Top 10 Largest Active Volcanoes on Earth
Volcanoes are some of the most dangerous and destructive forces of nature, yet they also have a certain mystique and beauty to them. They are one of the most powerful forces on Earth and can cause immense destruction when they erupt. Yet, some of them have been active for thousands of years and remain a source of fascination for scientists and laypeople alike. From the fiery depths of Hawaii’s Kilauea to the boiling lava of Italy’s Mt. Etna, we will explore some of the world’s most powerful volcanoes and discover how they continue to affect our lives.
In this article, we will be taking a look at the Top 10 most active volcanoes on Earth:
1. Kilauea – Hawaii, USA
Kilauea is a volcano located in Hawaii, USA, and is seen as one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. Its first eruption was documented back in 1823 and since then it has had over 60 additional eruptions, with its most recent occurring on 5 January 2023. An advantage of Kilauea’s eruptions is that it rarely poses a threat to human safety, although the area around the volcano is generally kept clear for precautionary measures. While its last recorded major eruption began in 1983 and lasted 3 decades until its final eruption in 2018, Kilauea continues to remain an important presence in the Hawaiian landscape today.
2. Mount Etna – Sicily, Italy
Mount Etna located in Sicily, Italy, is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and has been erupting for thousands of years. Its first recorded eruption was around 1500 B.C. with its last major eruption occurring in 2022, spewing a large ash cloud into the atmosphere. There have been countless other moderate eruptions since then, showing that Mount Etna is an unpredictable force of nature.
Most recently, in February 2021 Mount Etna experienced “intense earthquakes” and partial eruptions that scientists believe will continue through the year 2021 and beyond. Although beauty comes from chaos, precautions must be taken to ensure that no one is injured or harmed by this amazing yet dangerous activity of nature.
3. Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mount Nyiragongo is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It first erupted in 1894 and has had several intermittent eruptions since then, including a particularly devastating eruption in 2002 that caused around 100 deaths and led to many more being displaced.
The most recent eruption occurred just two years back in 2021, and luckily it was smaller than previous events with fewer casualties or damage. Most recently, in 2019 seismologists identified two magma chambers within the mountain, which suggests that future eruptions could be even more devastating due to the bigger pool of magma.
4. Mount Merapi – Java Island, Indonesia
Mount Merapi, located on Java Island, Indonesia, is one of the most active volcanoes on earth and an important part of local culture. It is estimated that its first eruption occurred in 1548 and it has been continuously erupting ever since. This makes Mount Merapi one of the longest persistently active volcanoes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo region and across the world.
Most recently, it had a major eruption as late as 2010 in October causing more than 300 deaths. Not surprisingly, this disruptive activity has raised concerns for nearby villages but not enough to prevent hikers from visiting to behold its primal beauty first-hand. With such resiliency and centuries of history behind it, Mount Merapi is truly a remarkable geographic wonder of nature!
5. Sakurajima – Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
Sakurajima is one of the most active volcanoes on earth and is located in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture. It has had over 55 eruptions since its first eruption in 1914 and the most recent activity was in 2022. Standing at 1,117 meters high, Sakurajima emits smoke and lava almost daily – from small volcanic lightning to full eruptions – with lava streams that stretch down to the waterside. This impressive volcano has also been known to trigger earthquakes and ashfalls as far as 30km away which makes it a true force of nature. Tourists can take trips right up to get an even closer view of this majestic mountain.
6. Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland
Eyjafjallajökull, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, is located in Iceland. The first known eruption of the volcano was in 920-930 CE and the second famous eruption occurred from 2010 to 2011. It caused huge disruption to air traffic as it spewed smoke and ash into the atmosphere.
Most of the lava produced by Eyjafjallajökull flowed down its slopes instead of releasing much steam like other eruptions, suggesting an explosive nature. As a result, ash was projected 10 kilometers high into the air and spread across Europe for weeks. The effects of this event are still being studied today as glaciers formed on top of the volcano during the last major eruptions have now begun to melt, affecting global sea levels.
7. Mount Vesuvius, Italy
Mount Vesuvius is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, located east of Naples on the Italian coastline. It is responsible for some of the most catastrophic eruptions in recorded history, dating back to 79 AD when its first major eruption buried nearby cities and towns such as Pompeii and Herculaneum in a thick layer of ash.
Most recently, Vesuvius has been seen at work in 1944, when it erupted again after centuries of dormancy. Although that last eruption was not widely destructive like that of its past, modern-day precautions are taken against future events from Mount Vesuvius due to both its rich heritage and potential for tragedy.
8. Mauna Loa, United States
The Mauna Loa volcano, located in the United States, is the largest and most active volcano on Earth. It notably erupted for the first time in 1843 and has been erupting ever since, with its last eruption occurring in 2022. It is part of Hawaii’s Big Island and is a post to be more than 10,000 feet above sea level at its summit, making it the largest mountain in the world when measured from base to summit.
Despite its frequent eruptions, nearby communities have been able to coexist with this incredible landmark for many years now with no significant incidents. Mauna Loa continues to be a beautiful reminder of just how powerful mother nature can be.
9. Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
Located in the lush rainforest of Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano is one of Earth’s most active volcanoes, having first erupted in 1968. After being dormant for hundreds of years before this cataclysmic event, the volcano put on a show that lasted 33 years in all its power and majesty, spewing lava and ash all over nearby towns until its last eruption in 2010.
Making up part of a national park, this 5,437 ft volcano has been mesmerizing visitors ever since with its sheer size and brilliant emerald lake at its base. Trekking up the slopes of Arenal may be arduous but along the way, adventurers will find tropical flora such as heliconias and Bromeliads that provide a colorful contrast to the deep red volcanic soil.
10. Mayon – Philippines
Mayon, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, is located in the Philippines and is renowned for its distinctive cone shape. Its first recorded eruption was in 1616, and eruptions have continued ever since with the most recent outburst occurring in January 2018.
Mayon’s structure is largely composed of pyroclastic – volcanic debris such as lava, ash, and rock fragments ranging from sand to cobbles – and cinders that were thrown out during past eruptions. It stands at a height of 8,077 feet above sea level and has an estimated total volume of around 34 cubic kilometers! All these facts make Mayon one of the Philippines’ most noteworthy landmarks and a fascinating sight to behold.
There are many other equally impressive volcanoes around our planet but these 10 stand out due to the sheer size or frequency/severity of their eruptions! From Kilauea down south to Mayon Volcano these natural wonders captivate us all with their majestic beauty while simultaneously reminding us how powerful nature truly can be! For anyone looking for a unique adventure we highly recommend exploring some (or all!) of these incredible sites!