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Illustrated Volcano Glossary
Plinian eruption of Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980 (USGS Photograph taken on May 18, 1980, by Donald A. Swanson)
Pumice deposit on Santorini, Greece, from the large Plinian "Minoan" eruption on Santorini in 1613 BC, showing the holes in the pumice where remants of an olive tree could be found and recovered by Tom in 2003. This material allowed the most recent and most precise dating of this eruption to date.
The 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 evacuated areas around the volcano, but about 2,000 were killed, including Pliny the Older.
- Large plinian eruptions sometimes result in the withdrawal of so much magma from below a volcano that part of it collapses to form a large depression called a caldera.
- A few well known plinian eruptions of the 20th century include Mount Spurr, Alaska (June 27, August 18, and September 16-17, 1992); Mount Pinatubo, Philippines (June 15, 1991); El Chichón, Mexico (March-April 1982); Mount St. Helens, Washington (May 18, 1980); Agung volcano, Indonesia (March 17, 1963; and Novarupta, Valley of 10,000 Smokes, Alaska (June 6, 1912).
- Some plinian eruptions inject such large quantities of aerosols (small liquid droplets) into the stratosphere that surface temperatures on earth may decrease slightly. A few recent eruptions resulted in detectable cooling--the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, and the 1982 eruption of El Chichón, Mexico. The massive 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora volcano, Indonesia, is thought to have caused the 1816 "Year without a Summer" in the northeastern U.S., Canada, and western Europe.
More on VolcanoDiscovery:
Volcano Special Tours
: We organize tours to particularly active volcanoes and during ongoing eruptions for extended observation time from various viewpoints. These trips, exclusively for very small groups, are often announced only at short notice and require fast travel and flexibility. Each trip is accompanied by a volcanologist from our team. Examples include: Kilauea (Hawai'i), Colima (Mexico), Krakatau and many others.
Batu Tara photos
: A remote island in the Flores Sea of Indonesia formed by a single volcano that has been in strong strombolian eruption for years. We regularly lead expeditions to there where we camp several days to observe it.