Why It Matters: Volcanoes

Explain the origin of volcanic features and landforms; as well as the causes and hazards associated with volcanic activity.

Volcanoes are one of the most dynamic, powerful and destructive forces on the Earth. While they are majestic in appearance, they are often sleeping giants just waiting to wake up and make us take notice. Some of you may have seen volcanic eruptions in person or on TV. Volcanoes are the geologists’ window into the Earth’s interior. If you recall from the previous section, plate tectonics directly influences the location and types of volcanoes we find across the globe. Now we understand why the west coast of America as a chain of volcanoes in the Cascade Mountains and why Japan has so many active volcanoes.

Occupation Focus: Volcanologists

Volcanologists have one of the most exciting yet dangerous jobs of all scientists. Please watch this video on the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 to learn more about volcanic eruptions, how scientists study the volcanoes and why volcanologists are important to society.

This video shows the most destructive eruption ever that happen to also be the loudest sound ever recorded on earth. This eruption actually blew the volcanoes out of existence, until recently as a new active volcano is currently forming in its place.

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe and compare different volcano types.
  • Describe the processes that form volcanoes.
  • Classify and identify igneous features.
  • Describe major volcanic hazards and their potential effects.
  • Identify the various methods used to monitor volcanic activity


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