Last Reviewed and Updated on June 8, 2022
There are many amazing facts about volcanoes that most people don’t know about. They are some of the most fascinating natural phenomena on our planet and we have learned more about them in the last century than ever before.
We all know that they bring loads of destruction, but they also create beautiful sceneries and their explosions can sometimes be truly stunning.
1. Volcanoes were named after the volcanic island Vulcano (which got the name from the god Vulcan)
Let’s kick off this list of fun facts about volcanoes with the origin of their name. Volcanoes were named after the island Vulcan, a small volcanic island in Italy, north of Sicily.
The Romas believed that this island was the chimney of the workshop of their god of fire, Vulcan. According to this myth, the growth of this volcanic island was due to the cinders and ashes being cleaned from the workshop.
2. Lava and magma aren’t the same things
The difference is in their location. Magma is what is found underground and lava is what breaks through the surface.
3. Volcanoes can be found on land and underwater
Volcanoes are formed both on land and under the water, on ocean floors. There are actually more volcanoes under the water than there are on the land.
4. Volcanoes aren’t unique to Earth
Volcanoes are not unique to Earth, they can be found on many other planets and moons, either as active volcanoes or no longer active. In fact, evidence of volcanic activity at one time in the past has been observed on most planets in our Solar system and many of their moons.
Venus for example has many more volcanoes than other planets in our solar system, and scientists suspect 4 of them may be active.
So far, confirmed by observation, besides on Earth there is active volcanic activity on Io, the moon of Jupiter, Triton, the moon of Neptune, and Enceladus, the moon of Saturn.
5. Volcanoes are most common where tectonic plates meet
On Earth, the volcanoes are most commonly formed where the tectonic plates are diverging (moving away from each other) or converging (moving one towards the other and colliding).
They can also form far from tectonic boundaries, these volcanoes are known as hotspot volcanoes.
6. The most volcanoes on earth can be found in the Ring of Fire
The Pacific Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped region around the rim of the Pacific ocean where there is the most volcanic activity and there is a lot of earthquakes.
The estimates are that there are about 850-1000 volcanoes in the ring that have been active in the last 11.700 years or so.
The activity in the area is a result of place tectonics.
7. There are about 1350 potentially active volcanoes, most of them underwater
Most of these volcanoes are underwater in the Ring of Fire. About a third of these potential volcanoes have erupted in historical time (written history).
The potentially active volcanoes have a chance to be active at a time in the future.
8. Volcanoes come in many shapes and sizes
They are classified by the 3 basic shapes of their cone, which can be cinder cones, composite cones, or shield cones.
The world’s smallest land volcano, the Cuexcomate volcano in Mexico is only 43 feet / 13 m tall while Ojos del Saldo, a dormant volcano in Chile is the highest volcano on land with its 22,615 feet / 6,893 meters above sea level.
9. Volcanoes have 3 types of erupted materials
When you think of volcanic eruptions the first thing that comes to mind is without doubt lava. But that’s not the only material coming out of an erupting volcano.
Volcanic eruptions actually produce three types of materials: lava, gas, and tephra.
You are probably familiar with the first two but what is tephra? In short, tephra is loose materials thrown from a volcano, from volcanic ash, and on.
10. Volcanic activity of a volcano is classified as either active, dormant, or extinct
Active volcanoes have a recent history of eruptions and are likely to erupt again.
Dormant volcanoes haven’t really erupted in a long time, but they can potentially erupt again in the future.
Extinct volcanoes are volcanoes that aren’t expected to erupt in the future.
11. Volcanic eruptions may have contributed to major extinction events
This is one of the more interesting facts about volcanoes. Massive volcanic eruptions played a role in mass extinctions. Volcanic eruptions released so much material into the atmosphere they triggered what is known as a volcanic winter.
12. Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanically active object in our Solar System
There are hundreds of volcanoes active and erupting on Io at any moment. Some of the eruptions are gigantic, with one of the eruptions captured on image by the New Horizons spacecraft – the eruption measured 180 miles / 290 km in height.
13. Volcanic ash makes the soil really fertile
Volcanoes may be terrifying but they are beneficial. The volcanic ash falling on the ground makes the soil really fertile.
14. Worlds largest active volcano is Mauna Loa in Hawaii
It’s also amongst the world’s most active volcanoes. It rises 13,679 feet / 4,169 km above the sea level. It is a shield volcano.
15. Large eruptions can block the suns radiation
Last of our facts about volcanoes is one you wish not to experience. Large eruptions can release enough quantities of ash to block the sun and even trigger volcanic winters (global reduction of temperatures due to blockage of the sun).