The Many Ways to Classify Volcanoes
Of all of Earth's natural phenomenon, volcanoes are one of the most interesting
During my first-ever visit to Hawaii, my cousin took me, my mom, and my aunt to one of his favorite swimming holes. The coastline wasn’t white or sandy as you might expect but littered with large volcanic boulders forming perfect tidepools.
My cousin also took me galavanting across the Manua Loa volcano, which I’ll tell you more about in a minute. Then on the last night, we all went to see Kilauea’s glowing lava under an impossibly starry sky. The entire experience revived my fascination with volcanoes, and I found myself wanting to learn more about them. Now, I’m sharing what I learned with you.
Types of Volcanoes
It’s a little ironic that the two places to spark my interest in volcanoes are Iceland and Hawaii, considering my home in the Pacific Northwest has several. My parents even collected a jar of ashes from Mount St. Helens when it erupted in 1980, just a few years before I was born. Still, even though I learned about them in school, I hadn’t really put much effort into understanding volcanoes.
I used to assume all volcanoes were relatively the same — like giant zits on the surface of the Earth, except they spew lava. The zit analogy kinda works, but there are differences. Specifically when it comes to a volcano’s physical characteristics, which are mostly due to its magma’s chemistry.
These differences determine a volcano’s eruption dynamics, such as how explosive it is and what they look like, and it’s because of these differences that there are a few ways to classify them. If I’m honest, the fact there are so many categories likely overwhelmed me when I was younger, but now I find it fascinating.
For instance, some volcanoes erupt often, while others do so only once. Plus, not all volcanoes are easily recognizable. They can also be segregated by the type of explosion they create and more.
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