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What are the different types of volcanoes?

Volcano Types -- A Quick Reference Guide


The largest and most explosive volcanic eruptions eject tens to hundreds of cubic kilometers of magma onto the Earth's surface. When such a large volume of magma is removed from beneath a volcano, the ground subsides or collapses into the emptied space, to form a huge depression called a caldera. Some calderas are more than 25 kilometers in diameter and several kilometers deep. -- Excerpt from: Brantley, 1994, Volcanoes of the United States: USGS General Interest Publication

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Cinder Cones and Scoria Cones

Cinder cones are the simplest type of volcano. They are built from particles and blobs of congealed lava ejected from a single vent. As the gas-charged lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as cinders around the vent to form a circular or oval cone. Most cinder cones have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit and rarely rise more than a thousand feet or so above their surroundings. Cinder cones are numerous in western North America as well as throughout other volcanic terrains of the world. -- Excerpt from: Tilling, 1985, Volcanoes: USGS General Interest Publication

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Composite Volcanoes and Stratovolcanoes

Some of the Earth's grandest mountains are composite volcanoes -- sometimes called stratovolcanoes. They are typically steep-sided, symmetrical cones of large dimension built of alternating layers of lava flows, volcanic ash, cinders, blocks, and bombs and may rise as much as 8,000 feet above their bases. Some of the most conspicuous and beautiful mountains in the world are composite volcanoes, including Mount Fuji in Japan, Mount Cotopaxi in Ecuador, Mount Shasta in California, Mount Hood in Oregon, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington. Most composite volcanoes have a crater at the summit which contains a central vent or a clustered group of vents. Lavas either flow through breaks in the crater wall or issue from fissures on the flanks of the cone. Lava, solidified within the fissures, forms dikes that act as ribs which greatly strengthen the cone. The essential feature of a composite volcano is a conduit system through which magma from a reservoir deep in the Earth's crust rises to the surface. The volcano is built up by the accumulation of material erupted through the conduit and increases in size as lava, cinders, ash, etc., are added to its slopes. -- Excerpt from: Tilling, 1985, Volcanoes: USGS General Interest Publication

Composite volcanoes tend to erupt explosively and pose considerable danger to nearby life and property. -- Excerpt from: Tilling, Topinka, and Swanson, 1990, Eruptions of Mount St. Helens: Past, Present, and Future: USGS General Interest Publication

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 In the typical "continental" environment, volcanoes are located in unstable, mountainous belts that have thick roots of granite or granitelike rock. Magmas, generated near the base of the mountain root, rise slowly or intermittently along fractures in the crust. During passage through the granite layer, magmas are commonly modified or changed in composition and erupt on the surface to form volcanoes constructed of nonbasaltic rocks. -- Excerpt from: Tilling, 1985, Volcanoes: USGS General Interest Publication

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