13 volcanoes around the world that could erupt at any time

Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP via Getty ImagesMount Fuji looming over the Tokyo skyline.
  • Last week, USA Today reported that a large volcano in Ecuador called Tungurahua could collapse on itself.
  • The volcano is far from the only potentially dangerous one around the world, with Japan’s Mount Fuji, Oregon’s Mount Hood, and others in the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Zealand also posing a threat.
  • Here are 13 volcanoes that could erupt at any time – or are already oozing lava – ranked by the last time they blew, from oldest to most recent.
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Mount Paektu, North Korea

Ed Jones / AFP via Getty ImagesNorth Korea students pose atop Mount Paektu in September 2019.

Last eruption: 946 AD (estimated)

Height: 9,003 ft.

National Geographic reports that this volcano erupted violently about 1,000 years ago, but has been mostly quiet since. However, scientists are continually studying it. Featuring frequently in North Korean government propaganda, such as last year when leader Kim Jong Un and a cadre of officials rode white horses to the lake at the top of the volcano, Forbes claims North Korean nuclear tests could even accidentally trigger an eruption.


Mount Shasta, California

Albert Moote / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty ImagesA view of California’s Mount Shasta.

Last eruption: 1250 (estimated)

Height: 14,179 ft.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Mount Shasta usually erupts every few hundred years. While it was originally thought that its last eruption was in the 1700s, Scientific American reports it was probably much longer ago – possible about 1250, according to the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program.

The Wall Street Journal says scientists are keeping a close eye on the volcano for any signs that it might erupt. The volcano is even in the top five on the USGS’ list of the most dangerous volcanoes in the US, with risk determined by potential for eruption and impact on humans.


Mount Fuji, Japan

AP Photo / Kiichiro SatoMount Fuji looming over Saitama City, near Tokyo, Japan.

Last eruption: 1707

Height: 12,389 ft.

One of the most recognisable symbols of Japan, Mount Fuji last erupted in 1707, according to National Geographic. But The Japan Times reports Japanese government officials are fearful it could erupt again – and if it does, cause billions of dollars in damage, not to mention great loss of life since it is only about 62 miles from Tokyo. The South China Morning Post reports that some scientists are even fearful that the recent eruptions of other volcanoes in Japan could cause Mount Fuji to erupt by creating instability deep underneath it, leading ash to build up and burst out the top.


Mount Hood, Oregon

Craig Mitchelldyer / Getty ImagesMount Hood, Oregon as seen at sunrise.

Last eruption: 1866

Height: 11,249 ft.

The New York Times reported that this active volcano, which lies about 53 miles from Portland, Oregon and the roughly 2.5 million people that live in its metro area, according to the World Population Review, is overdue for an eruption. It last erupted in the mid-1800s, according to the USGS.

The USGS says an eruption could potentially produce large amounts of ash and fine particles, devastating the Portland area and causing widespread electrical grid failures, and making local water unsafe to drink. Fortunately, local newspaper The Oregonian reports Mount Hood is very closely monitored by scientists – meaning residents could have plenty of advance warning if it seems an eruption is imminent.


Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand

Phil Walter / Getty ImagesMount Ruapehu erupting in 2007.

Last eruption: 2007

Height: 9,177 ft.

One of the real volcanoes used as a filming location for Mount Doom in the “Lord of the Rings” movies, the New Zealand government’s geological hazards monitoring service GeoNet currently lists the warning level for Mount Ruapehu at level one of five, signifying “minor volcanic unrest.” GeoNet’s scale goes from zero, meaning no volcanic unrest, to five, meaning a major eruption is underway.

However, GeoNet also says: “An eruption may occur at any level, and levels may not move in sequence as activity can change rapidly.” That was the case in December 2019, when Whakaari/White Island, a volcano not considered at imminent risk of eruption, suddenly sprang to life, killing 21 people, according to Reuters.

Mount Ruapehu, the highest mountain on the North Island, last erupted in 2007, according to GeoNet.


Tungurahua, Ecuador

Last eruption: 2016

Height: 16,480 ft.

Earlier in February, scientists warned that this South American volcano is showing signs of structural collapse, according to ScienceAlert. The volcano, the name of which translates to mean “Throat of Fire” and “The Black Giant” in the local Quechua language, according to USA Today, has been erupting off and on since 1995, according to scientists at Oregon State University. The Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program lists its last major eruption as occurring in 2016.


Kīlauea, Hawaii

Mario Tama / Getty ImagesLava shooting out of a fissure on Kīlauea.

Last eruption: 2018

Height: 4,091 ft.

Kīlauea is the world’s most active volcanic mass, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. The mythological home of Pele, the Hawaiian fire goddess, the volcano continuously spewed lava from about 1983 to 2018, when the USGS said it appeared to no longer be doing so. However, Scientific American says the volcano “will certainly erupt again soon.”


Anak Krakatoa, Indonesia

Ferdi Awed / AFP via Getty ImagesAnak Krakatoa erupting in July 2018.

Last eruption: Ongoing

Height: 360 ft.

A partial collapse of this volcano triggered a deadly tsunami in 2018 that killed hundreds of people, and it has been erupting ever since, according to the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program. Scientists at Oregon State University say the volcano, much of which was formed in 1883 from the collapse of the much larger Krakatoa volcano and whose name means “Child of Krakatoa,” is especially unpredictable because some eruptions have had no obvious pattern.


Taal Volcano, Philippines

Ted Aljibe / AFP via Getty ImagesTaal Volcano erupting on January 14, 2020.

Last eruption: Ongoing

Height: 1,020 ft.

This volcano began spewing lava in January, triggering its own lightning storms. Taal Volcano frequently erupts: it has erupted 34 times in the last 450 years, according to the BBC.


Mount Yasur, Vanuatu

Torsten Blackwood / AFP via Getty ImagesLava spewing from Mount Yasur.

Last eruption: Ongoing

Height: 1,184 ft.

In the South Pacific along the “Ring of Fire,” lava has been oozing out of this volcano for centuries, according to the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program. One of the few volcanoes in the world with a visible lava lake, the Vanuatu Tourism Office states that its eerie glow is also a tourist draw. Atlas Obscura reports it is also sacred to the John Frum cargo cult, with members believing that John Frum, a mythological figure who arrived with American forces during World War II, lives inside the volcano.


Erta Ale, Ethiopia

Last eruption: Ongoing

Height: 2,011 ft.

Atlas Obscura reports the local Afar people refer to this volcano as the “smoking mountain” and “gateway to hell” because of its frequent eruptions and the eerie glow produced by its lake of lava. The volcano has been erupting continuously since 1967,according to Oregon State University scientists.


Mount Merapi, Indonesia

Ulet Ifansasti / Getty ImagesA 2010 eruption of Mount Merapi.

Last eruption: Ongoing

Height: 9,550 ft.

Indonesia’s most active volcano, the BBC reports that Mount Merapi has erupted regularly since at least 1548. However, this also means the volcano provides scientists with good opportunities to study how eruptions work – meaning they can develop ways to warn people to keep them safe. The volcano erupted yet again on February 13 for under two minutes, according to Sky.


Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo

AP Photo / Rebecca BlackwellThe lava lake at the top of Mount Nyiragongo.

Last eruption: Ongoing

Height: 11,380 ft.

Researchers at Oregon State University call Mount Nyiragongo “the most dangerous volcano in the world.” This isn’t just because of the sheer amount of lava it regularly spews out of its lava lake, but because of the poisonous gases it releases. And those gases can be deadly: in January 2002, a combination of poisonous gas and lava from Mount Nyiragongo killed about 100 people in the nearby city of Goma, according to the BBC.

Read more:

Video captured the moment the rare, terrifying weather phenomenon of volcanic lightning was triggered by an erupting volcano in the Philippines

Photos and videos show the huge volcanic eruption in New Zealand which killed at least 5 people

Stunning photos show a huge volcanic eruption in the Philippines spewing smoke and ash into the sky, as experts warn of a possible tsunami

Philippines residents have been warned of a possible ‘volcanic tsunami’ after a major volcano spewed lava and launched ash into the sky

The 20 most dangerous volcanoes in the US, ranked

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