It was a surprise when Fourpeaked Mountain, 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, erupted in September 2006. It had been quiet since before 8000 BC, and volcanoes which haven't erupted in the past 10,000 years are considered extinct -- and extinct volcanoes are not expected to have a lava supply. Similarly, in 1955, Mount Bezymianny, on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, unleashed the largest single volcanic eruption of the 20th century, and spewed ash for more than a year -- but it had been considered a long-extinct volcano right up until then.
Volcanic eruptions can kill thousands, reshape islands and continents and even affect global weather with their ash clouds. That red sunset you love so much? Thank volcanic ash in the atmosphere!
Right now there are at least 1,900 active volcanoes, around the world, most sitting on top or near the edges of the Earth's tectonic plates, spewing gas, magma (lava), and ash when they erupt. There are three types of volcanic activity: active, dormant, or extinct. And scientists admit can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between a volcano that's extinct and one that's just resting (sleeping volcanoes are called "dormant").
It's true you can't always tell a book by its cover ... but can you name a volcano by its picture?
Pompeii, about 90 miles south of Rome, was wiped out in the year 79, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, killing an estimated 13,000 to 30,000 people. Today, Mount Vesuvius continues to be an active volcano, although it has been silent.
The 4,583-feet tall Mount Pelée is located at the northern end of the island of Martinique, in the Caribbean. It's an active volcano, most recently famous for its devastating eruption in 1902 that killed 30,000 people.
It killed an estimated 57 people and caused more than a billion dollars in damages in Washington state when it erupted in May 1980. Mount St. Helens most recently blew its top in 2008.
Mount Tambora produced so much ash when it erupted in April 1815, clouds of ash in the atmosphere caused a worldwide cooling phenomenon. In fact, the temperatures during the summer of 1816 were, on average, 5 degrees F cooler than normal because of the cover -- and was known in North America and Europe as the "year without a summer."
Since the first written record in 1500 B.C., people have documented hundreds of eruptions -- Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It made a cameo appearance as the planet "Mustafar" in 2005's prequel "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith." (The actual lava in the movie, though, was made with methocil, a chemical food additive).
Mount Shasta is located at the southern end of the Cascade Range and part of the Shasta-Trinity Forest in Northern California. It's the most voluminous stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, and part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in the state of Washington. It's part of the 800-mile Cascade Range, and because of its history of large and destructive eruptions, is one of 16 volcanoes around the world chosen for study by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI).
Mount Fuji, part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, sits on Honshu Island, about 62 miles west of Tokyo. Fuji-san, as it's called in Japanese, is considered sacred, and with Mount Haku and Mount Tateyama is one of the Three Holy Mountains.
Nevado del Ruiz is located in the Andes, about 80 miles west of Bogotá in central Colombia -- putting about 4,252,435 people in danger if it were to erupt. Of its three most recent eruptions in the 20th century, the eruption in 1985, which triggered deadly mudslides, is the second-largest volcano-related disaster.
Barren Island is in the Andaman Sea in South Asia, and the only active volcano in India. The island itself is the summit of a volcano that's rising from the sea, true to its name this is barren and uninhabited land.
Located on Ross Island, Antarctica’s Mount Erebus is the southernmost active volcano on our planet. It's been active for an estimated 1.3 million years, and is well-known for its phonolitic lava lake.
Popocatépetl, pronounced poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til -- or called just Popo, is the second-highest volcano in Mexico, located about 45 miles southeast of Mexico City and only 30 miles from Puebla. After decades of dormancy, Volcán Popocatépetl (the Aztec word for smoking mountain) came back to life in 1994. More recently, it has been erupting since the early 2000s.
It's been about 74,000 years since this supervolcano erupted. Today, that super-eruption would incinerate everything within 60 miles of the Yellowstone National Park. And then the resulting ash would blanket all of Wyoming and surrounding states -- as much as three feet. Volcanic gases and ash in the atmosphere would block our sun, triggering what scientists call a "volcanic winter" that could last for years.
Although the first known recorded eruption was in December 1580, Galeras has been active for a minimum of a million years. Over the centuries, its moderately frequent eruptions have made it the most active volcano in Colombia. Its 21st-century activity includes an eruption in January 2010 and again in August 2010.
Krakatoa is a volcanic island that sits in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra, in the Indonesian Island Arc. It's responsible for one of the most violent and deadly volcanic eruptions ever recorded, in August 1883. At least 36,417 people died, the majority killed by tsunamis that were triggered by the eruptions.
Mount Agung (or Gunung Agung) is the highest point on Bali, Indonesia, and located in the U-shaped region of the world called the Ring of Fire because of its volcanic activity. It most recently erupted at the end of 2017.
Among the volcanic Wrangell Mountains of eastern Alaska you'll find Atna Peaks.The peaks, east and west, stand about 13,600 feet high in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, located in the Valdez-Cordova (CA).
Mount Kilimanjaro rises 19,340 feet above sea level, making it not only the highest peak on the African continent but the world's highest free-standing mountain as well. It has three distinct volcanic cones, called Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira -- and although Mawenzi and Shira are extinct, Kibo is considered dormant (which means it could erupt again, some day).
Known for its symmetrical cone, the glacier-covered Cotopaxi, located in the Andes Mountains, is one of the active volcanoes of Ecuador. It's erupted more than 50 times since 1738, most recently from August 2015 to January 2016.
Mauna Loa covers half of the Big Island, Hawaiʻi. It's the largest volcano on Earth -- while you see 13,681 feet of it above sea level, Mauna Loa's summit is actually 56,000 feet above its base on the ocean floor.
Mount Edziza is one of the main volcanoes of the Mount Edziza volcanic complex in northwestern British Columbia, Canada. It's a type of volcano that's called subglacial, because it forms and grows below the ice. Mount Edziza is believed to be more than 7.5 million years old.
Volcán de Parícutin, or just Parícutin, is a relatively new volcano, located about 200 miles west of Mexico City in Michoacán, Mexico. It formed in 1943, in the cornfield of a farmer named Dionisio Pulido.
Eyjafjallajökull, pronounced ei-ya-fyat-LA-yer-kitle, sits under a glacier of the same name, in Suðurland, Iceland. Its most recent eruption was in 2010, but the earliest-known recorded eruption dates back to 920.
Erta Ale sits in a badland desert area called the Danakil depression, in the Afar Region in northeastern Ethiopia. It's remote, and the climate is cruel -- temperatures are among the hottest on the planet, with an average year-round temperature of roughly 94 degrees F.
The 11,382-foot Mount Nyiragongo looms over the city of Goma, in the Virunga Mountains of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. This volcano, which has the world's largest lava lake, frequently bubbles and spews fire, and has erupted at least 34 times since 1882.
Mount Cleveland, known also as Chuginadak, is one of the most active of the more than 75 volcanoes in the Aleutian island arc of Alaska. It's erupted 22 times over the last 230 years, as recently as 2017.
Kilauea is an active volcano, and has been continually erupting since 1983. Of the five volcanoes that make up the Big Island, including including Hualalai, Kohala, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa, Kilauea is the most active.
Santorini, once known as Thera, is a volcanic island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 120 miles southeast of mainland Greece. Its eruption and subsequent end of the Minoan civilization may have been the inspiration behind the myth of Atlantis.
The Pacaya volcano is located in Guatemala, as a part of the Central American Volcanic Arc. It first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago, and, after being dormant for a century, has been erupting nearly continuously since 1965.
There are 68 recorded eruptions since 1548. One of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, Gunung Merapi (Mount Merapi) most recently erupted in March to April 2014. In fact, it's said plumes of smoke can be seen at least 300 out of 365 per year.
Mount Aso is a 5,223-foot peak in Aso Kujū National Park in Kumamoto Prefecture, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. Not only is it the largest active volcano in Japan, Mount As has the largest active crater in the world -- it measures 71 miles in circumference, 17 miles from north to south, and 10 miles from east to west. It's also responsible for the most explosive volcano eruptions than any other volcano in the world.
Mount Pinatubo is an active volcano located 54 miles north of Manila, in the Zambales Mountains on Luzon Island in the Phillippines. And prior to its eruption in 1991, not much was known or thought of Pinatubo -- it had been dormant for at least 400 years, and no known history of any eruptions. But its June 1991 eruption was massive, so destructive it ranks as the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.
Mount Bromo is an active volcano inside Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, on the eastern end of the Indonesian island of Java. At 7,641 feet, it's not the highest peak in Indonesia -- but it's one of the most popular, and notorious, among tourists and climbers.
White Island, known among Māori as Te Puia o Whakaari ('dramatic volcano'), is an uninhabited, privately-owned island that's estimated to be between 150,000 and 200,000 years old. It's part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, and sits about 30 miles off the coast of Whakatane, New Zealand, in the Bay of Plenty.
Taal Volcano is only 30 miles south of the city of Manila on the island of Luzon -- and is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines. It's the smallest volcano in the world, but it's also one of the deadliest. Taal has erupted 33 times since 1572, some more catastrophic than others.
The Volcán de Colima, also called the Volcán de Fuego, is part of the Colima Volcanic Complex in the western Mexican Volcanic Belt. It's about 75 miles south of Guadalajara, Mexico, and one of the most active volcanoes in that country -- more than 40 eruptions since 1576.
Mount Sakurajima is one of more than 100 volcanoes in the Japanese archipelago -- it's located near the city of Kagoshima, on the southwestern edge of Japan's Kyushu island. And it's one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and because its history has been recorded since the 8th century, we know that its biggest eruptions happened between 1471-1476 and again in 1914.
Mount Yasur sits at the southeastern tip of Tanna Island, Vanuatu, and is part of southern Vanuatu volcanic arc. We know from Captain Cook's recordings that Yasur has been actively erupting since at least 1774, when he visited.
Sete Cidades, or Maciço de Sete Cidades/Vulcão de Sete Cidades, translates into "Seven Cities," but it's also known as "Ilha Verde," which means "The Green Island." It takes up just 42 square feet of land at the western end of São Miguel Island (Ilha de São Miguel), in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores.
When this volcano erupted on the island and covered the city of Akrontiri with pumice and volcanic ash, it preserved the Bronze Age settlement. Thera is its ancient name, as well as the ancient name of the Greek island of Santorini, in the Cyclades -- but today you might know it as Santorini.
The Soufrière Hills volcano sits on the southern half of the Caribbean island of Montserrat, in the British Lesser Antilles. It sat quiet since the 17th century, at least, but has been erupting since it woke up in 1995.
Mount Hood, called Wy'east by the Multnomah tribe, sits roughly 50 miles outside of Portland, Oregon. It's the highest peak in the state, and covered in 12 glaciers -- in fact, glaciers and snow fields cover 80 percent of the mountain. Its last confirmed activity was back in 1866, and today is considered potentially active.
Lōʻihi is an active volcano in the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, and sits submerged in the Pacific off the southeastern coast of the Big Island, in Hawaii -- that's right; it's an underwater volcano. Dormant for so long it was considered inactive, Lōʻihi woke up in 1996, and has been active, at least intermittently, since.
Big Ben is a large glacier-covered active volcano and highest mountain on Australian territory. It's on the sub-Antarctic Heard Island in the southern Indian Ocean, 2,485 miles southwest of Western Australia. Although it has a history of activity dating back to 1881, and is known to have erupted a handful of times in the past 15 years, Big Ben poses no danger to humans because Heard Island is uninhabited.
Mount Teide, or "Pico del Teide," is located in Teide National Park in Tenerife, and is the highest peak on both the Canary Islands and in all of Spain. Today it's the most visited natural wonder of Spain.
Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador, and when measured from the Earth’s center instead of from sea level, it's also the highest mountain on the planet -- at a distance of 3,968 miles from the Earth's center. Since it hasn't erupted since around the year 640, give or take 500 years, "Chimbo" is considered a dormant volcano.
At 7,497-feet elevation, Mount Kulal can't be missed in the eastern horizon of Lake Turkana, in northern Kenya. Now extinct, the volcano has been a biosphere reserve since 1978.
Sangay, the southernmost volcano in the Northern Volcanic Zone of the Andes, is located in central Ecuador. It's surrounded by uninhabited land, and access to it is hazardous because it's been erupting continuously since at least 1934, if not earlier.
Mount Mayon is a 8,070-foot volcano on Luzon Island, in coconut-producing Albay province of the Phillippines -- about 200 miles southeast of the city of Manila. It's erupted more than 50 times in the last 400 years, including as recently as 2018.
Mount Stromboli, one of three active volcanoes in Italy, rises 10,000 feet above the floor of the Tyrrhenian Sea, just north of Sicily. It's one of the eight Aeolian Islands, populated with between 400 to 850 people. It's been erupting almost constantly for the last 2,000 to 5,000 years, with a few violent eruptions during that time.