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Volcanoes are some of the most fascinating landforms in the world. How does a volcano explode? What about dormant volcanoes? Are they dangerous? There are many interesting things to be learned about volcanoes. Let’s take a closer look.
Understanding the Structure of the Earth
The first thing that we should learn about is how the Earth looks like from the inside. Well, the Earth is made up of four different layers. The first layer is where all living things are to be found. Oceans, plateaus, mountains, rivers, forests, and all animals live on the outermost layer, which is the crust. Immediately below the crust is the mantle. Composed of solid, liquid and gases, it’s very hot. Below the mantle is the outer core, which is liquid. The inner core is the deepest part of the Earth and it’s solid. These different layers include many different materials, like tungsten, gold, and heavy metals, and minerals, each with a different human use.
What is a Volcano?
The topmost layer of the Earth is the crust which we discussed earlier. It’s important to note that the crust is not uniform. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle with many pieces which fit perfectly, completing the entire piece. These jigsaw pieces tend to move and rub against each other, exerting tremendous pressure to form cracks or fissures on the surface. When these cracks are big enough, hot molten magma comes up from the lower layers of the Earth and form a volcano through which the lava flows.
Let’s say that you have a fountain firecracker. Imagine it to be the volcano. Now light the firecracker and imagine that is the pressure being applied from deep within the Earth’s crust. The result is the eruption which we call a volcanic eruption. Now, volcanic eruptions may or may not be as elaborate and explosive as a firecracker. The reason is that not all volcanic eruptions are formed by the same conditions. As the conditions change, so does the resulting eruption.
The word "Volcano" came from the word Vulcan. Vulcan was the Roman God of fire. Throughout the world, there are 1,510 volcanoes which are known to be active. Out of these, 80 are under the oceans.
What are the Different Stages of Volcanoes? Scientists have categorized volcanoes into three main categories, namely, active, dormant, and extinct. An active volcano is one which has recently erupted and there is a possibility that it may erupt soon. A dormant volcano is one which has not erupted in a long time but there is a possibility it can erupt in the future. An extinct volcano is one which has erupted thousands of years ago and there’s no possibility of eruption.
What is Magma?
Magma is the molten liquid form of rocks and other building materials including minerals and other stuff which remains deep inside the Earth’s crust in the mantle. It is semi-solid and it can move around when flowing.
What is Lava?
Lava is the liquid magma which has come up from deep within the Earth’s crust and flows on the surface of the Earth. It is extremely hot so it can instantly burn and turn anything it touches into ash in seconds. To give you an idea, the temperature of lava can be 700? to 1200? Centigrade! In comparison, the highest temperature in California is 57? Centigrade.
Effects of Lava Flow
Lava flows are dangerous and they have the potential to destroy entire land masses including villages, towns, and forestlands. Some famous volcanoes have also been responsible for the destruction of entire civilizations. The volume and speed of lava flow depends on the following four factors:
1) The steepness of the slope where the lava is flowing
2) The amount magma being pushed from below
3) Whether the lava is moving through a narrow channel or across a wide area
4) The type of the lava and its viscosity (fluidity)
In recorded history, there have been reports of some 550 volcanic eruptions. Some of these eruptions are so devastating that they have completely destroyed islands and created monstrous tsunami waves that wiped away thousands of people. Some civilizations have even been completely destroyed. Some of the most devastating volcanoes and their last known eruptions are:
Mount Fujiyama, also popularly known as Mount Fuji, is an active volcano which last erupted in 1708. It is incidentally the tallest mountain in Japan. If you are visiting Tokyo, the capital of Japan, look in the west on a clear day and you will be able to see Mount Fuji. It is an iconic volcano. Mount Fuji is 3,776 meters high and it is snow clad throughout the year, with five lakes surrounding it. Currently in a state of dormancy, there has not been any eruption reported for more than 300 years. The last known eruption lasted for about 3 weeks during which it covered the surrounding villages with ash and cinders. Mount Fuji is now a popular tourist location with a large number of climbers actively scaling the mountain top.
Mount Pelee was a dormant volcano situated in the Caribbean island of Martinique. In 1902, it erupted in a massive horizontal explosion sending huge clouds of ash released towards the nearby town of Saint-Pierre. The side of the volcano exploded and lava flowed straight into the town, killing 30,000 people in a matter of minutes. It is regarded as one of the biggest and most devastating volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, a benchmark for future eruptions.
Krakatoa was a dormant volcano in Indonesia, which awakened and produced one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in 1883. So massive was the eruption that the sound of it was heard as far away as Australia. It’s widely reported as the loudest sound heard in recorded history. The Krakatoa eruption created a huge amount of ash cloud which covered the Earth and reduced global temperatures for 5 years! A total of 40,000 people died in that explosion and an entire chain of the volcanic island was destroyed.
Make a Volcano at Home!
Would you like to make your very own volcano? It’s very easy and you can make it at home. First of all, find some clay or paper mache, a container about the size of a 35mm film canister, vinegar, washing soap, and baking soda. Some food colors like yellow and red would add some extra spice to it!
Create the volcano structure using the clay or paper mache. Now put the container into the volcano. Add two spoonfuls of baking soda and about a spoonful of washing soap and the food colors. To begin the explosion, just add an ounce of vinegar into the container and watch your volcano come alive!
Volcano Learning Games
One of the best (and fun) ways to learn all about volcanoes is to play some games. On the Internet, there are a lot of games you can play to find out more about volcanoes. After you get through these interesting games, you will be surprised at how much you know. Who says learning has to boring and dull? Check out the games and discover the world of volcanoes.
Possibly, volcano learning games can only show you the basic stuff about volcanoes. Now that you are all interested, what happens if you want to go deeper into your volcano studies? Well, it’s true that you can find almost anything on the Internet. There are great interactive online lessons and multimedia lessons where you can learn a lot about volcanoes. The best part is that the lessons are fun and interesting, much like the games, but on another level. Check out these links below.