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

There is no definitive evidence that an eruption at one volcano can trigger an eruption at a volcano that’s hundreds of kilometers/miles away or on a different continent.  

There are a few historic examples of  simultaneous eruptions from volcanoes (or volcanic vents) located within about 10 kilometers (6 miles) of each other, but it's difficult to determine whether one eruption caused the other.  

  • Volcanoes that share common magma reservoirs can sometimes trigger unrest at each other. The 1912 eruption of Alaska’s Novarupta volcano (the largest eruption of the 20th century) was fueled by magma that came from a magma reservoir beneath Mount Katmai, 10 kilometers (6 miles) away. Mount Katmai did not erupt, but after the eruption of Novarupta, Mount Katmai collapsed into the emptied magma chamber below it.  
  • Some individual volcanoes or vents are considered to be part of a larger volcano complex. In some such cases, one eruption doesn’t really "trigger" a nearby vent to erupt, but moving magma finds its way to the surface at multiple sites. For example, Tavurvur and Vulcan cones are vents within Rabaul Caldera in Papua New Guinea that erupted at nearly the same time in 1994.  

Not all nearby volcanoes show this behavior, however. Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is located on the flank of Mauna Loa volcano, so the two are only 33 kilometers (20 miles) apart, yet those two volcanoes have distinctly different magma reservoirs. Despite their proximity, an eruption at one does not appear to trigger an eruption at the other. 

Learn more: USGS Volcano Hazards Program 


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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 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

June 6, 2012

PubTalk 6/2012 — Exploring The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes

-- a Centennial perspective of the Novarupta-Katmai eruption, the largest of the 20th century

By Judy Fierstein, USGS


  • 100 years ago on June 6, a 3-day explosive eruption at Novarupta on the Alaska Peninsula created the spectacular Katmai caldera and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, called the eighth wonder of the
Attribution: Region 11: Alaska
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
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.

Eruption cloud, from the east crater of Anatahan Volcano
December 31, 2002

Eruption cloud Anatahan Volcano

Eruption cloud, from the east crater of Anatahan Volcano, rising to a height of about 15,000 feet, on May 10, 2003. View from the NE side of the island, looking in a southwesterly direction.

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.