Here’s the thing, volcanoes are massive lava-filled mountains that can destroy entire civilizations. I don’t know why we’re not permanently worried about them finishing us off and causing an apocalypse on Earth. They are one of the world’s most dangerous natural manifestations and act as a vent for the Earth’s core, as the gas and magma that lay beneath the surface create explosive eruptions filled with rock and lava. These explosions have been known to destroy cities. During the last 300 years, more than 260,000 people have died because of volcano eruptions and their aftermath. You would think humanity would have learned its lesson and stayed far away from them, but there are still many cities built right at the base of some very dangerous volcanoes.
Volcanoes are caused naturally and tend to form up at the edges of tectonic plates. Most of them can be found within the ring of fire. The ring of fire is a massive area that pretty much goes along the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It has 452 active and dormant volcanoes. It is also responsible for about 90% of the world’s annual earthquakes.
There are about 1,900 active volcanoes on the planet. An active volcano is considered such when it shows some activity every year and has a chance to erupt soon enough. If a volcano doesn’t pose any immediate threat but could explode sometime in the future, it is considered dormant. There some other volcanoes that are considered extinct, since they haven’t had any activity for a long time. Every year, there are more than 50 dangerous eruptions from volcanoes, and the cause of the most dangerous ones is probably one of these 15 troublemakers.
15. Mount Nyiragongo, Africa
People in Africa usually have it pretty rough. In the Congo, there is a place that holds a very real threat to the villagers of Goma. Mount Nyiragongo is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and it’s extremely dangerous due to the lava lakes that form in its crater. Lions and other wildlife aren’t the only ones that cause panic and fear in the country. Many villages have had to evacuate over the years because of Nyiragongo and its deadly eruptions.
One of the reasons Mount Nyiragongo is so dangerous is because it’s so hard to know when exactly it’s going to erupt again, and when it’s sleeping, lava lakes keep filling the crater up. In 1977, one of the walls of the crater fractured and gave way to a massive leak of lava, causing it to drain from the crater in less than half an hour and flow at speeds of over 60mph, that’s a pretty short time to evacuate. 70 people died during that incident. Most recently, in 2002, it had a massive eruption that left about 120,000 people homeless, and 147 dead.
14. Taal, Philippines
The Philippines may be beautiful to visit, but you might want to stay away from Taal, in Luzon Island. This deadly volcano has only erupted 34 times since 1572, but it’s had a deadly impact with almost every one of them. It is estimated that around 6,000 people have died because of its eruptions, and the only safe way to view the volcano is by helicopter, or on a boat far away from the island. Taal’s volcanic lake almost covers the entire 18-mile wide caldera. Because of Taal, Luzon is commonly referred to as Volcano Island.
Taal’s last eruption was in 1965 where it devastated everything in its path. Since 1991, the volcano has been restless, leaving scientists wondering if another eruption is soon to come. Earthquakes and movement inside. Taal is also one of the 16 Decade volcanoes, those who pose a big threat to communities and have a history of destructive eruptions. Despite this information, there are still some crazy dudes who go climb this sleeping giant on Volcano Island.
13. Mauna Loa, Hawaii
Hawaii has a lot of volcanoes, but the biggest and worst of them all is Mauna Loa. When it comes to sheer size and volume, this is possibly the biggest volcano in the world. Contrary to some other volcanoes in the list, Mauna Loa has gentler slopes, and it covers approximately 18,000 cubic miles. For the last 700,000 years, this volcano has been erupting regularly, the last eruption occurred in 1984. Mauna Loa’s most dangerous feature is the constant lava that flows out of it. It usually flows slowly, but bigger eruptions fasten the pace of the lava. In 1950, fast moving lava destroyed the village of Ho’okena Mauka.
Most eruptions from Mauna Loa have not been as dangerous as those of other volcanoes, but they have left major property damage in the area and its surrounding communities. Right now, Mauna Loa is currently sleeping and hasn’t awoken for more than thirty years, the longest time it’s been dormant in history. Maybe it’s preparing itself for a comeback.
12. Mount Vesuvius, Italy
Mount Vesuvius is incredible. This enormous volcano is located East of Naples and it is one of the several volcanoes that form the Campanian volcanic arc. Vesuvius is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the 3 million people that live nearby who could fall victim to a major eruption from its crater. Vesuvius is known for its explosive Plinian type eruptions, also known as Vesuvian eruptions. The name of this type of volcanic activity was created thanks to this volcano, especially in part because of one singular occurrence.
Mount Vesuvius is mostly known for one particular eruption that occurred in 79 AD, which was the most catastrophic volcanic eruption in European history. The eruption buried entire cities beneath the ground. It is said to have been 33km high and expelled gigantic volcanic rocks and lava into the air, killing more than 1,000 people, although the exact numbers can’t be known. During the famous eruption, the roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum completely vanished from existence, buried because of the explosion. Many other settlements also shared the same fate
11. Mount Merapi, Indonesia
Indonesia is home to another wild volcano. Mount Merapi, which translated means Mountain of Fire. It is the most active volcano in Indonesia. Scientists think this agitator was the cause of the destruction of the Hindu Kingdom of Mataram. It has been erupting regularly since 1548 and has probably produced more lava flow than any other volcano in the world.
Usually, lava from Mt. Merapi only travels for about 4 miles down the slopes, but during bigger eruptions, things can get deadly really fast. There are many villages built at the base of the volcano, and near from it lies the city of Yogyakarta, home to more than 350,000 people. In 2010, an eruption of Mount Merapi killed 353 people and left more than 320,000 homeless. People just can’t seem to learn to stay away from that scary mountain of fire. There have been many earthquakes that have also been related to Mount Merapi, most recently one in 2006 that left more than 5,000 dead near the Yogyakarta region.
10. Mount St. Helens, United States
Although it´s less active neighbor Mount Rainier poses a greater threat to life right now, the notorious Mount St. Helens has had a more explosive past. Located in the Skamania County, Washington. This stratovolcano is well-known for its eruptions and deadly activity. Most famously in 1980, a major eruption occurred in Mount St Helens that killed 57 people. 250 homes, 45 bridges and many miles of highway and railway were completely devastated. It is considered to be the most disastrous volcanic incident in the United States History. The explosion was so big that it caused an enormous avalanche that reduced the summit of the mountain from 9,700ft to 8,400ft and gave way to the biggest landslide ever recorded.
After the eruption, more than 1 billion dollars of property damage (which is approximately 3 billion dollars today) was destroyed, and earthquake activity continued for months. However, because of the location of St Helens, it is not considered a Decade Volcano.
9. Mount Etna, Italy
It is the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy by a long shot, and it’s the tallest active volcano in all of Europe. It’s two times larger than the more notorious Mount Vesuvius, measuring 11,000ft high, although the height of the summit varies because of constant eruptions.
Located in Sicily, Mount Etna is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and because of how imposing it is, it has been mentioned many times in Greek Mythology. One of the most famous tales is when Zeus defeated the monster Typhon, subduing it and burying him under Etna. Afterward, another monster by the name of Enceladus came to avenge Typhon, and Zeus either bound him under Etna or Athena threw the entire island of Sicily above him.
There are different legends relating Mount Etna to many catastrophes, but only 77 deaths caused by the volcano have been confirmed. The most recent victims were two tourists that died in 1987 while visiting the volcano when a sudden eruption hit the summit.
8. Sakurajima, Japan
Sakurajima is another very active volcano, and it was once its own island. However, in 1914, the volcano had an enormous eruption that caused it to connect to the Osumi Peninsula. The volcano is known to drop large amounts of volcanic ash on its surroundings, and every year there are thousands of eruptions from its peak. Most recent activity from the volcano has been harmless, but scientists predict that Sakurajima could have a major eruption in the next thirty years, causing a deadly threat to the citizens of Kagoshima. The city has a population of more than 700,000 people, and it lies only miles away from the volcano. Because of their terrifying neighbor, the residents have built many volcano shelters around the city. There, people protect themselves from any falling debris from the mountain. Sakurajima is considered a composite volcano, also known as stratospheric-volcano since it has many peaks and layers in its structure.
7. Yellowstone Caldera, United States
One of humanity’s biggest threats is located in one of the most visited places in the United States of America. Yellowstone is filled with beautiful landscapes and wildlife, but inside the park is a super-volcano that many people don’t know about. The fact that the entire region is shaped that way because of an eruption the caldera had 640,000 years ago, can give you an idea of the size of its eruptions. Some people say that a major eruption from the Yellowstone Caldera is overdue, but most scientists disregard that theory. A major explosion from the caldera could have unmeasurable consequences on everyone. Humanity has not witnessed a formidable eruption from a super volcano just yet, and if we did, it could mean the end of many of us. Scientists believe if Yellowstone did erupt, it would reshape the whole region killing 87,000 people instantly. The toxic ash would later penetrate the air we breathe, completely disrupting our way of life. I just hope Yellowstone Caldera can wait ‘til I’m gone for it to wake up, even though it must be cool to witness that huge explosion.
6. Galeras, Colombia
The most active volcano in Colombia, Galera lies near the Nariño region in the southern parts of the country. It’s approximately 14,000 high and its first reported eruption was in 1580. Since then, it has had constant activity. While it’s true that this is Colombia’s most active volcano, it went dormant in 1988, it surprised everyone by going active again only 10 years later. Galeras is very dangerous because of its spontaneous eruptions and unpredictability. It’s very unfortunate that in 1993, an eruption caused the death of 9 people, 6 of which were scientists that were there to study the volcano. They had gone to Galeras in search of samples, in order to make a possible prediction as to when future eruptions could happen. I guess they went a little too late.
Galeras is responsible for constantly covering the nearby towns with ash, and a major eruption of this Decade Volcano could mean catastrophe for the residents of Pasto, a city of 450,000 inhabitants that lies right on its slopes.
5. Popocatépetl, Mexico
You may see Popocatépetl and think it’s just a cool snowy mountain where you can snowboard, but don’t be fooled, even though it’s covered in snowy peaks, that is one dangerous volcano. It’s located in the state of Puebla, only 35 miles away from Mexico City, and more than 9 million people live within the danger radius of the volcano. This volcano is in constant activity but has only erupted 20 times since 1519. The last eruption was in 2000, where more than 41,000 residents had to be evacuated to be kept safe, avoiding disaster.
It can usually be seen from Mexico City, and it was once one of three glacier peaks in the country, although glaciers in Popocatépetl seems to have vanished due to warmer temperatures. There are some videos on youtube that show recent activity from this volcano, and there you can witness the power even the slightest activity of it can have. Most recently in 2016, ashes from Popocatépetl spread around the area, and completely covering the town of Puebla with a gray mantle
4. Mount Unzen, Japan
Unzen is a complex volcano located near the city of Shimabara, Nagasaki. This big guy is responsible for an eruption caused in 1792, considered to be Japan’s deadliest volcanic disaster to date. During constant earthquake activity from the volcano, an eruption caused a lava dome that protected one of its peaks from collapsing. A landslide formed and flowed downhill sweeping the town of Shimabara and landing into Ariake Bay. The impact formed a megatsunami that hit the Higo Province on the other side of the bay, then it returned and hit Shimabara again. A total of 15,000 people were killed. It is estimated that 5,000 died because of the landslide, and the other 10,000 fell victims to the megatsunami.
The most recent activity from Mount Unzen was between 1990 and 1995, and in 1991 a large eruption killed 43 people due to the lava flow and hot gasses that came from the volcano at high speeds. Three famous volcanologists died in that eruption, along with many journalists that accompanied them in their studies of Unzen.
3. Krakatoa, Indonesia
Krakatoa is responsible for one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in history. The volcanic island used to be a part of a much greater island by the same name that had three volcanic peaks and was completely obliterated because of a massive eruption in 1883.
The eruption caused enormous tsunamis that destroyed a majority of the island, and it is said to have been the loudest sound ever heard in modern history. People from 3,000 miles away heard the explosion and shock waves were recorded for many days afterward. Some barographs recorded the wave seven times up to 5 days later. More than 36,000 people were killed because of Krakatoa’s eruption and the tsunami it formed, and much of the land that existed previously would never surface again.
After the eruption, in 1927, more volcanic activity was reported underwater, and in December of that year, a new island by the name of Anak Krakatau was formed. Since then, Anak Krakatau has been the center for most of the volcanic movement in the area.
2. Mount Rainier, United States
Another one of the world´s most dangerous volcanoes is right in the heart of the state of Washington, in the United States. It’s an enormous active volcano also known as Mount Tacoma, or Mount Tahoma. The reason this stratovolcano is so dangerous is because It´s only 54 miles away from Seattle, and an eruption could endanger the residents of the city. Seattle has a population of approximately 650,000 people, and more than 3 million live around the metropolitan area.
The mighty Mount Rainier is almost 14,500 feet high, and more than 2 million tourists go to Mount Rainier Park each year to visit the mountain and the forests around it, but scientists believe that the volcano could pose a real threat to those who live in the vicinity. Although it is considered an active volcano, the last eruption from Mount Rainier was in 1895, being relatively small compared to the potential power it has. Because it´s capped in snow and many glaciers, a major explosion from the volcano could cause a major flow of water and pyroclastic material combined, known as the lahar, that could endanger everyone in the Tacoma and Seattle area. Many possible lahar routes from the mountain are densely populated.
1. Santa María, Guatemala
Known as Gagxanul by the Mayans before the Spanish Conquest, Santa María is a very large active volcano in western Guatemala, located near the city of Quetzaltenango. It has had one of the biggest eruptions of the past 300 years.
It is a stratospheric volcano located in Guatemala’s volcanic highlands, and it is home to the Santiaguito Dome, one of the most active lava domes in the world. I guess maybe they shouldn’t call it like a little kid, then. One of the biggest eruptions of the past centuries came from the volcano in 1902 when after a series of seismic activity, the volcano erupted and completely destroyed the countryside. The eruption alone killed 5,000 people but it also devastated the country´s coffee crops for over a year. The explosion was 28km high and consequences from it can still be seen today in the region. The first accounts of the explosion were reported by a German scientist named Karl Sapper, who visited the area just after the explosion.