Timeline of volcanism on Earth

Last updated

Clickable imagemap of notable volcanic eruptions. The apparent volume of each bubble is linearly proportional to the volume of tephra ejected, colour-coded by time of eruption as in the legend. Pink lines denote convergent boundaries, blue lines denote divergent boundaries and yellow spots denote hotspots. Volcanic eruption map.svg1912 eruption of NovaruptaYellowstone CalderaAD 79 Eruption of Mount Vesuvius1902 eruption of Santa María1280 eruption of Quilotoa1600 eruption of HuaynaputinaYellowstone Caldera1783 eruption of Laki1477 eruption of Bárðarbunga1650 eruption of KolumboVolcanic activity at Santorini1991 eruption of Mount PinatuboCrater Lake
Clickable imagemap of notable volcanic eruptions. The apparent volume of each bubble is linearly proportional to the volume of tephra ejected, colour-coded by time of eruption as in the legend. Pink lines denote convergent boundaries, blue lines denote divergent boundaries and yellow spots denote hotspots.

This timeline of volcanism on Earth includes a list of major volcanic eruptions of approximately at least magnitude 6 on the Volcanic explosivity index (VEI) or equivalent sulfur dioxide emission during the Quaternary period (from 2.58 Mya to the present). Other volcanic eruptions are also listed.


Some eruptions cooled the global climate—inducing a volcanic winter—depending on the amount of sulfur dioxide emitted and the magnitude of the eruption. [1] [2] Before the present Holocene epoch, the criteria are less strict because of scarce data availability, partly since later eruptions have destroyed the evidence. Only some eruptions before the Neogene period (from 23 Mya to 2.58 Mya) are listed. Known large eruptions after the Paleogene period (from 66 Mya to 23 Mya) are listed, especially those relating to the Yellowstone hotspot, Santorini caldera, and the Taupō Volcanic Zone.

Active volcanoes such as Stromboli, Mount Etna and Kīlauea do not appear on this list, but some back-arc basin volcanoes that generated calderas do appear. Some dangerous volcanoes in "populated areas" appear many times: Santorini six times, and Yellowstone hotspot 21 times. The Bismarck volcanic arc, New Britain, and the Taupō Volcanic Zone, New Zealand, appear often too.

In addition to the events listed below, there are many examples of eruptions in the Holocene on the Kamchatka Peninsula, [3] which are described in a supplemental table by Peter Ward. [4]

Large Quaternary eruptions

The Holocene epoch begins 11,700 years BP (10,000 14C years ago). [5]

1000–2000 AD

Overview of Common Era

This is a sortable summary of 27 major eruptions in the last 2000 years with VEI ≥6, implying an average of about 1.3 per century. The count does not include the notable VEI 5 eruptions of Mount St. Helens and Mount Vesuvius. Date uncertainties, tephra volumes, and references are also not included.

Caldera/ Eruption nameVolcanic arc/ belt
or Subregion or Hotspot
VEIDateKnown/proposed consequences
Mount Pinatubo Luzon Volcanic Arc61991, Jun 15Global temperature fell by 0.4 °C
Novarupta Aleutian Range 61912, Jun 6
Santa María Central America Volcanic Arc 61902, Oct 24
Krakatoa Sunda Arc 61883, Aug 26–27At least 30,000 dead
Mount Tambora Lesser Sunda Islands 71815, Apr 10 Year Without a Summer (1816)
1808 mystery eruption Southwestern Pacific Ocean 61808, DecA sulfate spike in ice cores
Long Island (Papua New Guinea) Bismarck Volcanic Arc61660
Huaynaputina Andes, Central Volcanic Zone 61600, Feb 19 Russian famine of 1601–1603
Billy Mitchell Bougainville & Solomon Is. 61580
Bárðarbunga Iceland61477
1458 mystery eruption unknown6-71458Possibly larger than Mount Tambora's
1452/1453 mystery eruption Unknown6-71452–53 2nd pulse [27] of Little Ice Age?
Quilotoa Andes, Northern Volcanic Zone 61280
Samalas (Mount Rinjani) Lombok, Lesser Sunda Islands 71257 1257 Samalas eruption, 1st pulse [28] [29] of Little Ice Age? (c.1250)
Baekdu Mountain/Tianchi eruption China/ North Korea border7946, Nov-947Limited regional climatic effects. [30]
Ceboruco Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt 6930
Dakataua Bismarck Volcanic Arc6800
PagoBismarck Volcanic Arc6710
Mount Churchill eastern Alaska, USA6700
Rabaul caldera Bismarck Volcanic Arc6683 (est.)
Volcanic winter of 536 Krakatoa6-7535
Ilopango Central America Volcanic Arc6450
Ksudach Kamchatka Peninsula 6240
Taupō Caldera/Hatepe eruption Taupō Volcano 7 180 or 230 Affected skies over Rome and China
Mount Churchill eastern Alaska, USA660
Ambrym New Hebrides Arc650
Apoyeque Central America Volcanic Arc 650 BC (±100)

Note: Caldera names tend to change over time. For example, Ōkataina Caldera, Haroharo Caldera, Haroharo volcanic complex, and Tarawera volcanic complex all had the same magma source in the Taupō Volcanic Zone. Yellowstone Caldera, Henry's Fork Caldera, Island Park Caldera, Heise Volcanic Field all had Yellowstone hotspot as magma source.

Earlier Quaternary eruptions

2.588 ± 0.005 million years BP, the Quaternary period and Pleistocene epoch begin.

Large Neogene eruptions

Pliocene eruptions

Approximately 5.332 million years BP, the Pliocene epoch begins. Most eruptions before the Quaternary period have an unknown VEI.

USA Nevada location map.svg
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Santa Rosa-Calico
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Virgin Valley
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Black Mountain
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Silent Canyon
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Timber Mountain
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Long Valley
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Lunar Crater
Nevada/ California:
Volcanism locations.
USA Colorado location map.svg
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La Garita
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Lake City
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Colorado volcanism. Links: La Garita, Cochetopa and North Pass (North Pass), Lake City, and Dotsero.
USA New Mexico location map.svg
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New Mexico volcanism. Links: Valles, Socorro, Potrillo, Carrizozo, and Zuni-Bandera.

Miocene eruptions

The final eruptions in the creation of Banks Peninsula in New Zealand occurred about 9 million years ago. Banks Peninsula from space.jpg
The final eruptions in the creation of Banks Peninsula in New Zealand occurred about 9 million years ago.
A major eruption of Gran Canaria took place around 14 million years ago. Gran Canaria wildfire (48590670831).jpg
A major eruption of Gran Canaria took place around 14 million years ago.

Approximately 23.03 million years BP, the Neogene period and Miocene epoch begin.

Volcanism before the Neogene

Distribution of selected hotspots. The numbers in the figure are related to the listed hotspots on Hotspot (geology). Hotspots.jpg
Distribution of selected hotspots. The numbers in the figure are related to the listed hotspots on Hotspot (geology).


Volcanic explosivity index (VEI)

VEI and ejecta volume correlation VEIfigure en.svg
VEI and ejecta volume correlation
VEI Tephra Volume
(cubic kilometers)
0Effusive Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua, 1570
1>0.00001 Poás Volcano, Costa Rica, 1991
2>0.001 Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand, 1971
3>0.01 Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia, 1985
4>0.1 Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland, 2010
5>1 Mount St. Helens, United States, 1980
6>10 Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, 1991
7>100 Mount Tambora, Indonesia, 1815
8>1000 Yellowstone Caldera, United States, Pleistocene


Volcanic dimming

The global dimming through volcanism (ash aerosol and sulfur dioxide) is quite independent of the eruption VEI. [104] [105] [106] When sulfur dioxide (boiling point at standard state: -10 °C) reacts with water vapor, it creates sulfate ions (the precursors to sulfuric acid), which are very reflective; ash aerosol on the other hand absorbs ultraviolet. [107] Global cooling through volcanism is the sum of the influence of the global dimming and the influence of the high albedo of the deposited ash layer. [108] The lower snow line and its higher albedo might prolong this cooling period. [109] Bipolar comparison showed six sulfate events: Tambora (1815), Cosigüina (1835), Krakatoa (1883), Agung (1963), and El Chichón (1982), and the 1808 mystery eruption. [110] And the atmospheric transmission of direct solar radiation data from the Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO), Hawaii (19°32'N) detected only five eruptions: [111]


But very large sulfur dioxide emissions overdrive the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere. Carbon monoxide's and methane's concentration goes up (greenhouse gases), global temperature goes up, ocean's temperature goes up, and ocean's carbon dioxide solubility goes down. [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

A caldera is a large cauldron-like hollow that forms shortly after the emptying of a magma chamber in a volcano eruption. When large volumes of magma are erupted over a short time, structural support for the rock above the magma chamber is gone. The ground surface then collapses into the emptied or partially emptied magma chamber, leaving a large depression at the surface. Although sometimes described as a crater, the feature is actually a type of sinkhole, as it is formed through subsidence and collapse rather than an explosion or impact. Compared to the thousands of volcanic eruptions that occur each century, the formation of a caldera is a rare event, occurring only a few times per century. Only seven caldera-forming collapses are known to have occurred between 1911 and 2016. More recently, a caldera collapse occurred at Kīlauea, Hawaii in 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lake Toba</span> Crater lake located in Sumatra, Indonesia

Lake Toba is a large natural lake in North Sumatra, Indonesia, occupying the caldera of a supervolcano. The lake is located in the middle of the northern part of the island of Sumatra, with a surface elevation of about 900 metres (2,953 ft), the lake stretches from 2.88°N 98.52°E to 2.35°N 99.1°E. The lake is about 100 kilometres long, 30 kilometres (19 mi) wide, and up to 505 metres (1,657 ft) deep. It is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world. Toba Caldera is one of twenty geoparks in Indonesia, and was recognised in July 2020 as one of the UNESCO Global Geoparks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Supervolcano</span> Volcano that has erupted 1000 cubic km of lava in a single eruption

A supervolcano is a volcano that has had an eruption with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 8, the largest recorded value on the index. This means the volume of deposits for such an eruption is greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taupō Volcanic Zone</span> Active volcanic zone in New Zealand

The Taupō Volcanic Zone (TVZ) is a volcanic area in the North Island of New Zealand that has been active for at least the past two million years and is still highly active. Mount Ruapehu marks its south-western end and the zone runs north-eastward through the Taupō and Rotorua areas and offshore into the Bay of Plenty. It is part of the larger Central Volcanic Region that extends further westward through the western Bay of Plenty to the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula and has been active for four million years. At Taupō the rift volcanic zone is widening east–west at the rate of about 8 mm per year while at Mount Ruapehu it is only 2–4 mm per year but this increases at the north eastern end at the Bay of Plenty coast to 10–15 mm per year. It is named after Lake Taupō, the flooded caldera of the largest volcano in the zone, the Taupō Volcano and contains a large central volcanic plateau as well as other landforms associated with its containing tectonic intra-arc continental Taupō Rift.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yellowstone Caldera</span> Volcanic caldera in Yellowstone National Park in the United states

The Yellowstone Caldera, sometimes referred to as the Yellowstone Supervolcano, is a volcanic caldera and supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park in the Western United States. The caldera and most of the park are located in the northwest corner of Wyoming. The caldera measures 43 by 28 miles, and postcaldera lavas spill out a significant distance beyond the caldera proper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Snake River Plain</span> Geologic feature in Idaho, US

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yellowstone hotspot</span> Volcanic hotspot in the United States

The Yellowstone hotspot is a volcanic hotspot in the United States responsible for large scale volcanism in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Wyoming, formed as the North American tectonic plate moved over it. It formed the eastern Snake River Plain through a succession of caldera-forming eruptions. The resulting calderas include the Island Park Caldera, Henry's Fork Caldera, and the Bruneau-Jarbidge caldera. The hotspot currently lies under the Yellowstone Caldera. The hotspot's most recent caldera-forming supereruption, known as the Lava Creek Eruption, took place 640,000 years ago and created the Lava Creek Tuff, and the most recent Yellowstone Caldera. The Yellowstone hotspot is one of a few volcanic hotspots underlying the North American tectonic plate; another example is the Anahim hotspot.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">La Garita Caldera</span> Large caldera in the state of Colorado, U.S.

La Garita Caldera is a large caldera in the San Juan volcanic field in the San Juan Mountains around the town of Creede in southwestern Colorado, United States. It is west of La Garita, Colorado. The eruption that created the La Garita Caldera is among the largest known volcanic eruptions in Earth's history, as well as being one of the most powerful known supervolcanic events.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aso Caldera</span> Caldera in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan

Aso caldera is a geographical feature of Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. It stretches 25 kilometers north to south and 18 kilometers east to west. The central core "Aso Gogaku" is the five major mountains in the area. Aso valley (Asodani) runs along the northern base of Mount Aso and Nango valley (Nangodani) along the south. According to research of caldera sediment, lakes used to exist in these valleys. The dried up lake areas have come to be called Old Aso Lake, Kugino Lake, and Aso Valley Lake. The Kikuchi, Shirakawa and Kurokawa rivers now drain the caldera.

Wah Wah Springs Caldera is a supervolcanic eruption remnant discovered in 2013 in Utah. It released 5,500 to 5,900 cubic kilometres of tephra, as the Wah Wah Springs Tuff, about 30.06 million years ago in the early Oligocene. It is the largest of the Indian Peak-Caliente Caldera Complex, and includes flows over 500 m thick at the most. It is considered one of the largest single explosive eruptions known in Earth's history, and the second most energetic event to have occurred on Earth since the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Whakamaru Caldera</span> A large volcanic caldera in New Zealand

The Whakamaru Caldera which was created in a massive eruption with a VEI of 8 is approximately 30 by 40 km in size and is located in the North Island of New Zealand. It now contains active geothermal areas as well as the later Maroa Caldera.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mangakino caldera complex</span> A volcanic caldera in New Zealand

The Mangakino caldera complex is the westernmost and one of oldest extinct rhyolitic caldera volcanoes in the Taupō Volcanic Zone of New Zealand's North Island. It produced about a million years ago in the Kidnappers eruption of 1,200 km3 (287.9 cu mi), the most widespread ignimbrite deposits on Earth being over 45,000 km2 (17,000 sq mi) and was closely followed in time by the smaller 200 km3 (48.0 cu mi) Rocky Hill eruption. The Kidnappers eruption had a estimated VEI of 8 and has been assigned a total eruption volume of 2,760 km3 (662.2 cu mi).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ōkataina Caldera</span> Volcanic caldera in New Zealand

Ōkataina Caldera is a volcanic caldera and its associated volcanoes located in Taupō Volcanic Zone of New Zealand's North Island. It has several actual or postulated sub calderas. The Ōkataina Caldera is just east of the smaller Rotorua Caldera and southwest of the much smaller Rotomā Embayment which is usually regarded as an associated volcano. It shows high rates of explosive rhyolitic volcanism although its last eruption was basaltic. The postulated Haroharo Caldera contained within it has sometimes been described in almost interchangeable terms with the Ōkataina Caldera or volcanic complex or centre and by other authors as a separate complex defined by gravitational and magnetic features.. Since 2010 other terms such as the Haroharo vent alignment, Utu Caldera, Matahina Caldera, Rotoiti Caldera and a postulated Kawerau Caldera are often used, rather than a Haroharo Caldera classification.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ikeda Caldera</span> Caldera in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan

Ikeda Caldera, is a volcanic caldera filled now with Lake Ikeda and associated with the older Ata Caldera on the Satsuma Peninsula.

The Tauranga Volcanic Centre is a geologic region in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty. It extends from the southern end of Waihi Beach and from the old volcanoes of the Coromandel Peninsula that make up the northern part of the Kaimai Range, towards the Taupō Volcanic Zone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cascade Volcanic Arc calderas</span>

The Cascade Volcanic Arc is a chain of volcanoes stretching from southern British Columbia down to northern California. Within the arc there is a variety of stratovolcanoes like Mount Rainier and broad shield volcanoes like Medicine Lake. But calderas are very rare in the Cascades, with very few forming over the 39 million year lifespan of the arc.

Much of the volcanic activity in the northern portions of the North Island of New Zealand is recent in geological terms and has taken place over the last 30 million years. This is primarily due to the North Island's position on the boundary between the Indo-Australian and Pacific Plates, a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and particularly the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Indo-Australian Plate. The activity has included some of the world's largest eruptions in geologically recent times and has resulted in much of the surface formations of the North Island being volcanic as shown in the map.


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