People around the world are not threatened by a volcano eruption as much as they once were. The most likely reason for this is that scientists and seismologists now have instruments that are able to predict when a volcano will erupt, giving area residents time to evacuate. These predictions were not possible many years ago, so entire communities could be wiped out by the unexpected eruption of a nearby volcano.
The islands of the Pacific, including the Hawaiian Islands were formed by volcanic activity, and volcano activity has had an influence on the size and physical characteristics of land worldwide.
Seismologists have compiled a list of the most dangerous volcanoes referred to as the Decade Volcanoes which they expect to have some activity during the next 10 years. The following list includes the top 10 most active volcanoes:
1) Mauna Loa
Mauna Loa is one of the five volcanoes that formed the Hawaiian Islands. This active shield volcano has been erupting for 700,000 years or more and has a volume estimated to be 18,000 cubic miles. The most recent eruption of Mauna Loa occurred over the months of March and April in 1984. Mauna Loa produces lava that has low viscosity so the lava flows fast and is a high threat to population centers in the area.
2) Taal Volcano
Taal Volcano makes up an island in Lake Taal on the Philippino island of Luzon. The lake is within a caldera that was formed by a previous, powerful eruption. The volcano is approximately 31 miles from the capital city of Manila, and this active volcano is part of the Pacific ocean ring of fire. The last eruption of this volcano occurred in 1911 when more than a thousand people were killed. There has been strong seismic activity and fracturing since 1991, indicating the magmatic intrusion that precedes an eventual eruption.
Papua New Guinea is threatened by Ulawun volcano since a clearly visible steam plume is emanating from the highest volcano of the Bismarck volcanic arc. Ulawuns high may indicate it is at its limit of stability, threatening catastrophic structural collapse that would devastate the surrounding area for hundreds of square kilometers.
The most active volcano in Africa is Nyiragongo. The stratovolcano contains the largest fluid lava lake known in recent history, and there have been at least 34 eruptions since 1882. A devastating eruption occurred in January of 2002 when lava displaced about 40 percent of the people living in nearby Goma. This eruption has continued to this day creating an active lava lake.
5) Mount Merapi
Mount Merapi means Mountain of Fire, and is situated on the border between Yogykarta, Indonesia and Central Java. It is Indonesia’s most active volcano and has been erupting regularly since 1548. The typical small eruptions are spaced two to three years apart, with larger ones occurring about once in 10 to 15 years. The neighboring villages have been on high alert since the 2006 eruption that was followed by long-period quakes.
The US state of California could be at risk from the Long Valley Caldera, which is believed by some to be the third most powerful super volcano located in the lower 48 states of America. It is also thought that the eruption would be increased in power because it is in a lake. The Long Valley Caldera has the potential to be devastating to the human population in the surrounding area.
7) Mt. Vesuvius
The region of Naples, Italy was devastated by Mt. Vesuvius when an eruption in AD 79 destroyed Pompeii, Stabeia and Herculaneum. There are now nearly 3 million residents living in Naples who are at risk of once again being wiped out by an eruption of this most hazardous volcano in the world.
Sakurajima of Japan erupted last in 1914, but has annual small explosions. It is one of the top 10 most active volcanoes due to its unpredictable nature.
Galeras of Columbia is considered the most explosive volcano in the world, and has been active for a million years or more. Nine people were killed in the 1993 eruption because an unexpected explosion occurred while they were inside the crater.
Popocatepetl towers 2,426 meters and is the second highest land structure in North America. Since 1519 the volcano has exploded at least 20 times so qualifies as one of the top 10 most active volcanoes.