It’s Not Just Hawaii: The U.S. Has 169 Volcanoes That Could Erupt

Volcanoes are stuffed with methods. They can construct to a serious eruption in a crescendo of shudders and spatters or explode with nearly no warning. They can lie in wait below a powerful snowcap, the centerpiece of a panorama of magnificence that they may obliterate tomorrow, or in 10,000 years, or by no means once more.

And there are extra of them in additional elements of America than you would possibly assume.

The United States Geological Survey counts 169 potentially active volcanoes within the nation — a few of them straight-from-the-textbook conical mountains topped with craters, and others that hardly look the half in any respect. About 50 of them in six states are rated excessive precedence or highest precedence for monitoring. A couple of have been lively in fashionable instances; others final erupted a whole bunch and even 1000’s of years in the past.

Here’s a rundown of the place they’re.


The state’s land mass owes its very existence to volcanoes: Each island is the product of at the very least one. The Big Island has 5, together with Mauna Loa, the most important lively volcano wherever on earth.

Kilauea, the one which has currently been opening new fissures, spewing lava and forcing evacuations, has been erupting in a technique or one other constantly because the early 1980s. Mauna Loa has erupted 33 instances within the final 175 years, and Loihi, a submarine volcano about 20 miles offshore, erupted in 1996. Farther north and west, the islands are older and quieter geologically; Maui’s solely lively volcano, Haleakala, is believed to have erupted most just lately at the very least 400 years in the past.

Though it has attracted many a customer to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park over time, Kilauea’s long-running eruption has taken a major toll. The Hawaii Center for Volcanology notes that over one nine-month interval, it destroyed greater than 100 homes.


Hawaii usually will get the headlines, however Alaska has the numbers: At least 50 volcanoes have been lively within the state since 1760, attracting substantial consideration from volcano watchers and researchers. Many are concentrated alongside the arc of the Aleutian Islands, a part of the “Ring of Fire” across the Pacific Ocean the place earthquakes and eruptions are most typical.

One of them is extra worrisome than regular proper now. Scientists on the Alaska Volcano Observatory have a yellow alert in impact for Mount Cleveland, the place they’ve been detecting seismic and thermal exercise and occasional ash clouds.

Like most of Alaska’s volcanoes, Mount Cleveland is in a strikingly distant, unpopulated space. But 4 of them are shut sufficient to Anchorage, the state’s largest metropolis, to be a possible fear.

The gravest downside that Alaskan volcanoes commonly pose, although, just isn’t on the bottom however 1000’s of ft within the air. Researchers estimate that 80,000 massive plane fly over or close to Alaska’s volcanoes every year, making them weak to volcanic ash. When a business jetliner flew by ash in 1989, all 4 engines briefly shut down, and the plane dropped 13,000 ft in simply eight minutes. It managed to land safely in Anchorage.

Pacific Coast

From Canada to Mexico, the American West is dotted with volcanoes. Some are within the Sierra Nevada, just like the Long Valley Caldera, believed to have final erupted about 16,000 years in the past. Others assist make up the Cascade Range in rural Oregon and Washington.

One is Mount St. Helens, about 50 miles from the Portland space, which erupted explosively in 1980, inflicting an avalanche of particles and wiping out forests and wildlife for miles. American officers say it’s “the most likely of the contiguous U.S. volcanoes to erupt in the future.” Another is Mount Rainier, the tallest of the Cascades, hovering scenically close to Seattle and Tacoma; it final erupted about 1,000 years in the past. Lassen Peak, lower than 60 miles from Redding, Calif., erupted most just lately in 1917, creating the eerie panorama of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Mount Hood and Mount Shasta have every erupted in the previous few hundred years.

Wyoming and the Rockies

Volcanoes will not be all the time particular person mountains. There are volcanic fields scattered throughout the West the place scientists have discovered cones, lava flows and indicators of comparatively current eruptions.

One of America’s hottest nationwide parks, Yellowstone, is residence to volcanic exercise that has been enjoying out for about two million years. Indeed, it’s chargeable for a few of the park’s most spectacular sights.

The park was profoundly formed by a “supereruption” about 640,000 years in the past. An event like that today would bury elements of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming in a number of ft of ash, and ash may find yourself as far-off as Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

But such an occasion — or perhaps a milder one that might interrupt a Yellowstone trip — is very unlikely to occur with out a variety of advance warning, in keeping with the Geological Survey: “Yellowstone hasn’t erupted for 70,000 years, so it’s going to take some impressive earthquakes and ground uplift to get things started.”

Scientists watch Yellowstone for indicators of motion, however the different volcanoes sprinkled by the Mountain States are seen as so low danger that they don’t seem to be monitored.

Anywhere, actually

Most volcanoes are the place geologists would count on them to be — alongside the tough edges, cracks and sizzling spots within the earth’s crust — and have been round a very long time. But it’s not unheard-of for a brand new one to seem utterly without warning. Consider Paricutín, which rose from a Mexican cornfield beginning in 1943. The New York Times famous in 1952 that it had given scientists “a unique opportunity for study, as it is the first volcano they have been able to examine daily from the moment of its ‘birth.’ ” Paricutín is now dormant, however its historical past stays central to understanding the science of volcano growth.

Does that imply the 1997 film “Volcano,” about lava immediately welling up below Los Angeles, would possibly come true? Well, probably not. Though there are lively earthquake faults within the metropolis, the earth’s crust just isn’t shifting there in a manner that tends to supply volcanic exercise.

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