Safety and Preparedness

Volcanic Eruptions Are More Common Than You Might Think

By Chris Dolce

June 05 2018 09:15 AM EDT

Utah Was Site of Huge Volcanic Eruption Long Ago

At a Glance

  • About 20 volcanoes erupt on Earth every day.
  • One volcano erupting in one place does not cause another volcano to erupt far away.

Volcanic eruptions happen on Earth every day, but not all of them make headlines like Hawaii's Kilauea has for weeks, or Sunday's deadly eruption at Guatemala's Volcano of Fire.

Worldwide, there are about 1,500 "potentially active volcanoes," according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and that doesn't include volcanoes on the ocean's floor.

About 20 volcanoes erupt in a given day, according to a tweet from Dr. Janine Krippner‏, a volcanologist at Concord University.

Some of those volcanoes have been erupting continuously for years, including Kilauea, which has been erupting since January 1983.

Even more impressive is that the Stromboli Volcano off the coast of Italy has experienced almost continuous eruptions for roughly 2,000 years, according to Oregon State University.

The Smithsonian Institution lists several other volcanoes that have been erupting for decades. Among them are Yasur in Vanuatu, Santa Maria in Guatemala, Dukono in Indonesia, Erta Ale in Ethiopia and Erebus in Antarctica.

Also noteworthy is that the previously mentioned Volcano of Fire in Guatemala "has been erupting vigorously since 2002," the Smithsonian Institution says.

Last year, 68 eruptions were documented on the planet from 66 volcanoes, according to the Smithsonian. Twenty-eight of those eruptions began in the 2017 calendar year. This year has featured 50 eruptions from 49 volcanoes so far, with only 13 of those beginning in this calendar year.

(PHOTOS: Volcano of Fire Destruction in Guatemala)

Before and after view Guatemala's Volcano of Fire following its eruption on Sunday. Arrows on the lower right provide reference points to compare. (Before: Google Earth / After: PNC Guatemala)

What we've seen with two high-impact volcanic events happening back-to-back is unfortunate, but they are in no way tied to each other.

The eruption of one volcano has nothing to do with an eruption of another volcano somewhere else.

"Although the source of magma might ultimately be from the same process (the mantle melting), almost all volcanoes are independent of one another," said volcanologist Erik Klemetti in an article written in Discover Magazine last December discussing myths about volcanoes.

Even for volcanoes erupting at the same time in a much closer proximity, it's hard to tie the events together.

"There are a few historic examples of simultaneous eruptions from volcanoes or vents located within about (6 miles) of each other, but it's very difficult to determine whether one eruption caused the other," the USGS said.

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