How High Can An Explosive Volcano Erupt?

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: May 5, 2022
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Now and again, the earth is subjected to massive explosive volcanic eruptions that are far larger than any seen in recorded history. Depending on where the volcano is situated, the effect is almost felt globally, or at the very least across an entire hemisphere. Unfortunately, volcanic gases and sulfur gases always have the most widespread effects. 

The magnitude of these explosive substances is determined by the amount of damage they cause to the ecosystem, affecting both land and aquatic animals like sharks, tigers, zebras, and even birds. The big bang question is how high an explosive volcano can erupt.

What Does Explosive Eruption Mean?

The most intense type of volcanic explosion is an explosive eruption.

©Darkimages08 / Creative Commons – License

An explosive eruption is the most intense type of volcanic eruption in volcanology. There are two types of eruption – effusive and explosive eruptions – the latter more catastrophic than the former. In an explosive eruption, magma reach the earth’s crust, and the gases are compressed, making it difficult for them to escape. Pressure builds up to the point where gas explosions blast rock and lava fragments into the air, and as a result, when a lava plug blocks the conduit leading to the peak, the eruptions become more violent. Explosive eruptions build up more steeply-sloping composite volcanoes, such as the one in Chile. It’s also worth noting that explosive eruptions can produce pyroclastic flows, rush down valleys and destroy everything in their path. They also cause plumes of ash to rise far into the atmosphere.

How High Can An Explosive Volcano Erupt?

How high an explosive volcano can erupt depends on the magnitude of the eruption and the size of the debris.

©AllegroSympatico / pixabay – License

Well, how high an explosive volcano can erupt depends on the magnitude of the eruption and the size of the debris. Large substances do not travel farther than the smaller particles because of the difference in weight. If the pressure in the bubbles is low, the eruption will produce a small column of pyroclastic debris that will fall too close to the vent to form a cinder cone. Explosive eruption plumes from volcanoes can reach high into the atmosphere. The highest plume from Mt. St. Helens reached around 19.6 miles, whereas the greatest plume from Mount Pinatubo reached 27.9 miles.

Where are Volcanic Hotspots Located?

Without mincing words, hot spot volcanism appears at random places, frequently far from the edge of a tectonic plate where other volcanism occurs. Geologists refer to it as a region of the earth’s mantle from which hot plumes rise upward, forming volcanoes on the overlying crust. The heat that powers the hot spot originates deep within the earth, and it intriguingly melts the mantle within seconds. While the hot spot remains in one location, docked to its deep source of heat, the tectonic plate slowly moves above it. Hence, the volcano moves with the plate and forms in another place. It is common to discover a chain of extinct volcanoes extending for miles. Volcanic hotspots are mostly found under the island of Iceland in the North Atlantic, the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, and  under northeastern Ethiopia.

Is Yellowstone A Supervolcano?

Yellowstone is a supervolcano.


The world’s biggest bang is a super-eruption! It’s a massive volcanic eruption that surpasses all others and has the potential to affect everyone on the planet.

Super eruptions are extremely rare, given their destructive potential – the last one occurred about 26,500 years ago at Taupo, New Zealand. Around 12 supervolcanoes can be found around the world. However, the Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming’s western state, is a supervolcano. Despite the name, most people would have difficulty identifying a supervolcano. Their fascinating feature is a large magma chamber, an underground reservoir filled with flowing hot rock under enormous pressure.

What Would Happen if the Yellowstone Supervolcano Erupts?

A five-mile-deep reservoir of hot magma lurks beneath Yellowstone National Park, fed by a massive plume of molten rock that rises from hundreds of miles below. As magma rises and cools in the chamber, the ground above rises and falls regularly. If the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park erupts again, it could spew ash for thousands of miles across the country, damaging buildings, suffocating crops, and shutting down power plants. It would be a colossal calamity.

What is the Maximum Distance That Lava Can Reach?

It is a long distance. Lava can only travel so far before cooling off. When this happens, the surface hardens, the lava tunnels from beneath the crust, and the flow of lava continues. This is a function of gradient or the slope of the volcanic cone from the point when the lava emerges to the point where the gradient flattens out, and the flow ends. This massive flow was seen in New Mexico’s Valley of Fire.

Can Volcanic Rocks Travel High?

Volcanic rocks may be hauled by air, which is a mysterious aspect of an eruption. Surprisingly,  eruptions forcefully fling these hefty rocks out of the volcano. In many cases, when the volcano erupts in a fierce explosion, pyroclastic flows of superheated gas and ash transport the rocks tens of miles away. A clear instance of this enormous boulder was the eruption of Lassen volcanic park in northern California, which excavated the Loomis hot rock that egregiously shattered the mountain several distances behind it.

Can Water Quench Volcanoes?

Water is frequently used to extinguish fires, but the heat intensity of a volcano makes its abilities questionable. Unfortunately, the scorching heat from within the earth melts solid rocks. Even the underwater volcanoes on the ocean floors have not completely put off a volcano over the years. So, it is impossible to put off a volcano with ordinary water; nevertheless, these inorganic substances are always a great tool for cooling things down since they have a high heat capacity.

How High is A Cinder Cone?

A cinder cone, also known as an ash cone, is a deposit formed around a volcanic vent by volcanic ash. Interestingly, these cones are formed by explosive eruptions of mafic and intermediate lavas and are commonly found on the flanks of shield volcanoes. Cinder cones, however, can grow to be only a few feet tall, or they can grow to be several hundred feet tall, as in the case of Paricutin in Mexico. Cinder cones are found in nearly every volcanic zone. Despite being made of moderately consolidated cinder, many are surprisingly long-lasting landscape features.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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