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A Lesson:

Volcanic Web

"Nature raves savagely, threatening the lands"
-- Pliny the Elder, who died of asphyxiation after observing the destruction of Pompeii by the 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

In this Lesson... In this lesson you will use the Internet to research information on volcanoes and then write a report on your results.


A volcano is a location where magma, or hot melted rock from within a planet, reaches the surface. It may happen violently, in a massive supersonic explosion, or more quietly, as a sticky, slow lava flow.

Volcanoes have been a part of earth's history long before humans. Compare the history of human beings, a few million years in the making, to that of the Earth, over four billion years in the making.

Volumes of Some Well-Known Volcanic Eruptions
  Eruption                      Date           Volume in km^3
  --------                      ----           --------------
  Paricutin, Mexico             1943                 1.3
  Mt. Vesuvius, Italy          79 A.D.               3
  Mount St. Helen, Washington   1980                 4
  Krakatoa, Indonesia           1883                18
  Long Valley, California      pre-historic       >450 & <700
  Yellowstone, Wyoming         pre-historic         2400

Volcano Terminology

How many of these do you know? The term nuée ardente, or "glowing cloud" was first used by La Croix (1904) in his description of the volcanic flows he observed in the 1902 eruption of Mt Pelée, a historically active volcano on the island of Martinique. The study of volcanoes, or Volcanology, includes many odd terms.

Volcanic Places in the USA

Listed below are two places in the United States that are considered "active" volcanic areas.

Mount St Helens

On May 18, 1980, after a long period of rest, this quiet mountain in Washington provided a detailed observations on the mechanics of highly explosive eruptions.

Long Valley

This field seismometer measures earthquakes associated with subsurface volcanic forces and may help to predict future events. It sits on a plateau known as the "Volcanic Tableland" formed by a major eruption 600,000 years ago.

link to large image -- [full size image, 55k] --

Volcanic Places on Mars

Mars has its fair share of volcanic landforms, including the largest known volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons

Research project

Your mission is to find information and report on a volcano, other than the ones listed above, that has erupted in the last 100 years. Your reports must include:
  1. Type of volcano
  2. Geographic location
  3. Name, distance, and population of nearest major city
  4. Dates of most recent and most destructive eruptions.
  5. Other events associated with the recent eruptions (earthquakes, floods, mudslides, etc)

Then, write a one page description on the major hazards to humans in the vicinity of this volcano. Speculate on what you would do if you were in charge of minimizing the risk to the population.



Check your library for these books:
Cas, R.A.F. and Wright, J. V. (1987).
Volcanic Successions: Modern and Ancient. London: Allen & Unwin.
La Croix, A. (1904)
La Montagna Pelée et ses Éruptions. Paris: Masson
Lipman, P.W. and Mullineaux (eds). (1981)
The 1980 Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1250.

Volcano Web
created by Ithara Phlong,
Volcanic Studies, Big University

last modified: September 12, 2000