles, while the volcano itself boasts an elevation of 5,417 feet. Eyjafjallajökull has been known to erupt quite often since the last glacial period, while its most recent event was recorded in 2010. However, the volcano has only been producing small earthquakes ever since, which is why it is considered dormant for the time being.
Mount Pelée is a stratovolcano that can be found in Martinique. The volcano is quite active, and it is quite famous for its disastrous eruption in 1902, which claimed the lives of about 30,000 people. Most casualties were caused by pyroclastic flows that engulfed the town of Saint-Pierre. The town was completely obliterated by the flows, and only 3 people survived the direct force of the eruption, which is considered one of the worst volcanic disasters of the 20th century.
Thera is an island that can be found in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, and it is actually the largest isle of a circular archipelago that represents the remnants of a volcanic caldera. The Minoan Eruption of Thera was a cataclysmic event that destroyed the island of Thera, and even though there aren’t any official ancient records regarding the event, many believe that it might have sparked numerous Greek myths.
Nevado Del Ruiz
Nevado Del Ruiz is a volcano that can be found in Columbia, just a few miles away from the capital city of Bogota. This 17,457-foot tall stratovolcano has been active for about 2 million years, and it is currently the source of Plinian eruptions, which are a primary source of pyroclastic flows. The 1985 eruption of Nevado Del Ruiz caused the destruction of a nearby town called Armero as well as the deaths of 25,000 people. Also known as the Armero tragedy, this was the most tragic lahar in recorded history, but there were other similar events recorded in 1845 and much earlier in 1595.
The island of Luzon is the home of Mount Pinatubo – an active stratovolcano that didn’t receive much attention until 1991, when it produced the second largest eruption of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the event coincided with the arrival of Typhoon Yunya, which caused even more chaos and destruction. Mount Pinatubo ejected 2.4 cubic miles of magma in 1991, and the effects of its eruption were felt worldwide.
Avachinsky is a stratovolcano that can be found on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. Avachinsky’s neighboring volcano is called Koryaksky, and they are both included in the Decade Volcano list of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior. Avachinsky is also a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and one of its most disturbing eruptions took place in 1945, but the volcano also erupted recently in 2001. Koryaksky is also a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and it has been active for thousands of years, even though only 3 major events were recorded in connection to it over the last 10,000 years.
Cerro Azul is an active stratovolcano in Chile that is sometimes known as Quizapu. Boasting a height of 12,428 feet, this volcano is part of the South Volcanic Zone of the Andes, and its most notable eruptions took place in 1846 and 1932. The 1932 event meant the ejection of 2.3 cubic miles of ash into the atmosphere, which is why it was categorized as one of the largest eruptions of the 20th century. Fortunately, the volcano has been on its best behavior ever since.
The Irazu volcano boasts an elevation of 11,260 feet, and it can be found in Costa Rica. Locally known as Volcán Irazú, this incredible volcano is the largest active one in Costa Rica, and it is a part of the Irazú Volcano National Park. Its eruptive history shows that it has been quite busy at least 23 times in recorded history, and all of its events were quite explosive. The most recent eruption at Irazu was on December 8, 1994, and it lasted for an entire day. This active stratovolcano has a total of 5 craters that were named The Main Crater, The Diego de la Haya crater, La Laguna, El Piroclastico and Playa Hermosa.
As a proud member of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Kelut Volcano can be found on the island of Java in Indonesia. With an elevation of 5,679 feet, this active stratovolcano is well known for its explosive and dangerous eruptions. The most important and recent events were recorded in 1990 and in 2007, the first one claiming the lives of 30 people due to pyroclastic flows. The 2007 eruption was carefully monitored, which is why the government ordered the evacuation of about 30,000 people from the surrounding area of the volcano.
The famed Kilauea is a shield volcano that can be found in the Hawaiian Islands. It is the most active volcano in Hawaii, and it is estimated to be somewhere between 300,000 and 600,000 years old. Kilauea is relatively short for such a dangerous volcano, since it features an elevation of just 4,091 feet. The name translates to “spewing” in the local language, which is fitting considering the landmark’s highly eruptive history. The most recent Kilauea eruption started on January 3, 1983 and it is still underway. The volcano is part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With an elevation of 12,389 feet, the majestic Mount Fuji can be found on Honshu Island in Japan, and it is definitely the highest mountain in the country as well as an active stratovolcano. The last eruption of Mount Fuji took place between 1707 and 1708, and many are worried that it might erupt again soon, especially after the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami and earthquake. Danger aside, Mount Fuji is one of the most recognizable symbols of Japan, which is why it became a Cultural World Heritage Site on June 22, 2013.
The active stratovolcano known as Mount Merapi is located in Indonesia, right on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta. The volcano has been known to erupt frequently since 1548, and it actually caused a hazardous pyroclastic flow in 1994 that killed 27 people. Mount Merapi also erupted in 2006, and it was still acting up even in 2010. Due to its close proximity to villages and towns, Mount Merapi is now one of the 16 Decade Volcanoes. With an elevation of 9,610 feet, the volcano is quite a sight to behold, but it promises a grizzly end for whoever stands in its path when it gets angry.
The Pacaya Volcano can be found in Guatemala, and volcanologists believe that it first erupted 23,000 years ago. Recently, after a sleeping period of 100 years, Pacaya erupted in 1965 with great force, and it has been erupting slowly ever since. Due to its incredible beauty and immense size, the volcano currently represents a very important tourist attraction. Its most recent eruption was recorded in 2010, when it showered Guatemala City with ash.
Paricutin is a cinder cone volcano that is located in Michoacán, Mexico, and it is part of the Michoacán-Guanajuato volcanic field as well as of the Ring of Fire. The volcano boasts an elevation of 9,186 feet and it last erupted in 1952. However, what makes this particular landmark interesting is that it has been studied closely by humans ever since it was formed, and due to its important significance and beauty, it is often regarded as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
As Mexico’s most hyperactive volcano, Popocatépetl can be found in Puebla and Morelos, and it flaunts an altitude of 17,802 feet, which makes it the second highest peak in Mexico. Popocatépetl is connected to the Iztaccihuatl volcano through a high saddle named Paso de Cortés. Flaunting over 15 eruptions under its belt since the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico, Popocatépetl is definitely one of the busiest volcanoes in the country, and it definitely proved this in 1947, in 1994, in 2005, 2012 and 2013.
Sakurajima is an active volcano in Japan, and it once used to represent an island in Kyushu. However, due to a major eruption in 1914, the lava flows linked the island to the mainland of the Osumi Peninsula. This active composite volcano features 3 peaks called Minami-dake, Naka-dake and Kita-dake. Kita-dake is currently the tallest peak of the 3, since it boasts an elevation of 3,665 feet. The island is now officially a part of the Kagoshima city, and it measures 30 square miles.
The island of Luzon in the Philippines is home to the Taal complex volcano, which is currently the second most active volcano in the country with 33 historical eruptions. The Taal Volcano as well as the Taal Lake can be found about 31 miles south of the capital city of Manila. These 2 incredible landmarks offer some of the most breathtaking views in the country, which is why they are often visited by tourists. The largest recorded eruption of the Taal volcano took place in 1754, and it lasted from May 15 to December 1. There was also another major event in 1911, which claimed the lives of 1,335 people.
Ulawun is located on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea, and it is the tallest mountain in the Bismarck Archipelago, boasting an elevation of 7,657 feet. Ulawun is also one of the most active volcanoes in Papua New Guinea, flaunting as many as 22 recorded events since the 18th century. Recently, Ulawun has been the site of several small explosions, but what makes it particularly special is that it releases vast amounts of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, about 2% of the global total SO2 emissions to be precise.
Mount Hood can be found in northern Oregon, and it is a part of the famous Cascade Volcanic Arc. With an elevation of 11,249 feet, Mount Hood’s snow covered peak is the highest one in Oregon as well as the fourth highest one in the aforementioned Cascade Range. Even though the chances for Mount Hood to erupt oscillate between 5 and 7%, the mountain is actually considered dormant in general.
Lōʻihi Seamount is an underwater volcano that can be found to the southeast of the Island of Hawaii. The volcano sits at a depth of 3,000 feet, and it is the newest member of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain. Lōʻihi began to emerge from the depths about 400,000 years ago, and it should be well above sea level approximately 10,000 to 100,000 years from now. The volcano has been the source of a series of earthquake swarms in 1996, but it has been relatively quiet ever since.
Galeras is a stratovolcano that can be found in the Colombian department of Nariño, and it features a total height of 14,029 feet. Highly active, the volcano’s first eruption was recorded on December 7, 1580, but a more recent event took place in 1993 and claimed the lives of 9 people. Galeras erupted twice in 2010, and it caused the evacuation of about 8,000 people who were living nearby. The volcano has been active for about 1 million years, and since it lies in close proximity to approximately 450,000 people, it officially became a Decade Volcano in 1991.