Can an eruption at one volcano trigger an eruption at another nearby volcano?

There are a few historic examples of simultaneous eruptions from volcanoes or vents located within about 10 km of each other, but it's very difficult to determine whether one eruption caused the other. To the extent that these erupting volcanoes or vents have common or overlapping magma reservoirs and hydrothermal systems, magma rising to erupt from one volcano might affect the other volcano's 'plumbing' system and cause some form of unrest, including eruptions. For example, the huge explosive eruption of Novarupta vent in Alaska triggered the summit of nearby Mt. Katmai volcano to collapse, thereby forming a new caldera (but no eruption!).

For a few of the historic examples of simultaneous eruptions from nearby volcanoes, scientists actually consider the individual volcanoes or vents to be part of a larger volcano complex consisting of overlapping stratovolcanoes, cinder cones, fissures, vents, and even calderas. In such cases, the erupting vents (or volcanoes) are actually part of the same volcano complex. For example, Tavurvur and Vulcan cones are vents within Rabaul Caldera in Papua New Guinea that erupted at nearly the same time in 1994. In such cases, one eruption does not really 'trigger' a nearby vent to erupt; instead, moving magma 'leaks' to the surface at multiple sites. 

In contrast to these examples of simultaneous eruptions at volcanoes with overlapping or related magma and hydrothermal systems, two of Earth's most active volcanoes that are located close to each other -- Mauna Loa and Kilauea in Hawaii -- have separate shallow magma reservoirs that don't seem to affect each other. Even though Kilauea Volcano is located on the southeastern flank of Mauna Loa (the summit calderas are only 33 km apart) and magma rising into both volcanoes originates from the same mantle hot spot, the chemistry of their magma is nevertheless distinct from each other. The timing of historic eruptions at Mauna Loa and Kilauea strongly suggests that an eruption at one volcano does not cause or trigger an eruption at the other volcano.

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 9

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

The World's largest eruption of 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 years of eruption at Kilauea (Hawaii) or about 30 times the volume erupted by Mount St. Helens (Washington...

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... Remnants of past volcanism are found...

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. Most of these volcanoes are found in...

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 makes the volcano's summit about 17 km (10.5 mi) above its base!

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

Excluding steam eruptions, these volcanoes have shown activity: Mount St. Helens, Washington - Eruptions and/or lava dome growth occurred in the late 1700s, 1800-1857, 1980-1986, and 2004-2007. Lassen Peak, California - A series of steam blasts began on May 30, 1914. An eruption occurred 12 months later on May 21, 1915. Minor activity continued...

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, Alaska (e.g. Aniakchak,...

Do volcanoes affect weather?

Yes, volcanoes can affect weather and the Earth's climate . Following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, cooler than normal temperatures were recorded worldwide and brilliant sunsets and sunrises were attributed to this eruption that sent fine ash and gases high into the stratosphere, forming a large volcanic cloud that...

How Do Volcanoes Erupt?

Deep within the Earth it is so hot that some rocks slowly melt and become a thick flowing substance called magma. Since it is lighter than the solid rock around it, magma rises and collects in magma chambers. Eventually, some of the magma pushes through vents and fissures to the Earth's surface. Magma that has erupted is called lava. Some volcanic...

How many active volcanoes are there on Earth?

There are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, aside from the continuous belts of volcanoes on the ocean floor at spreading centers like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge . About 500 of those 1,500 volcanoes have erupted in historical time. Many of those are located along the Pacific Rim in what is known as the " Ring of Fire ." In the United...
Filter Total Items: 5
Date published: May 17, 2017

EarthWord–Phreatic Eruption

This EarthWord is straight up steampunk...

Date published: May 16, 2017

EarthWord–Lahar

Which sounds more dangerous, lava or mud? The answer may surprise you...

Date published: August 22, 2016

EarthWord–Tephra

Look! In the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! Wait, run, it’s this week’s EarthWord!

Date published: February 1, 2016

EarthWord – Nuée Ardente

A nuée ardente is a turbulent, fast moving cloud of hot gas and ash erupted from a volcano. 

Date published: October 5, 2015

EarthWord: Fumarole

Fumaroles are openings in the earth’s surface that emit steam and volcanic gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. They can occur as holes, cracks, or fissures near active volcanoes or in areas where magma has risen into the earth’s crust without erupting. A fumarole can vent for centuries or quickly go extinct, depending on the longevity of its heat source.

Filter Total Items: 14
Image shows a satellite image of the Big Island of Hawaii
August 3, 2016

LANDSAT Mosaic of Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes on Hawaii

Landsat Mosaic of Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcanoes on Hawaii.

Image shows detail satellite image of Kilauea Volcano
August 3, 2016

ASTER Image of Kilauea and Mauna Loa on Hawaii

ASTER Image of Kilauea and Mauna Loa on Hawaii.

July 24, 2016

Kīlauea Volcano, Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, Summit Vent Lava Lake (4K)

Stunning 4K aerial and ground b-roll of the Kīlauea Volcano Halemaʻumaʻu Crater Summit Vent Lava Lake taken between July 24 and July 31, 2016. 

Here is the shotlist: 
00:11 Kīlauea summit lava lake spatter, night, medium shot 
00:33 Lava lake spatter, night medium shot 
00:43 Lava lake wide shot, night, spatter on right of frame 
1:01 Wide shot,

...
Image shows gray ash covering cars and a house
July 18, 2016

Ash Coating from Rabaul Volcanic Eruption

Ash buries cars and buildings after the 1984 eruption of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. Credit: USGS

video thumbnail: The 20th Century's Greatest Volcanic Eruption- Mt Katmai 100 Years Later 
June 5, 2012

The 20th Century's Greatest Volcanic Eruption- Mt Katmai 100 Years Later 

Bill Burton discusses the June 6-8, 1912 eruption of Mount Katmai in Alaska which was 30 times larger than the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. This eruption caused widespread devastation, and inspired heroic efforts at survival by the local people. Burton returns to this topic a century later and explains what lessons the Mount Katmai eruption provides for modern-day

...
Attribution: Natural Hazards
Image: Aerial of Active Kilauea Area
December 17, 2009

Aerial of Active Kilauea Area

An aerial view looking north at two active areas of Kīlauea. Pu`u `Ō `ō crater is in the foreground, Mauna Loa (left) and Mauna Kea (right) are in the background. The fume source near the base of Mauna Loa (at Kīlauea's summit) is from the Halema`uma`u Overlook vent. The wind is blowing the plume trace toward the northeast, partially obscuring the view of Mauna Kea.

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.

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.

Attribution: Natural Hazards, Alaska
Image: Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Alaska
June 9, 1991

Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Alaska

View southeast from Overlook Cabin looking over the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. The pyroclastic and ash deposits that fill the valley remain nearly vegetation-free more than 100 years after the 1912 Novarupta-Katmai eruption.

Image: Aerial View of Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawaii
January 9, 1985

Aerial View of Mauna Loa Volcano, Hawaii

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists monitor Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth. In this 1985 aerial photo, Mauna Loa looms above Kīlauea Volcano’s summit caldera (left center) and nearly obscures Hualālai in the far distance (upper right).

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Image: Lava flows on Mauna Loa
March 25, 1984

Lava flows on Mauna Loa

Erupting vents on Mauna Loa’s northeast rift zone near Pu‘u‘ula‘ula (Red Hill) on Mar. 25, 1984, sent massive ‘a‘ā lava flows down the rift toward Kūlani.