Erupting volcanoes are forming new real estate all around our planet. Beneath Iceland and Hawaii, hot lava upwelling from deep underground is hardening into rock. Hotspots create chains of volcanoes on these islands as a tectonic plate slowly crosses a mantle plume. In Iceland, there are also volcanic eruptions occurring from the location astride the spreading center known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The result: LOTS of lava.
When most of us think about the impressive geology of the Grand Canyon, our focus is on the ancient rocks. Within the past 1 million years, however, volcanoes have created striking displays in the canyon. Hot lava often flowed down the Colorado River channel for tens of miles; other times, it dammed the river, impounding water behind dams that eventually breached, sometimes releasing catastrophic floods.
The volcano recently erupting in Africa–Mount Nyiragongo–is one of the most active on our planet. Eruptions in 1977, 2002 and now beginning in May 2021, have resulted in a significant number of fatalities and extensive damage in the nearby and densely populated city of Goma. If scientists were calling the shots, they would relocate Goma and designate the region beneath this active volcano as a national park.
Volcano-watchers have had lots of excitement lately with the ongoing eruptions on the Reykjavik Peninsula in Iceland and Soufriere, on the West Indies island of Saint Vincent. So far both eruptions are fairly small. Colorful graphic representations of the relative sizes of volcanic eruptions are intriguing, although variability in natural events confounds human attempts to assign neat boxes or bubbles to these phenomena.
On the evening of Dec 20, 2020, an eerie orange glow appeared on the infrared monitoring cameras on the summit of Kilauea volcano in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The glow grew larger and larger, marking the beginning of a new volcanic eruption. Lava began pouring out from fissures in the summit crater and a steam cloud developed as the hot lava hit lake water and the water began to boil.
Jutting up from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaiian Islands are located more than 1,800 miles from the nearest continent. They are also in the center of the Pacific tectonic plate, so the volcanoes that formed these islands have a completely different geologic history from other volcanoes around the Pacific Rim.