Yellowstone and 9 Other Active Volcanoes That Could Erupt at Any Minute
President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget cuts suggest a 15% funding reduction for the U.S. Geological Survey, something many believe would place volcanic studies on the back burner. Actually, less than half of the 169 hazardous volcanoes in the U.S. are being monitored as it stands today. So, it begs the question: If an active volcano was at risk of explosion, would America even know about it?
Volcanoes don’t erupt spur of the moment — at least historically they don’t. Explosions are usually prefaced by earthquakes or heightened magma pressures in the volcanic chambers. But should one of the active volcanoes blow, millions of Americans, and countless others around the world, would be in danger without much warning.
Which volcanoes are next in line for eruption? We break down 10 currently active volcanoes and the areas most at risk. Is your city on the list?
1. Yellowstone Caldera
- Area at risk: Yellowstone National Park, as well as many U.S. cities, including Denver, Salt Lake City, and Cheyenne
Beneath one of the world’s most beautiful national parks lies one of the most dangerous active supervolcanos. The Yellowstone Caldera hides beneath a quarter of the park and scientists say it’s long overdue for a massive eruption. Researchers from the University of Arizona determined the Caldera could erupt in a matter of decades — a far cry from the thousands of years scientists originally thought.
An eruption at Yellowstone would shoot more than 500 cubic miles of rock and ash into the air, a wingspan 2,500 times more material than Mount St. Helens produced in 1980 that killed 57 people. A good chunk of the entire Northwest would be affected. But there’s really no way of telling just how massive or intense the next explosion could be. As expected, this causes scientists quite a bit of worry.
Next: A threat a little further west
2. Mount Rainier
- Area at risk: Seattle and Central Washington State
Statistics show a volcanic eruption in the Cascades two to three times every century. Mount St. Helens blew in 1980 and Lassen Peak in Northern California erupted in 1915. Now, scientists suggest the residents around Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia keep their eyes on Mount Rainier, as it’s surely building up to something big.
A blow would cause deadly mudflows and thick atmospheric ash that impair respiratory breathing. Geologist Carolyn Driedger also warns that “There would be blocks half the size of the visitor’s center here at Paradise or the size of Volkswagens and fine grain material being blasted into the atmosphere and then falling back on the snow’s surface.”
Next: The second threatening volcano in the Pacific Northwest
3. Mount Hood
- Area at risk: Portland, Oregon
If the northwestern chunk of the U.S. manages to dodge Mount Rainier, they’ll still need to track Mount Hood for a potential volcanic explosion. Again, geologist Carolyn Driedger warns an eruption is not unlikely. The city of Portland would experience earthquakes as a precursor to the burst and mudslides and gas flux changes as a result. (This video stimulation paints an accurate picture.) Thankfully, the USGS continues to monitor the active volcano closely.
Next: A threat to Alaska
4. Mount Cleveland
- Area at risk: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Also known by its native name, Chuginadak, referring to the Aleut goddess of fire, Mount Cleveland in the central Aleutian Islands has been in a state of volcanic unrest since June 2015. The Alaskan Volcano Observatory reported two small explosions in November 2017, prompting them to raise the watch level of concern to “orange.” One person died during a major eruption in 1944, but recent eruptions have been less deadly. Should this volcano erupt again, people can expect ash clouds rising high enough to affect aviation and hot lava to reach the Bering Sea.
Next: A volcano that poses a serious threat to a popular American island
5. Mauna Loa
- Area at risk: Hilo and the Big Island, Hawaii
United States Geological Survey lists the threat potential for Mauna Loa in Hilo, Hawaii, as “very high.” The Earth’s largest — and most active — volcano has erupted 33 times since 1843. The lava flowed dangerously close to the residents Hilo during past eruptions. Geologists are currently monitoring this active volcano for signs of unrest and elevated seismic activity.
Next: The U.S. issues travel warnings to this region
6. Mount Agung
- Area at risk: Bali, Indonesia
In 2017, seismic activity within Mount Agung cost Bali at least $110 million in tourism and productivity while locals were moved to shelters away from the active volcano. The region endured hundreds of earthquakes in a matter of days, indicating the movement of magma and increasing the likelihood of an eruption. The volcanic activity eventually slowed, but the volanco is still active.
Next: The widespread effect of glaciers and volcanoes
7. Bardarbunga volcano
- Area at risk: Vatnajökull, Iceland
Four large earthquakes in October lead geologists to believe the Bardarbunga volcano is preparing to erupt once again. Iceland’s most active volcano stands 6,590 feet tall and lies hidden underneath the Vatnajökull glacier. The earthquakes suggest the volcano’s magma chamber is building with pressure. When this next eruption begins, they expect consequential damage similar to the last one in 2014, which persisted six months, spread 1,000 cubic meters of lava per second, and caused air pollution across western Europe.
When the nearby Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted underneath a glacier in 2010, it triggered a massive flood-induced from meltwater. Ash spewed into the atmosphere and caused airport closures across Europe. The travel delays cost the European economy and estimated $4.9 billion, according to Forbes.
Next: An island at risk of a tsunami
8. Cumbre Vieja volcano
- Area at risk: Canary Islands
A team of scientists rushed in to monitor the Cumbre Vieja volcano on a 24-hour watch cycle in October 2017. The island of La Palma is a popular British tourist destination that’s been rocked by significant earthquakes this fall, prompting an eruption warning from experts. Should this active volcano erupt, some 86,000 residents would be in the flood path of a tsunami once large chunks of the island collapse into the sea.
Next: Active volcano spurs evacuations in popular tourist destination
9. Mount Vesuvius
- Area at risk: Naples, Italy
Mount Vesuvius is an active volcano in the widely popular vacation destination of Naples, Italy. It is most famous for burying Pompeii and other nearby cities in a thick layer of ash during an eruption in A.D. 79. Since then, the volcano has erupted 36 times, most recently in 1944 when 6,000 people were killed.
Naples residents were evacuated in July 2017 after the mount went up in flames, prompting local officials to implement a wide-spread evacuation plan should Vesuvius erupt again. Scientists claim its only a matter of time.
Next: Supervolcano in Italy
10. Campi Flegrei
- Area at risk: Naples, Italy
Campi Flegrei is a supervolcanic “hot zone” according to scientists. The fiery cauldron has rested inactive since the 1980s but recent tremors and magma movement have sparked interest. Increased pressure within the volcano suggests this dangerous volcano is awakening from the dead. Should it blow, some 1.5 million people surrounding Naples, Italy, would be affected.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.
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