Illustrated Volcano Glossary
Updated: Jul 3, 2022 11:39 GMT - Refresh
- VolcanologySmall spherical balls of volcanic ashAccretionary lapilli are small spherical balls of volcanic ash that form from a wet nucleus falling through a volcanic ash cloud. They can flatten on hitting the ground or may roll on loose ash and grow like a snowball. Read all
- VolcanologyAn adjective describing the chemical composition of magmas (or lavas) having relatively high content of silica (SiO2). It has little to do with the use of the term in chemistry where it is used to describe low pH values found in acids.In petrology and volcanology, magmatic rocks (or the magmas they derived from) are often classified by their bulk silica (SiO2) content, which can typically range from around 40-75 weight %, an results in the 4 main types of magma by composition. These are, in order of increasing silica content: basaltic (45-53%), andesitic (53-62%), dacitic (62-69%), and rhyolitic (69-77%).
Rocks with high sili... Read all
- VolcanologyAndesite is a gray to black volcanic rock with intermediate silica content, typical for lava domes and stratovolcanoes in subduction zones.Andesite is an igneous volcanic rock containing between about 52 and 63 weight % silica (SiO2). Andesite is the extrusive equivalent to plutonic diorite - if a dioritic magma cools beneath the surface as an intrusion, it will be diorite, if the same magma erupts during a volcanic eruption, the rock formed is andesite.
Where does andesite usually occur?Andesite and diorite are among the m... Read all
- Volcanology: volcanic ashVolcanic ash is the term for all fine-grained volcanic products (smaller than 2 mm), normally magma or older rock fragmented during explosive eruptions.Volcanic ash has nothing to do with fire, but is a mere definition of grain-size. Ash can range in size from sandy to extremely fine; any fragment ejected by a volcano less than 2 mm in diameter is called ash. It may consists of freshly ejected lava (usually turned into a glass shard because of rapid cooling), older fragmented rock, or small crystals.
Ash is produced by explosive activity when ex... Read all
- Volcanology: volcanic ash fallVolcanic ash fall is the deposition of ash from the air from eruption plumes emitted during explosive volcanic eruptions.
- VolcanologyThe most common type of volcanic rock, with a relatively low silica content and typically erupted at shield volcanoes.Basalt is the usually hard and black volcanic rock formed from (liquid) balsalitc lava. Balsaltic lava contains less than about 52 percent silica (SiO2) by weight. Because of its low silica content, it has a low viscosity (resistance to flow). Therefore, basaltic lava can quickly and easily flow more than 20 km from a vent. The low viscosity typically allows volcanic gases to escape without genera... Read all
- VolcanologyBase surges are ground hugging, fast outward moving and turbulent, dilute clouds of gas and ash. They result from water magma interactions (violent steam explosions). During the 1965 eruption of Taal volcano (Philippines), such base surges were first observed. Some of them traveled 4 km and killed 189 people. Base surges were first identified during ocean nuclear weapons explosions in the Pacific.... Read all
- VolcanologyAn adjective describing the chemical composition of magmas (or lavas) having relatively low content of silica (SiO2), as opposed to "acidic", and a comparably high content of iron and magnesium.In petrology and volcanology, magmatic rocks (or the magmas they derived from) are often classified by their bulk silica (SiO2) content, which can typically range from around 40-75 weight %, and results in the 4 main types of magma by composition. These are, in order of increasing silica content: basaltic (45-53%), andesitic (53-62%), dacitic (62-69%), and rhyolitic (69-77%).
Rocks with low sili... Read all
- Volcanology: (volcanic) blockVolcanic blocks are solidified rock fragments greater than 64 mm in diameter. Blocks commonly are ejected during explosive eruptions and consist of older pieces of the volcano's edifice, e.g. parts of the conduit, lava domes or older lava flows.During violent eruptions, blocks of up to several meter size can be thrown to several km distance. For example, during the Minoan eruption (ca. 1613 BC) of the Santorini volcano in Greece, meter-sized blocks were thrown to up to 7 km horizontal distance and impacted violently into the ground, some of them destroying houses of ancient settlements. The time some of these blocks spent on their trajec... Read all
- Volcanology: volcanic bombEjected fragments of fresh magma larger than 64 mm in diameter, often shaped aerodynamically during their flight.Volcanic bombs are lava fragments larger than 64 mm in diameter that were ejected while still viscous and partially molten. Many bombs acquire rounded aerodynamic shapes during their travel through the air. Volcanic bombs include breadcrust bombs, ribbon bombs, spindle bombs (with twisted ends), spheroidal bombs, and "cow-dung" bombs. Read all
- VolcanologyVolcanic bomb with a cracked surface, similar to bread, caused by the slow expansion of the interior gas bubbles while cooling.A breadcrust bomb is a volcanic bomb with a cracked and checkered surface, sometimes resembling the surface of a loaf of bread. The cracks develop when the outer surface of a partially molten lava fragment cools to form a brittle surface and then subsequently cracks as the hot interior expands due to the continued growth of gas bubbles. Read all
- VolcanologyLarge crater, usually several kilometers across, formed by the collapse of the roof of a magma chamber emptied by large explosive eruptions.A caldera is a large, usually circular depression at the summit of a volcano formed when magma is withdrawn or erupted from a shallow underground magma reservoir. The removal of large volumes of magma may result in loss of structural support for the overlying rock, thereby leading to collapse of the ground and formation of a large depression. Calderas are different from craters, which are smaller,... Read all
- VolcanologyA depression often on the top or the flanks of a volcano usually created by explosions of lava from the vent.
- VolcanologyA dacitic lava-dome at Nisyros Island in GreeceDacite is an igneous, volcanic rock with a high iron content found at many lava-domes.Dacite (pronounced /deɪsaɪt/) is an igneous, volcanic rock with a high iron content. It is intermediate in compositions between andesite and rhyolite, and, like andesite, it consists mostly of plagioclase feldspar with biotite, hornblende, and pyroxene (augite and/or enstatite). It has an aphanitic to porphyritic texture with quartz as rounded, corroded phenocrysts, or as an element of t... Read all
- VolcanologyA sudden collapse of volcanic material from an unstable side of a volcano. Debris avalanches are a particularly violent type of pyroclastic flows (in its broader meaning).
- VolcanologyDiorite is an intrusive igneous rock of intermediate silica content (53-63%). It is the equivalent of its extrusive (volcanic) counterpart andesite.Diorite is composed principally of the silicate minerals plagioclase feldspar (typically andesine), biotite, hornblende, and/or pyroxene. The chemical composition of diorite is intermediate between gabbro and granite. Read all
- Volcanology: effusive (volcanic) eruptionEffusive means flowing out of lava as opposed to explosive eruptions.If magma is sufficiently fluid and if it is not framented by expanding gasses when reaching the surface vent, it can erupt to form lava flows. This is called effusive eruption. The opposite of effusive is explosive, i.e. fragmentation of magma. Read all
- Volcanology: explosive (volcanic) eruptionExplosive eruptions occur, when the erupting magma is ejected as fragments into the air, as opposed to effusive eruptions producing lava flows.Explosive eruptions are called so, when the erupting magma is fragmented when exiting the conduit. The reason are expanding gasses from the magma itself or external water e.g. from an aquifer. The resulting fragments of the magma itself are called tephra, and consist in small and large pieces: Ash, lapilli and bombs are the typical products of explosive eruptions.
The reason for explosive eruptio... Read all
- VolcanologyA fissure vent, also known as a volcanic fissure or simply fissure, is a linear volcanic vent through which lava erupts.A fissure vent, also known as a volcanic fissure or simply fissure, is a linear volcanic vent through which lava erupts, usually without any explosive activity. The vent is usually a few meters wide and may be many kilometers long. Fissure vents can cause large flood basalts and lava channels. This type of volcano is usually hard to recognize from the ground and from outer space because it has no ... Read all
- VolcanologyGranite is the most well-known and one of the most common intrusive magmatic (plutonic) rock type. It is formed when an intrusion of viscous magma with high silica content (68-75 wt %) remains under the surface of the earth, where it cools and crystallizes slowly inside the crust.Granite is the equivalent of its extrusive (volcanic) rock type rhyolite. It is granular and coarse-grained in texture. Its principal minerals are feldspars, quartz, and mica.
Granites can be predominantly white, pink, or gray in color, depending on their mineralogy. Read all
- VolcanologyDuring a Hawaiian eruption, very fluid, basaltic lava is erupted from the vent as lava fountains and forms lava flows. The fountains are driven by the expanding gasses that were contained in the magma and leave the vent as a jet. Such eruptions are common for hot-spot volcanoes such as Kilauea on Hawai'i.The lava fountains can reach heights of several hundreds meters, sometimes even more than 1 km. They can last for hours or even days and often occur from fissure vents to form so-called curtains of fire.
The lava spatter that falls back from the fountain can form lava flows if it is still fluid enough, or build up welded spatter ramparts and cinder cones around the vent. Along with the lava foun... Read all
- VolcanologyHornito (Spanish) = "Little oven".
Volcanic hornitos are small (usually a few meters high) rootless spatter cones that form on the surface of a (usually basaltic pahoehoe) lava flow. A hornito develops when lava is forced up through an opening in the cooled surface of a flow (a skylight) and then accumulates around the opening. Typically, hornitos are steep sided and form conspicuous pinnacles o... Read all
- VolcanologyMolten rock, called magma, is called lava when it reaches the surface during a volcanic eruption. Depending on how the magma erupts, it can form lava flows, lava fountains, lava lakes, or be fragmented into scoria and ash during explosive eruptions.In a wider use of the term, also the cooled and solidified products of erupted magma are called lava (in form of coherent lava flows, or fragmented tephra).
Magma when it erupts as lava is almost never a completely molten rock, but contains 3 phases: liquid, solid mineral crystals (xenoliths) and gas bubbles, mainly water and carbon dioxide.
The temperature of erupted lava ranges from around ... Read all
- VolcanologyLava balloons are hollow gas-filled pieces of lava floating to the surface above effusive submarine vents. Many lava balloons have been produced and observed during the ongoing 2011-12 shallow submarine eruption at El Hierro.Floating lava blocks could result from the detachment of pillow-lava edges followed by the ascent of blocks with sufficient gas content. It is also possible that hot, gas-rich lava fragments result from small submarine lava lakes or fountains.
A thin frozen skin of lava seals the gas cavity, and the block might then rise as a hot lava balloon. During ascent, the gas exsolves and nucleates inside ... Read all
- VolcanologyA lava bench is a platform formed by new lava flows that extends the old shoreline; in particular, this can be observed on Hawaii at Kilauea volcano during times when lava is entering the ocean, forming new land.In their young stadium, benches are highly unstable. They often are underlain only by loose material such as sand and wave-eroded rock. Young benches can collapse at any time, and it is life-threatening to stand on one. Only after a long time, when the pile of material under and in front of the bench is sufficiently stabilized, the bench can be considered new stable land. Read all
- VolcanologyLava domes are accumulations of highly viscous lava above or near the vent(s) where they were erupted during slow flow, like a sticky glue squeezed out or oozing out from a hole in its container.
Lava domes often take the form of a rounded hill, resembling a dome, but come in many other shapes as well.Lava domes are very similar to thick lava flows, with the difference being that the lava once erupted from the vent almost doesn't flow at all, and piles up above the vent instead of flowing away downhill or to the side. In fact, there is a transition between thick, sticky lava flows and lava domes, depending on how viscous the lava is, how steep the terrain, the flow rate and other factors. Somet... Read all
- VolcanologyLava flows are almost self-explanatory. When magma is erupted in molten or a partially molten state it often has the ability to flow. This is typically the case for basaltic volcanoes such as Hawaii and Etna whose lavas are relatively fluid. Lava flows might form either as primary flows directly flowing out of a vent from the vent or by rapid aggregation of hot fluid spatter that fall back from lava fountains to form a flow.The appearance of lava flows can vary greatly with chemistry, flow rate, strain rate, temperature, viscosity and other factors. The most simple division can be made between aa lava that usually has a blocky appearance, since the surface of the flow breaks into spiny or blocky pieces, and pahoehoe lava flows, which form a smooth surface and often produce spectacular ropy textures. Read all
- VolcanologyJets of fluid lava propelled into the air from an erupting vent, driven by expanding gasses.Lava fountains are sustained jets of (usually very) fluid lava into the atmosphere. Lava fountains occur commonly on basaltic volcanoes such as Kilauea, or Etna.
The fountain gains its momentum by the expansion of gas bubbles that dissolve from the magma as pressure falls while it is rising in the conduit.
Heights, appearance, duration and erupted volumes of lava fountains can vary greatly. St... Read all
- VolcanologyLava lakes are accumulations of larger volumes of liquid lava above one or several vents, usually contained within a crater on the summit of the volcano.Volcanoes with eruptions that produce long-lasting lava lakes are relatively rare; some volcanoes are famous for their lava lakes: Kilauea (Hawaii), Erta Ale (Ethiopia), Nyiragongo (at present probably the most violent lava lake in the world, about 120 meters wide), Ambrym volcano (Vanuatu), Mt Erebus (Antarctica) and a few others with sometimes smaller lakes. Read all
- VolcanologyThe lava coating around a tree trunk left by an invading liquid lava flow.When a liquid lava flow invades a forest, often, the lava does not overthrow the larger trees, but flows around their trunks. At the very contact of the hot lava to the bark, a thin layer of the lava is quenched sufficiently to form an isolating coating around the trunk. The tree itself most often burns down slowly, eventually falling down onto the lava.
The typical lava trees are formed when af... Read all
- VolcanologyMolten rock within a volcano or underneath the earth's surface. Once magma reaches the surface it is called lava.
- VolcanologyMud volcanoes are no true volcanoes, but vents that erupt mud, as fine sediemtn is squeezed upwards by prezzurized water, steam and gas escaping from deeper deposits.A mud volcano is a vent on the surface erupting mud and gas or steam, but no lava. Mud volcanoes are usually not the result of volcanic processes, but more generally related to environments where pressurized deposits at depth occur that release gas and steam, which mixes with fine-grained sediments to form mud. Temperatures are much cooler than at volcanic processes. The largest structures are 10 ... Read all
- VolcanologyBlack volcanic glassObsidian is a naturally occurring glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock. It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly through the glass transition temperature and freezes without sufficient time for crystal growth. Obsidian is commonly found within the margins of rhyolitic lava flows known as obsidian flows, where cooling of the lava is rapid. Because of the lack of cr... Read all
- Volcanology: phreatomagmatic activityVolcanic activity where fresh magma AND external water are involved.Phreatomagmatic activity means that erupting magma reacts with external water, e.g. ground water, lake water, sea water etc. In contrast, if only magma is erupted and driven only by gasses originally contained in the magma, it is called magmatic activity. If no magma itself erupts, but heated ground water drives explosions and eruptions of older material, the activity is called phreatic.
- VolcanologyThe most explosive and largest type of volcanic eruptions. Plinian eruptions erupt more than 1 cubic kilometer of magma often within less than a few days and produce ash columns that can reach 20-50 km height.Plinian eruptions are large explosive events that form enormous dark columns of tephra and gas high into the stratosphere (>11 km). Such eruptions are named for Pliny the Younger, who carefully described the disastrous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. This eruption generated a huge column of tephra into the sky, pyroclastic flows and surges, and extensive ash fall. Many thousands of people evacuate... Read all
- Volcanology: pumice stonePumice is a very light, porous volcanic rock that forms during explosive eruptions. During the eruption, volcanic gases dissolved in the liquid portion of verz viscous magma expand very rapidly to create a foam or froth; the liquid part of the froth then quickly solidifies to glass around the gas bubbles.
The volume of gas bubbles is usually so large that pumice is lighter than water and floats.
Pumice is an important industrial mineral used to produce high-quality cement and lightweight, isolating building materials.Pumice is a textural term for a volcanic rock that is a solidified frothy lava composed of highly microvesicular glass pyroclastic with very thin, translucent bubble walls of extrusive igneous rock. It is commonly, but not exclusively of silicic or felsic to intermediate in composition (e.g. rhyolitic, dacitic, andesite, pantellerite, phonolite, trachyte), but occurrences of basaltic and other com... Read all
- VolcanologyFluid avalanche of turbulently mixed ash, lava and or rock fragments, and air, that flows down the flanks of a volcano, driven by gravity. Pyroclastic flows are usually very hot and highly destructive.A pyroclastic flow is a ground-hugging avalanche of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments, and volcanic gas that rushes down the side of a volcano as fast as 100 km/hour or more. The temperature within a pyroclastic flow may be greater than 500°C, sufficient to burn wood. Once deposited, the ash, pumice, and rock fragments may deform (flatten) and weld together because of the intense heat and the weight... Read all
- VolcanologyA type of highly viscous magma with high silica content; it is found as pumice (in airfall deposits or ignimbrites), lava or obsidian. Rhyolite is also the name given to the volcanic rock formed from rhyolitic magma.
- VolcanologyShield volcanoes are volcanoes that mainly erupt fluid (usually basaltic) lava flows that are able to travel over long distances and thus construct over time broad, gentle slopes. They are called shield volcanoes, because they resemble the shape of a warriors'shield.Shield volcanoes are volcanoes that mainly erupt fluid (usually basaltic) lava flows that are able to travel over long distances and thus construct over time broad, gentle slopes. They are called shield volcanoes, because they resemble the shape of a warriors'shield.
While stratovolcanoes, the other major morphological type of volcanoes, are representative for most subduction-type volcanoes, sh... Read all
- VolcanologySkylights are openings in the roof above a lava tube, from where the flowing lava flow can be seen. Usually, these holes are caused by the simple collapse of the roof of the tube.
- Volcanology: volcanic smoke ring, gas ring, steam ringA rare phenomenon, where a visible vortex ring of steam and gas is expelled from a volcanic vent.Under special conditions, gas and steam expelled from a vent can form gas rings. It probably requires a particular geolometric configuration of a circular vent exit, as well as expulsion of gas in individual puffs with just the right velocity.
This phenomenon is quite rare, but has been witnessed at several volcanoes, including Stromboli and Etna. At Etna, a spectacular period lasting several mo... Read all
- VolcanologyStrombolian eruptions are the smallest type of explosive eruptions. Strombolian eruptions consist of intermittent, generally relatively small explosions or weak pulsating fountains of fluid (usually basaltic) lava from a single vent or crater.
They are called so after the type locality of Stromboli volcano (Eolian Islands, Italy), which has been in strombolian activity for probably more than 2000 years.An individual strombolian explosion is the result of sudden release of volcanic gasses. The typical rhythmic occurrence is caused by gradual accumulation of gas bubbles beneath a weakly solidified plug at the top of the magma column at the vent surface until the gas pressure is high enough to erupt through it, ejecting with it both solid and liquid spatter from the magma. Read all
- VolcanologyTephrite is an type of volcanic (extrusive) rock with low silica content, similar to basalt, but containing foid minerals (e.g. nephelinite, leucite) along with plagioclase.
The composition of tephrite is called tephritic.
- VolcanologyTephritic refers to the mineral composition of tephrite, an type of volcanic (extrusive) rock with low silica content, similar to basalt, but containing foid minerals (e.g. nephelinite, leucite) along with plagioclase.
tremorSynonym of: volcanic tremor
- VolcanologyFrom Latin "tumulus" = "little hill", tumuli (pl.) are uplifted sections of pahoehoe lava crust caused by pressure from still fluid lava accumulating beneath the hardened crust.Tumuli are a characteristic feature of all pahoehoe lava flow fields, such as prominent on Kilauea volcano, Hawaii, but also many other basaltic volcanoes including Etna. Read all
- Volcanology: Volcanic Ash Advisory CentreVolcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAAC) are research centres who monitor volcanic ash clouds in real time. Each time, a volcano erupts a significant ash cloud, short reports are issued and transmitted directly to air control centres. The 9 VAAC are located in London, Toulouse, Tokyo, Darwin, Anchorage, Washington, Montreal and Buenos Aireas and collectively cover most of the globe.The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAAC) are groups of experts and government-funded bodies to montor volcanic ash clouds all over the planet in real time. As Europe experienced in April 2010, volcanic ash clouds are hazardous for aircraft and must be avoided to fly through, even if that means cancellation of flights.
As of 2010, there are 9 VAAC located in different areas and each focussing m... Read all
- VolcanologyThe ability of a liquid to flow. Basalt magma has a relatively low viscosity making it runny, whereas rhyolite magma has a high viscosity making the magma thick and sticky.
- Volcanology: volcanic dikePathways of rising magma inside vertical fissures.Dikes are imaginable as the veins of a volcano, the pathways of rising magma. A dike is called a -usually more or less vertical- flat, sheet-like magma body that cuts unconformingly through older rocks or sediments.
Most dikes can be described as fractures into which magma intrudes or from which they might erupt. The fracture can be caused by the intrusion of pressurized magma, or vice versa, ... Read all
- VolcanologyVolcanic tremor is a continuous seismic signal with regular or irregular sine wave appearance and low frequencies (0.5-5 Hz).Volcanic tremor is usually in the form of harmonic tremor which has a very uniform appearance, whereas spasmodic tremor is pulsating and consists of higher frequencies with a more irregular appearance.
Tremor can be caused by different processes inside the volcano, including resonance triggered by magma flowing through cracks and vents, or continuous low-frequency earthquakes so closely spaced th... Read all
- VolcanologyA volcaniclastic rock or loose deposit made of (older) volcanic fragments.
- VolcanologyThe science of studying volcanoes.Volcanology comprises the study of volcanoes and volcanic phenomena and is mostly regarded as a sub-part of geology, but is interwoven with other science disciplines as well: chemistry, physics, but also sociology, history, archaeology. Read all
- VolcanologyA vulcanian (note the different term from "volcanic") eruption is an intermediately violent type of explosive eruption, stronger than strombolian explosions but much weaker than Plinian eruptions.
During vulcanian eruptions, a relatively large solid plug is ejected when magmatic gas pressure that had build up beneath it overcomes the strength of the plug.
In the same way as Stromboli island for strombolian eruptions, the term vulcanian was coined after the neighboring island of Vulcano in the Eolian Islands, where such eruptions had been observed during the eruption in 1888.Vulcanian eruptions can follow longer or shorter intervals of repose during which gasses in the magma beneath the plug slowly build up. The smallest vulcanian explosions typically produce eruption columns of approx 1-2 km height, while larger ones approaching sub-plinian size can erupt columns reaching several to more than 10 kilometers height.
Often, the eruptions are accompanied by violent gun... Read all
- VolcanologyAn inclusion of foreign rock in an igneous rock.Xenoliths in volcanic rocks are often pieces of the volcano's (non-volcanic) substratum picked up by, engulfed within and erupted with the rising magma. Read all