Basic concepts about volcanoes and volcanic eruptions

Last week we were flooded with about volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and Guatemala. This post present some basic concepts regarding volcanoes and how volcanoes erupt?

What are volcanoes?

Volcanoes are openings, or vents where lava, tephra (small rocks), and steam erupt on to the Earth's surface. Many mountains form by folding, faulting, uplift, and erosion of the Earth's crust. Volcanic terrain, however, is built by the slow accumulation of erupted lava. The vent may be visible as a small bowl shaped depression at the summit of a cone or shield-shaped mountain. Through a series of cracks within and beneath the volcano, the vent connects to one or more linked storage areas of molten or partially molten rock (magma). This connection to fresh magma allows the volcano to erupt over and over again in the same location. In this way, the volcano grows ever larger, until it is no longer stable. Pieces of the volcano collapse as rock falls or as landslides.

How do volcanoes erupt?

Deep within the Earth it is so hot that some rocks slowly melt and become a thick flowing substance called magma. Because it is lighter than the solid rock around it, magma rises and collects in magma chambers. Eventually, some of the magma pushes through vents and fissures in the Earth's surface. Magma that has erupted is called lava.

Magma can be erupted in a variety of ways. Sometimes molten rock simply pours from the vent as fluid lava flows. It can also shoot violently into the air as dense clouds of rock shards (tephra) and gas. Larger fragments fall back around the vent, and clouds of tephra may move down the slope of the volcano under the force of gravity. Ash, tiny pieces of tephra the thickness of a strand of hair, may be carried by the wind only to fall to the ground many miles away. The smallest ash particles may be erupted miles into the sky and carried many times around the world by winds high in the atmosphere before they fall to the ground.

No comments: