Volcanic eruptions have sculpted the landscape, buried cities and reshaped the course of history.
When volcanoes blow their tops, they can do so without warning — and with devastating consequences.
In 1996, a leading international volcanology group identified more than a dozen volcanoes that are particularly deserving of study because they have a history of large, destructive eruptions, are close to populated areas, and could erupt again in the near future.
Many of these volcanoes remain active today, and could wreak havoc on communities that live in their shadow.
Mauna Loa, an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, is widely considered the largest land volcano on Earth. It has a volume of 18,000 cubic miles! Because of its shape, Mauna Loa is known as a shield volcano. The last time it erupted was 1984, when lava poured out of vents on its northeast rift zone on Pu'u'ula'ula (Red Hill), shown below. No recent eruptions have killed anyone, but they have destroyed villages.
Taal Volcano, located on the island of Luzon, is the second most active volcano in the Philippines. It has erupted violently several times in the past, including a 1911 eruption that killed more than 1,300 people and destroyed homes and livestock. It last erupted in 1977.
Galeras Volcano, seen here from space, is also a stratovolcano. This one is located near the Colombian city of Pasto. Galeras last erupted between 2012 and 2013. An eruption in 1993 killed 9 people, including 6 scientists who were sampling gases in its crater at the time.
Mount Merapi, whose name in Indonesian means 'fire mountain,' is an active volcano bordering Central Java and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The volcano, shown in this aerial photo, has erupted regularly since 1548, and most recently blew its top in March-April 2014.
Washington's Mount Rainier, seen in this image taken by an Expedition 15 crewmember on the International Space Station, is the highest mountain in the Cascade Range, with an elevation of 14,411 feet. It last erupted in 1894. When it erupts again, it could threaten people living in or visiting surrounding areas, including Rainier National Park, as well as people flying over it.
Mount Unzen, shown here with its neighbour, Mount Fugen-dake, is part of a an active group of stratovolcanoes near the city of Shimabara on the island of Kyushu. In 1792, one of its lava domes collapsed and produced a tsunami that killed about 15,000 people. It lay dormant for nearly 200 years, before erupting again from 1990-1995.
Sakurajima is an active volcano in Kyushu, Japan, which was formerly an island. In 1914, an eruption connected the island with the Osumi Peninsula. The volcano has been erupting almost continually since 1955. This satellite image taken on August 18, 2013 captured an eruption that spewed ash 20,000 feet above nearby Kagoshima Bay.
Santa Maria, shown in this satellite image taken in mid-January 2007, is a 12,375-foot-tall stratovolcano in Guatemala, composed of layers of hardened ash, lava and rock. When it erupted in 1902, it wreaked havoc on southwestern Guatemala. The volcano awakened again in 1922 and has been erupting ever since.
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