Volcanoes that stayed dormant for centuries have tendencies to unleash havoc that could claim thousands of lives. An earthquake usually jump-starts an explosion, when the volcanic eruption happens, tons of volcanic elements and minerals are ejected to the surface ground.
Lahar (mudflow) and molten lava flow freely through the crater destroying everything in the way. As destructive as it is, the aftermath of the explosion is more catastrophic.
One of the most destructive explosions claimed 71, our lives, and left behind million tons of volcanic ash that destroyed livestock and crops in many countries which resulted in severe famine in the 19th century. See the list of the world’s largest volcanic explosions of the ten most dangerous volcanoes on earth.
10- Mount Vesuvius, Naples Italy
Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in 79 AD that destroyed and buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Rome. That eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ash and fumes to a height of 33 km , violently ejecting molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing.
Vesuvius is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world. It is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency to explode again.
9- Mount Krakatoa, Indonesia
The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, the volcano on the island between Sumatra and Java erupted with 13,000 times the power of an atomic bomb. The shock waves rumbled thousands of miles away, as far as islands off the eastern coast of Africa. Flaming ash covered residential homes, and killed people instantly. Many more were washed away by subsequent megatsunamis that destroyed over two-thirds of the island. Death toll was estimated to 36,000. The 1883 explosion was among the most violent volcanic events in recorded history.
8- Mount St. Helens, Washington U.S.
Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano located in the state of Washington, in the United States. The volcano was dormant for more than 120 years and finally erupted on May 18, 1980. A 5.1-magnitude earthquake triggered the explosion, ejecting hot ash and stone to the surface.
The enormous mushroom-shaped plume of ash eventually covered three states. Complete darkness blanketed the city of Spokane in Washington. When the ash came down it fell in the form of black rain that literally coated Washington, Idaho and parts of Montana with a fine gray powder.
Fifty-seven people and thousands of animals were killed, and some 200 square miles of trees were destroyed. Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its catastrophic eruption in May 1980, it the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.
7- Mount Tambora, Indonesia
The Mount Tambora 1815 eruption rated a very destructive 7 overall from an 8-point scale of the Volcanic Explosivity Index. The explosion took place on the island of Sumbawa, now Indonesia and plunged the region into darkness. The apocalyptic eruption killed more than 10,000 by direct explosion and the death toll was at least 71,000 people.
The largest volcanic eruption in recorded history caused global climate anomalies that included the phenomenon known as “volcanic winter”. The year 1816 became known as the “Year Without a Summer” because of the effect on North American and European weather. Crops failed and livestock died resulting in the worst famine of the 19th century.
6- Mauna Loa, Hawaii U.S.
Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. By mass and volume, Mauna Loa is considered the largest volcano on Earth. The “Long Mountain” in Hawaiian takes up half of Hawaii, in terms of land mass. Mauna Loa is located on the Big Island of Hawaii and in addition to being the largest, with a summit nearly 13,700 feet high, it is also one of the world’s most active.
Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times, since 1843. The most recent small eruption happened in 1984, but eruptions in 1926 and 1950 destroyed villages, and the city of Hilo is partly built on lava flows from the late 19th century. Mauna Loa is considered by geologists as one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes.
5- Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland
The Eyjafjallajokull or the “Island mountain glacier” in Icelandic released gigantic cloud of ash that covered the entire European sky in 2010. Although relatively small for volcanic eruptions, the ash caused enormous disruption to air travel across western and northern Europe for a period of six days in April.
Shutting down airports and stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers for days. Eyjafjallajokull first erupted in March 2010. But it was the eruption that began on April 14 that brought all the havoc, ultimately costing the airline industry more than $1 billion.
4- Mount Pelée, Caribbean
Mount Pelée, on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, erupted in May 1902. The violent explosion killed 30,000 people, almost the entire population of the city of St. Pierre leaving only 3 survivors. The catastrophe was so devastating that the term “pelean”, has become part of volcanic vernacular to describe that particular kind of ash, gas, and fiery cloud eruption. Before the destructive explosion, there had been warnings of steam, light earth shocks, and raining ash, but they were ignored.
The Pelee explosion was the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. After the town was wiped out, Pelée went dormant for some months, until geologists discovered a lava dome, dubbed the Tower of Pelée, that rose to more than 1,000 feet above the crater floor. It became unstable and collapsed into a pile of rubble in March 1903, after 5 months of growth
3- Thera, Greece
The Thera volcano is located in a Greek island which is now known as the island of Santorini. The Greek island was once a picture of gray muck and destruction, but in modern days it is one of most beautiful tourist beach destinations in Greece. Some 3,500 years ago, an explosion rocked the Mediterranean. The Thera volcano erupted with force that was more than four times the eruptive force of Krakatoa in 1883.
The massive eruption poked a hole into the Aegean isle, sending out shock waves that rumble in the entire Mediterranean coast. Volcanic ash buried the Akrotiri village, a settlement on the volcanic island which was believed to be the Atlantis. Some biblical scholars have even linked the world-shaking explosion to God-sent plagues and destruction. The eruption was one of the largest volcanic events on Earth in recorded history.
2- Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia
The Nevado del Ruiz eruption ejected a small amount of ash into the atmosphere. However, it is still the second deadliest in the 20th century and the fourth deadliest in recorded history, because of the huge amount of mudflows it released to the surface ground. The volcano has been blowing its top since the Pleistocene era and has erupted three times in modern history, including in 1595 and 1845.
The small explosion in November 1985 unleashed volcanic mudflows that swept away more than 1000 people on one side of the mountain. On the other side was the town of Armero, where the worst destruction occurred. The 25-m.p.h. lahars (volcanic mudflows) flooded the town and blanketed it in gray mud. The death toll reached 23,000 and the damage was estimated at $1 billion, which is more than a quarter of Colombia’s GNP at the time.
1- Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano located on the island of Luzon, Philippines. In 1991, after six centuries of dormancy, Mt. Pinatubo erupted, and released large amounts of sulfuric ash into the air and tons of lahar or mud flow flooded the surrounding areas killing hundreds. The huge amount of ash, it ejected into the stratosphere affected global ground temperatures, by dropping it by about 0.5 °C for months.
A year before the eruption, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Luzon island, this tremor jump-start the 1991 explosion. The Pinatubo explosion produced one of the most dramatic environmental scenes ever witnessed. With ash that rose 22 miles into the sky, it is considered the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.