Can earthquakes trigger volcanic eruptions?

Sometimes, yes. A few historic large regional earthquakes (greater than magnitude 6) are considered by scientists to be related to a subsequent eruption or to some type of unrest at a nearby volcano. The exact triggering mechanism for these historic examples is not well understood, but the volcanic activity probably occurs in response to a change in the local pressure surrounding the magma reservoir system as a consequence of (1) severe ground shaking caused by the earthquake; or (2) a change in the "strain" or pressure in the Earth's crust in the region surrounding where the earthquake occurred.

For example, on November 29, 1975, a large magnitude-7.2 earthquake struck the Big Island of Hawaii at 4:48 a.m. It was centered about 28 kilometers southeast of Kilauea Volcano's summit caldera at a depth of 5 kilometers; the earthquake occurred within the volcano's south flank. The earthquake was preceded by numerous foreshocks, the largest of which was a 5.7 magnitude jolt at 3:36 a.m. the same morning, and was accompanied, or closely followed, by a tsunami, massive ground movements, hundreds of aftershocks, and a short-lived eruption in Kilauea's summit caldera.

The eruption began at 5:32 a.m. from a 500-meter long fissure on the caldera floor and ended by 10:00 p.m. According to scientists at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the eruptive activity "was apparently triggered by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake." The small volume and brief duration of the eruption suggest that the shallow magma might not have reached the surface under its own buoyant energy without a triggering mechanism apparently provided by the violent ground shaking.

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Which volcanic eruptions were the deadliest?

Deadliest Volcanic Eruptions Since 1500 A.D.

     Eruption                                     Year               Casualties                 Major Cause

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What was the largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century?

The largest eruption in the world in the 20th century occurred in 1912 at Novarupta on the Alaska Peninsula. An estimated 15 cubic kilometers of magma was explosively erupted during 60 hours beginning on June 6th. This volume is equivalent to 230

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Will extinct volcanoes on the East Coast of the U.S. erupt again?

No. Through plate tectonics, the eastern U.S. has been isolated from the global tectonic features (tectonic plate boundaries and hot spots in the mantle), that cause volcanic activity. So new volcanic activity is not possible now or in the near future. If you wait around several hundred million years, maybe...

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Where does the United States rank in the number of volcanoes?

The United States ranks third, behind Indonesia and Japan, in the number of historically active volcanoes (that is, those for which we have written accounts of eruptions). In addition, about 10 percent of the more than 1,500 volcanoes that have erupted in the past 10,000 years are located in the United States. 

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Where is the largest active volcano in the world?

Rising gradually to more than 4 km above sea level, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on our planet. Its submarine flanks descend to the sea floor an additional 5 km (3 mi), and the sea floor in turn is depressed by Mauna Loa's great mass another 8 km (5 mi). This

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Which volcanoes in the conterminous United States have erupted since the Nation was founded?

Excluding steam eruptions, these volcanoes have shown activity:

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What was the most destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States?

The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens (Washington) was the most destructive in the history of the United States. Novarupta (Katmai) Volcano in Alaska

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What is the "Ring of Fire"?

Most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions do not strike randomly but occur in specific areas, such as along plate boundaries. One such area is the circum-Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Pacific Plate meets many surrounding plates. The Ring of Fire is the most

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What is the difference between "magma" and "lava"?

Scientists use the term magma for molten rock that is underground and lava for molten rock that breaks through the Earth's surface. 

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What kind of school training do you need to become a volcanologist?

There are many paths to becoming a volcanologist. Most include a college or graduate school education in a scientific or technical field, but the range of specialties is very large. Training in geology, geophysics, geochemistry, biology, biochemistry, mathematics, statistics, engineering, atmospheric science, remote sensing

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How much of the Earth is volcanic?

More than 80 percent of the Earth's surface -- above and below sea level -- is of volcanic origin. Gaseous emissions from volcanic vents over hundreds of millions of years formed the Earth's earliest oceans and atmosphere, which supplied the ingredients vital to evolve and sustain life. Over geologic eons, countless

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What are some examples of supervolcanoes?

Volcanoes that have produced exceedingly voluminous pyroclastic eruptions and formed large calderas in the past 2 million years include Yellowstone, Long Valley in eastern California, Toba in Indonesia, and Taupo in New Zealand. Other 'supervolcanoes' would likely include the large caldera volcanoes of Japan, Indonesia,

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Date published: May 17, 2017

EarthWord–Phreatic Eruption

This EarthWord is straight up steampunk...

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EarthWord–Lahar

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Date published: January 23, 2012

A 100-year-long History of Earthquakes and Seismic Monitoring in Hawaii

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s 1912–2012 Centennial—100 Years of Tracking Eruptions and Earthquakes

HAWAI‘I ISLAND, Hawaii —The history of earthquakes and seismic monitoring in Hawai‘i during the past century will be the topic of a presentation at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo on Thursday, January 26, at 7:00 p.m. 

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Looking down a lava channel at the sunrise
June 25, 2018

Early morning view of the open lava channel during helicopter overflight of the lower East Rift Zone.

Lava fountaining with lava channel flowing away
June 22, 2018

Lava continues to erupt at a high rate from Fissure 8 and flow within the established channel to the ocean. No channel overflows were observed during this morning's overflight. The fountains have built a horseshoe-shaped cone as lava fragments are intermittently hurled onto and over the growing rim. Lava exiting the cone forms a series of standing waves in the uppermost section of the channel.

June 13, 2018

A UAS mission on June 13, 2018, filmed details of the dramatic changes occurring within Halema‘uma‘u crater at Kīlauea's summit since explosive eruptions of ash and gas and ongoing wall collapse began in mid-May. The video shows steep crater walls that continue to slump inward and downward in response to the ongoing subsidence of the summit area. This video was taken from a UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems). Limited UAS flights into this hazardous area are conducted with permission and in coordination with Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. The video is used to assess hazards at the summit and the information is shared with the National Park Service and emergency managers.

Image shows a satellite image of the Big Island of Hawaii
August 3, 2016

Landsat Mosaic of Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes on Hawaii.

Chaitén Volcano in Chile
July 29, 2016

On May 2, 2008, Chaitén volcano in Chile erupted with an ash column that rose to about 17 km and lasted for 6 hours. Photograph Credit: Jeff Marso, USGS

January 20, 2014

21 January 2014 Lava Lake Spattering at Halema'uma'u Crater The lava lake in the Overlook crater, within Halema'uma'u Crater at Kilauea's summit, undergoes frequent periods of spattering. The spattering is normally at the lake margins, and the surface crust often flows towards, and is consumed at, the spattering source. Large bubbles bursting at the surface drive the spattering activity, as shown occasionally by large spherical bursts.

A gas plume arising from Augustine Volcano during it's eruptive phase 2005-06.
January 24, 2006

A gas plume arising from Augustine Volcano during it's eruptive phase 2005-06. This photo was taken during  a FLIR/maintenance flight on January 24, 2006.