Volcano Factoids




Curious how to say volcano in Chinese? Want to know which volcanoes are the largest? Deadliest? How much they cost? How much volcanic material is produced every year? You've come to the right place!! Use the links on the right to navigate!











Cost of Volcanic Eruptions


How much does an eruption cost the government, private companies, and local residents? Here are a couple of estimates for the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens and the 1955 eruption of Kilauea. Plus the total cost for the current eruption of Kilauea and the 1989-1990 eruption of Redoubt.  It's a good thing we spend money on something called "volcano monitoring..."


Major Losses from the May 18, 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Sector Federal Private State Local Total %Total
Forestry $168.0 $218.1 $63.7 --- $449.8 46.6
Clean-up 307.9 9.7 5.0 $41.3 363.0 37.4
Property 43.6 44.8 2.5 16.0 106.9 11.0
Agriculture -- 39.1 -- -- 39.1 4.0
Income -- 8.9 -- -- 8.9 0.9
Transport -- -- -- 2.1 2.1 0.2
Total $518.6 $320.6 $71.2 $59.4 $969.8 --
Percent of total 53.0 33.1 7.3 6.1 -- --

In millions of dollars.

From Washington State Department of Commerce and Economic development Research Division.

Note: Smart's Insurance Bulletin, May 18, 1981 reported over 40,000 insurance claims were filed, 166 recovery loans were applied for and $215 million was spent on dredging rivers as of fall, 1981.


Losses from the 1955 Lava Flows from Kilauea, Hawaii.

Item Cost
Land (3,000 acres) 600,000
10,670,40 tons of sugar at $116.25 per ton $1,240,434
Molasses at $10.00 per ton 26,676
Conditional payments 153,324
Fruits and vegetables 180,103
Buildings 58,055
Equipment 36,702
Livestock 1,209
Olaa Sugar Co. roads (replacement costs) 23,250
Planter's roads (replacement costs) 10,700
Federal Aid Roads 52,000
Country roads (replacement costs) 212,250
Total $2,594,703
Insurance reimbursement 716,000
-- $1,878,703

Cost is in 1955 dollars.

From Murton and Shimabukuro, 1972, Human Adjustment to Volcanic Hazard in Pun a District, Hawaii.


Losses from the 1983-1991 Lava Flows from Kilauea, Hawaii.

The current eruption has destroyed 181 residences (16 from 1983-1986, 165 from 1986-1991). Other structures lost include the Wahaula Visitor center and maintanence shop, Royal Gardens community center, Mauna Kea Congregational Church, Puna Canoe Club halau, and the Kalapana Drive-In. Total losses: $61 million. Information courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Losses from the 1989-1990 eruptions of Redoubt Volcano, Alaska.

The total economic cost of the 1989-1990 eruptions of Redoubt is estimated at over $160 million. Costs to the aviation industry was over $101 million.

Sources of Information:

Tuck, H.B., Huckey, L., and Talbot, L., 1992, The economic consequences of the 1989-1990 Mt. Redoubt eruptions: University of Alaska, Anchorage, Institute of Social and Economic Research, [unpub. report prepared for the U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Volcano Observatory], 39 p.

Tuck, H.B., and Huckey, L., 1994, Economic disruption bt Redoubt volcano: Assessment methodology and anecdotal empirical evidence: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2047, p. 137-140.

Deadliest Eruption


The list below contains eruptions with more than 500 known human fatalities.

These are the most deadly eruptions known. Other eruptions have been as big or bigger than these, but no one lived nearby to be threatened (for example the Valley of 10,000 Smokes eruption in Alaska in 1912). The Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980 in Washington state was a far less dangerous eruption than these, only 61 humans died, although thousands of deer and other animals perished. The ancient eruption at Santorini Island in the Mediterranean Sea in about 1650 BC certainly killed thousands of people (and was the source of the Atlantis legend), but there are no real estimates of the number of deaths. Remember that all of the numbers of deaths listed here are best guesses; various books give different numbers. This list is based on data in Volcanic Hazards: A Sourcebook on the Effects of Eruptions by Russell J. Blong (Academic Press, 1984).


Deaths Volcano When Major Cause of Death
92,000 Tambora, Indonesia 1815 Starvation
36,417 Krakatau, Indonesia 1883 Tsunami
29,025 Mt. Pelee, Martinique 1902 Ash flows
25,000 Ruiz, Colombia 1985 Mudflows
14,300 Unzen, Japan 1792 Volcano collapse, tsunami
9,350 Laki, Iceland 1783 Starvation
5,110 Kelut, Indonesia 1919 Mudflows
4,011 Galunggung, Indonesia 1882 Mudflows
3,500 Vesuvius, Italy 1631 Mudflows, lava flows
3,360 Vesuvius, Italy 79 Ash flows and falls
2,957 Papandayan, Indonesia 1772 Ash flows
2,942 Lamington, Papua N.G. 1951 Ash flows
2,000 El Chichon, Mexico 1982 Ash flows
1,680 Soufriere, St Vincent 1902 Ash flows
1,475 Oshima, Japan 1741 Tsunami
1,377 Asama, Japan 1783 Ash flows, mudflows
1,335 Taal, Philippines 1911 Ash flows
1,200 Mayon, Philippines 1814 Mudflows
1,184 Agung, Indonesia 1963 Ash flows
1,000 Cotopaxi, Ecuador 1877 Mudflows
800 Pinatubo, Philippines 1991 Roof collapses and disease
700 Komagatake, Japan 1640 Tsunami
700 Ruiz, Colombia 1845 Mudflows
500 Hibok-Hibok, Philippines 1951

Ash flows



Deaths by Regions, 1600-1982



This bar graph shows the number of deaths in each volcanic region from 1600 to 1982. The total number of deaths was 238,867.

Based on Table 3.1 of Blong, R.J., 1984, Volcanic Hazards: A Sourcebook on the Effects of Eruptions: Orlando, Florida, Academic Press, 424 p.

Eruption Rates


How much volcanic material is produced every year?


Here's a few estimates.

Global Production
Global mid-ocean ridge systems (magma and lava): 3 cubic km per year Continental volcanic systems (magma and lava): 1 cubic km per year

Andesite and Dacite Volcanoes
Augustine (1976): 11.6 m3/sec
Usu (1910): 3.5 m3/sec
Bezymianny (1955-1957): 1.8 m3/sec
Santorini (1866-1870): 0.7 m3/sec
Mount St. Helens (1980-present): 0.5 m3/sec
Colima (1975-1976): 0.05 m3/sec
From Table 4.2 of Cas and Wright (1987).

The eruption rates for 14 composite cones ranged from 0.5 km3/1,000 years to 27.5 km3/1,000 years.

Basaltic Volcanoes
The current eruption rate of basalt at Kilauea is about 0.1 cubic km per year. That's high relative to the entire volcanic chain which was created by rates of <0.01 to 0.06 cubic km per year over the last 70 million years. High rates occurred 18, 48, and 58 million years ago. The lowest rates were from about 30-36 million years ago.
The eruption rates for the Puu Oo lava fountains ranged from 17 to 367 m3/sec (0.05 to 1.15 cubic km per year).
The Laki and Grimsvotn eruptions (1783-1785) had an average rate of 2,300 m3/sec (7.25 cubic km per year).

Nyamuragira (1901-1977): 0.4 m3/sec.
Vesuvio (1750-1900): 1.9 m3/sec.
Kilauea (1952-1971): 3.5 m3/sec.
Merapi (1890-1992): 0.04 m3/sec.
From Table 2 in Siswowidjoyo and others (1995).

Monogenetic Volcanic Fields
Michoacan-Guanajuato field: 0.8 km3/1,000 years.
Area near Paricutin: 1.2 km3/1,000 years.

Sources of Information:
Volcanic Successions Modern and Ancient; 1987; Cas, R.A.F., and Wright, J.V.; Allen & Unwin; London, UK; 528 p. del Marmol, M. and Marsh, B., 1994, Merapi volcano, central Java: source rocks and prediction of the eruptive behavior of the volcano: AGU abstracts, p. 731.

Hasenaka, T., and Carmichael, I.S.E., 1985, The cinder cones at Michoacan-Guanajuato, Central Mexico: their age, volume, and distribiution, and magma discharge rate: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 25, p. 105-124.

Hasenaka, T., 1994, Size, distribution, and magma output rate for shield volcanoes of the Michoacan-Guanajuato volcanic field, Central Mexico: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 63, p. 13-31.

Parfitt, E.A., Wilson, L., and Neal, C.A., 1995, Factors influencing the height of Hawaiian lava fountains: implications for the use of fountain height as an indicator of magma gas content: Bull. Volcanology, v. 57, p. 440-450.

Purbawinata, M.A., Ratdomopurbo, A., Sinulingga, I.K., Sumarti, S., Suharno, 1996, Merapi volcano a guide book: Volcanological Survey of Indonesia, Bandung, 64 p.

Siswowidjoyo, S., Suryo, I., and Yokoyama, I., 1995, Magma eruption rates of Merapi volcano, central Java, Indonesia during one century (1890-1992): Bull. Of Volcanology, v. 55, p. 233-263.

Shaw, H.R., 1987, Uniqueness of volcanic systems: in Decker, R.W., Wright, T.L., and Stauffer, P.H., (eds.), Volcanism in Hawaii, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1350, v. 1, p. 1357-1394. Thordarson, Th, and Self, S., 1993, The Laki (Skaftar Fires) and Grimsvotn eruptions in 1783-1785: Bull. Of Volcanology, v. 55, p. 233-263.

How Big are Eruptions?

How BIG are Volcanic Eruptions?

Every year about 60 volcanoes erupt, but most of the activity is pretty weak. How do volcanologists measure how big an eruption is? There is not any single feature that determines the "bigness", but the following eruption magnitude scale - called the Volcanic Explosivity Index or VEI - is based on a number of things that can be observed during an eruption. According to this scale, really huge eruptions don't happen very often, luckily!


VEI Description Plume Height Volume Classification How often Example
0 non-explosive < 100 m 1000s m3 Hawaiian daily Kilauea
1 gentle 100-1000 m 10,000s m3 Haw/Strombolian daily Stromboli
2 explosive 1-5 km 1,000,000s m3 Strom/Vulcanian weekly Galeras, 1992
3 severe 3-15 km 10,000,000s m3 Vulcanian yearly Ruiz, 1985
4 cataclysmic 10-25 km 100,000,000s m3 Vulc/Plinian 10's of years Galunggung, 1982
5 paroxysmal >25 km 1 km3 Plinian 100's of years St. Helens, 1980
6 colossal >25 km 10s km3 Plin/Ultra-Plinian 100's of years Krakatau, 1883
7 super-colossal >25 km 100s km3 Ultra-Plinian 1000's of years Tambora, 1815
8 mega-colossal >25 km 1,000s km3 Ultra-Plinian 10,000's of years Yellowstone, 2 Ma

Largest Eruptions since 1400 AD


Modified from Table 3 in Newhall, CG, and S Self, 1982, The volcanic explosivity index (VEI): An estimate of explosive magnitude for historical volcanism: Journal of Geophysical Research87, 1231-1238.  Additional eruptions added from tree ring data reported in Table 2 of Briffa, KR, PD Jones, FH Schweingruber & TJ Osborn, 1998, Influence of volcanic eruptions on Northern hemisphere summer temperature over the past 600 years: Nature 393, 450-455.  Note that other large eruptions occurred during the last 600 years, according to tree ring and ice core data, but are not indicated here because the source volcano is unknown (e.g. 1809).


Volcano  Country  Date  VEI  Type of Volcano 
Aniakchak  USA-AK  1450C 5?  Caldera 
Kuwae  Vanuatu, SW Pac. 1452  6 Caldera
Sakurajima Japan 1471 5? Stratovolcano
Bardarbunga Iceland 1477 5? Stratovolcano
St. Helens USA-WA 1480D 5+ Stratovolcano
St Helens USA-WA 1482D 5 Stratovolcano
St. Helens USA-WA 1540 5 Stratovolcano
Billy Mitchell Bougainville, SW Pac 1580C 6 Ash shield
Kelut Indonesia-Java 1586 5? Stratovolcano
Raung Indonesia-Java 1593 5? Stratovolcano
Huaynaputina Peru 1600 6? Explosion crater?
Kamaga-Take Japan 1640 5 Stratovolcano
Parker Philippines Jan. 4, 1641 Stratovolcano
Long Island New Guinea 1660 6 Complex volcano
Usu Japan  Aug. 16,1663  Stratovolcano 
Tarumai Japan Aug. 6, 1667 5 Stratovolcano
Gamkonora Indonesia-Halmahara 1673 5? Stratovolcano
Tongkoko  Indonesia-Sulawesi  1680  5? Stratovolcano 
Tarumai  Japan  Aug., 1739  Stratovolcano 
Katla  Iceland  Oct. 17, 1755  Subglacial 
Tambora  Indonesia  April 5, 1815  Stratovolcano 
Galunggung  Indonesia  Oct. 8, 1822  5?  Stratovolcano 
Cosiguina  Nicaragua  June 20, 1835  Stratovolcano 
Sheveluch  Russia  Feb. 17, 1854  Stratovolcano 
Askja  Iceland  March 29, 1875  Stratovolcano 
Krakatau  Indonesia  Aug. 26, 1883  Caldera 
Tarawera  New Zealand  June 10, 1886  Fissure on lava dome 
Santa Maria  Guatemala  Oct., 24, 1902  Stratovolcano 
Ksudach  Russia  March 28, 1907  Shield 
Katmai  USA  June 6, 1911  Stratovolcano 
Cerro Azul  Chile  April 10, 1932  Stratovolcano 
Bezymianny  Russia  March 30, 1956  Stratovolcano 
St. Helens USA 18-May-80 5 Stratovolcano

Volcano Languages

What do you call Volcanoes in other languages? Here is a partial list:


Language Spelling
Chinese: Huoshan
Danish: vulkan
Dutch: vulkaan
Esperanto: vulkano
Finnish: tulivuori
French: volcan
German: vulkan
Hawaiian: lua pele
Icelandic: eldfjall
Indonesia: gunung berapi
Italian: vulcano
Japan: kazan
Norwegain: vulkan
Polish: wulkan
Portugal: vulcao
Russian: vulkan
Somali: volkano
Spanish: volcán
Swahili: voleno
Swedish: vulkan
Syrian Arabic: berkaan
Vietnamese: nui lua
Welsh: llosgfynydd and folcano
Zulu: intabomlilo