OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

What is the largest eruption ever?

Category: 
Interesting Factoids

 

The biggest eruption was at Yellowstone about 2.2 million years ago. An explosive eruption produced 2,500 cubic kilometers of ash!  

(That’s about 2,500 times more ash than Mount St. Helens erupted!)

Yellowstone has had three very large eruptions in the last 2  million years. These eruptions occurred 2.2, 1.2, and 0.6 million years  ago.

Yellowstone has had three very large eruptions in the last 2 million years. These eruptions occurred 2.2, 1.2, and 0.6 million years ago.

 

Only four eruptions in the last 10,000 years have been assigned a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 7.

They are:

  • Tambora, Indonesia 1815
  • Baitoushan, China-Korea border, about 1050
  • Kikai, Japan, about 4350 B.C.
  • Crater Lake, Oregon, USA, about 4895 B.C.

A Big Ten list of eruptions based on explosive force and destruction in recent time would include:

  1. Tambora, Indonesia 1815: VEI=7, 92,000 casualties
  2. Santorini, Greece 1628 B.C.: VEI=6, unknown casualties
  3. Krakatau, Indonesia 1883: VEI=6, 36,400 casualties
  4. Santa Maria, Guatemala 1902: VEI=6, 6,000 casualties
  5. Mount St. Helens, USA 1980: VEI=5, 57 casualties
  6. Vesuvius, Italy 79: VEI=5, 3,360 casualties
  7. Pinatubo, Philippines 1991: VEI=5, 932 casualties
  8. Mount Pelee, Martinique 1902: VEI=4, 29,000 casualties
  9. Nevado del Ruiz, Columbia 1985: VEI=3, 23,000 casualties
  10. Unzen, Japan 1792: VEI=2, 15,000 casualties.

Sources of information:

Decker, R., and Decker, B., 1989, Volcanoes: W.H. Freeman, New York, 285 p.

Nuhfer, E.B., Proctor, R.J., and Moser, P.H., 1993, The citizen’s guide to geologic hazards: American Institute of Professional Geologists, Arvada, CO, 134 p.

Simkin, T., and Fiske, R.S., Krakatau 1883: The volcanic eruption and its effects: Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, D.C., 464 p.

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the world: Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona, 349 p.