What is a Volcano?

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A volcano is a rupture in the crust of the Earth that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface.

Earth's volcanoes occur because its crust is broken into 17 major, rigid tectonic plates that float on a hotter, softer layer in its mantle. Therefore, on Earth, volcanoes are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging. For example, a mid-oceanic ridge, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has volcanoes caused by divergent tectonic plates pulling apart; the Pacific Ring of Fire has volcanoes caused by convergent tectonic plates coming together. Volcanoes can also form where there is stretching and thinning of the crust's interior plates. For example, there are volcanoes in the East African Rift and the Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field and Rio Grande Rift in North America. These so-called "hotspots" as in places like Hawaii, are where volcanoes rise up from upwelling diapirs with magma from the core–mantle boundary, 3,000 km deep in the Earth.


Mt. Mayon in the Philippines (photo by Brian English)

Erupting volcanoes can pose many hazards, not only in the immediate vicinity of the eruption. One such hazard is that volcanic ash can be a threat to aircraft, in particular those with jet engines where ash particles can be melted by the high operating temperature; the melted particles then adhere to the turbine blades and alter their shape, disrupting the operation of the turbine. Large eruptions can affect temperature as ash and droplets of sulfuric acid obscure the sun and cool the Earth's lower atmosphere (or troposphere); however, they also absorb heat radiated up from the Earth, thereby warming the upper atmosphere (or stratosphere). Historically, so-called volcanic winters have caused catastrophic famines.


A supervolcano usually has a large caldera and can produce devastation on an enormous, sometimes continental, scale. Such volcanoes are able to severely cool global temperatures for many years after the eruption due to the huge volumes of sulfur and ash released into the atmosphere. They are the most dangerous type of volcano. Examples include: Yellowstone Caldera in Yellowstone National Park and Valles Caldera in New Mexico (both western United States); Lake Taupo in New Zealand; Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia; and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Because of the enormous area they may cover, supervolcanoes are hard to identify centuries after an eruption. Similarly, large igneous provinces are also considered supervolcanoes because of the vast amount of basalt lava erupted (even though the lava flow is non-explosive).

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcano ) ( CCLP)

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