Global Geological And Climatic Events

Mount Etna in Italy erupts


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mount Etna

Mains level: NA


Central Idea

  • Volcanic eruptions often make headlines only when iconic volcanoes like Etna, Kilauea, or Eyjafjallajokull erupt.
  • However, throughout any given year, our planet witnessed numerous volcanic eruptions, with as many as 50 to 80 occurring worldwide.

About Mount Etna

  • Mount Etna, located in Italy, holds the title of Europe’s most active volcano and ranks among the world’s largest.
  • Its recorded volcanic activity dates back to 1500 B.C., with over 200 eruptions documented since then.
  • Etna’s recent eruptions have disrupted air travel, leading to flight cancellations at the nearby Catania airport.
  • Additionally, the accumulation of volcanic ash on roads prompted authorities to temporarily ban the use of cars and motorbikes due to safety concerns.

Volcanic Eruptions this Year

Many of the world’s most active volcanoes are concentrated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, encompassing regions like New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Japan, and the western coast of the Americas. This volatile area also experiences about 90% of all earthquakes globally.

  • Kilauea, Hawaii: The Kilauea volcano in Hawaii captivated the world with a nearly nonstop eruption that began in 1983 and continued for an astonishing 35 years until 2018. Remarkably, it rekindled in 2021, with the eruption still ongoing.
  • Dukono, Indonesia: Erupting since August 1933, Dukono volcano in Indonesia stands as a testament to long-term volcanic activity, defying the passage of time.
  • Santa Maria, Guatemala: The eruption of Santa Maria in Guatemala commenced in June 1922 and persists to this day, underscoring the enduring nature of certain volcanic phenomena.
  • Yasur, Vanuatu: Yasur in Vanuatu first erupted around 1270 and has maintained its volcanic activity, continuing as of June 9, 2023.

Understanding Volcanoes

  • Volcanoes are geological features characterized by openings or vents through which lava, tephra (small rocks), and steam erupt onto the Earth’s surface.
  • They result from both their own eruptions and the broader processes of tectonic plate movement.
  • Volcanic eruptions are essentially the result of magma, or molten rock, beneath the Earth’s surface rising, bubbling, and ultimately overflowing, much like boiling milk spilling out of a pot on a stove.
  • The magma seeks pathways to vents within the volcano, where it erupts and is expelled across the land and into the atmosphere, a phenomenon referred to as lava.

Types of Volcanoes

Appearance Formation Eruption Style Notable Examples
Cinder Cones Small, steep, conical Formed from basaltic magma with high gas content Often explosive eruptions with cinders/scoria Paricutin (Mexico), Sunset Crater (USA)
Composite/Stratovolcanoes Tall and symmetrical Result from alternating layers of lava, ash, etc. Both explosive and effusive eruptions Mount St. Helens (USA), Mount Fuji (Japan)
Shield Volcanoes Broad and gently sloping Primarily formed from basaltic magma Primarily non-explosive with extensive lava flows Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea (Hawaii)
Lava Domes Rounded dome-like shape Formed from slow extrusion of viscous magma Typically non-explosive but can be dangerous Novarupta Dome (Alaska), Mount St. Helens’ Lava Dome (USA)

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