Taxonomy term

volcanic eruption

Volcanoes and historical politics

As well as influencing art and faith, volcanoes are often portrayed as the very manifestation of the human condition. Expressions of anger are readily described as “volcanic.” They have become a metaphor for anything of suitable magnitude or wrath. One such painting sees a volcano become the embodiment of the French Revolution.

28 Jul 2016

Buried lunar craters filled by lava long ago

Craters dot much of the nearside of the moon. And buried beneath this pockmarked landscape, according to the latest findings from NASA’s two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft, are the remnants of even more craters, many of which were covered long ago by lava.

12 Jul 2016

Double trouble: Volcanic eruption leads to strong earthquake eight months later

In January 2002, Nyiragongo Volcano erupted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing more than 100 people. Eight months later and 19 kilometers to the south, a magnitude-6.2 earthquake shook the Lake Kivu region, partially destroying the town of Kalehe. Now, scientists have determined that the two events were linked, and their results highlight a newly observed trigger for strong earthquakes near active volcanoes.

24 May 2016

Mercury levels support volcanic role in end-Cretaceous extinction

The end-Cretaceous extinction, known for finishing off the last dinosaurs about 66 million years ago, often evokes scenes of a large asteroid hurtling toward Earth. However, new evidence supports a growing consensus that the massive bolide wasn’t the only hazard that life on Earth had to contend with: A prolonged bout of major volcanic eruptions was also spewing climate-altering gases and other emissions such as mercury into the atmosphere.

28 Apr 2016

Hekla the heckler

Hekla is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes, erupting more than 25 times since its first recorded eruption in 1104. The most recent eruptions in 1970, 1980, 1981, 1991 and 2000 have allowed geoscientists to create a detailed eruption profile for the volcano.

29 Mar 2016

Benchmarks: March 17, 1944: The most recent eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Four-and-a-half years into World War II, the residents of San Sebastiano, Italy — a Neapolitan village on the western slopes of Mount Vesuvius — had already endured much misery: dictatorial rule, invasion, occupation and bombings. In mid-March 1944, they faced yet another catastrophe, this one a natural disaster that would destroy their town.

17 Mar 2016

Comment: How 'Frankenstein' prevents us from tackling climate change

During the unusually dark and stormy summer months of 1816 following the eruption of Mount Tambora, Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein.” The story has continued to shape the public’s distrust of scientists and the scientific method.

09 Mar 2016

How supervolcanoes are set off

If a supervolcano were to erupt today, its impacts could be catastrophic. Fortunately, no such eruption has occurred during human history. The lack of eyewitness accounts, however, makes it difficult for scientists to understand how supervolcanoes evolve and erupt. Based on a recent modeling, researchers have offered a new hypothesis for how supervolcano eruptions might be triggered by external, rather than internal, forces.

01 Mar 2016

Volcanic aerosols not enough to cause mass extinctions?

Mass extinctions — when more than half of Earth’s species disappear in a geologic instant — offer some of the planet’s most perplexing unsolved mysteries. Prolonged periods of volcanic activity have long been prime suspects for these ancient whodunits, the most recent of which finished off the last nonavian dinosaurs at the close of the Cretaceous about 66 million years ago. But scientists debate how drastic the environmental effects of such volcanism might have been, and whether other factors — like asteroid impacts, as in the end-Cretaceous extinction — played a big role as well.

25 Feb 2016

Volcanic eruptions affect rivers around the world

Volcanic eruptions are some of the most powerful agents of climate change on the planet, with some very large events impacting global weather for up to a decade after an eruption. A new study highlights some of the indirect effects of large eruptions, such as how they impact rivers around the world.
17 Feb 2016