Besides its most beautiful and tolerant existence, there exists the other face of Mother-Nature which sometimes becomes too furious and catastrophic—to the extent that it reminds all of us how fragile our existence is. Volcanic eruptions serve the best example of nature’s most terrifying and catastrophic form. Since time immemorial, volcanic eruptions do exist and have caused devastating results in the history of mankind. By no means can one stand in its way when volcano decides to blow. As the Science states, volcanic eruptions are caused by the tectonic movements inside the core of the earth. Tectonic movement results into a release of large amount of Magma. Science has categorized three main types of volcanoes: Dormant Volcanoes, Extinct Volcanoes, and Active Volcanoes. But it’s a baffling problem to identify and list out top 10 biggest volcanic eruptions in the history as no exact information about the time and erupted volume of lava is available. The history of mankind has faced a lot of dreadful volcanic eruptions causing hundreds of thousands casualties that shook the world time and again. But here, without considering the fatalities caused, I’ve put together the volcanic eruptions on the basis of the volume of erupted lava. Let’s look at the biggest 10 volcanic eruptions of the recorded history that bring us back to millions of years ago.
10. Crater Lake, USA
When: 6850 years ago | Volume Erupted: (30-40) cubic km
Located at the Southern Cascade Range of Oregon, USA, Crater Lake is 590 meters deep and 8.9 kilometers in diameter. After the research of over 100 years, Scientists have discovered the remarkable story that there was a cluster of volcanoes before Crater Lake came into existence. 6850 years ago, the large volcanic eruption destroyed the Mount Mazama and the subsequent eruptions caused the area to be filled with water making it the deepest lake in the United States. Crater Lake is famed for its intense blue waters. Currently, the Crater Lake Volcano is believed to be in a dormant state.
9. Aniakchak, Alaska, USA
When: 3450 years ago | Volume Erupted: 50 cubic km
Situated 30 kilometers southeast of Port Heiden in Alaska, Aniakchak Volcano consists of a 10-km wide caldera believed to have formed before 3450 years ago during one of world’s largest volcanoes that erupted for nearly a couple of months. The eruption is supposed to be so violent in both explosive and effusive phases. During the eruption, the earthquakes were felt around 65 km. The Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, where the volcanic point is located, is now the least visited Park in United States due to its remoteness. On the northeast side of the caldera, the Surprise Lake is located and it trains through The Gates. The circular caldera is approx. 1 kilometer deep.
8. Kurile Lake, Russia
When: 6640 BC | Volume Erupted: (70-80) cubic km
56 islands in the Russian far-east form the Kurile Islands. Studies based on the average number of recorded eruptions from the last century show that slight eruptions occur approx. once in every five years, moderately small eruptions occur once in every 11 years while intense eruptions occur once in every 33 years in Kurile Islands . In 6640 BC, there occurred one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in the history releasing the lava of 70 to 80 cubic kilometers. The Kurile Islands Volcanoes were the results of subduction of Pacific plate that lies beneath the Eurasian plate.
7. Taupo, New Zealand
When: 186 A.D. | Volume Erupted: 100 cubic km
Located at the North Island of New Zealand, Taupo Volcano is one of the largest volcanoes erupted ever in this planet. The volcano has many vents and most of them are now under the Taupo Lake. The Taupo Volcano is not a mountain as the eruptions have been explosive and formed a caldera. About 98% of erupted materials at Taupo were rhyolite. And this huge volcano is considered to have produced two of the world’s most violent eruptions in the history: Oruanui Eruption (about 26500 years ago) and Taupo Eruption (about 1800 years ago). Taupo Volcano has much more violent eruptions than the cone volcanoes but they are fortunately less frequent. Taupo Volcano is a “supervolcano” and is considered among one of the active volcanoes in the world.
6. Tambora, Indonesia
When: 1815 A.D. | Volume Erupted: 100 cubic km
Let’s look back in 1815 when one of the largest volcanoes in the world had killed over 92000 people in Indonesia. Yes, it was a Tambora Volcano that formed the Sanggar Peninsula in Indonesia. The devastating eruption made the land infertile causing the severe starvation in the country. All crops and vegetables were destroyed by the poisonous ash and fumes erupted during the volcano. Around 12000 of total 92000 casualties were direct while rests were due to starvation. The year 1816 is also known as ‘the year without a summer’ as the climate of Indonesia was so disturbed hitting neighboring countries with floods and famines. Tambora Volcano is still considered one of the active volcanoes.
5. Long Valley, USA
When: 760000 years ago | Volume Erupted: 600 cubic km
Located in the central eastern California, Long Valley Volcano contains the Caldera with a diameter of 15×30 km. The Caldera has hot springs and fumaroles. Tracing back the history of Long Valley Volcano, it began in the area about 4 million years ago with the eruption of intermediate and basaltic lavas. About 2 million years ago, rhyolitic eruptions occurred and Long Valley caldera was formed around 760000 years ago by one of the largest ever eruptions. The volume of rhyolitic lava released during that eruption was over 600 cubic km. Long Valley is considered one of world’s largest calderas which have shown unrest in recent years.
4. Oruanui Eruption, New Zealand
When: 26000 years ago | Volume Erupted: 800 cubic km
If we look back the history of volcanic eruptions in the past 70000 years, Oruanui Eruptions in the Taupo Volcano was the largest known eruptions in the world. The Oruanui Eruption occurred around 26000 years ago in the Late Pleistocene that approximately produced over 800 cubic km of magma. There were 10 phases of Oruanui Eruption. The eruption covered much of the central-north Island with ignimbrite up to 200 meters deep and the most of New Zealand was affected by ashfall. The eruption later caused the erosion and sedimentation and caused the Waikato River to shift to its current course from the Hauraki Plains.
3. Yellowstone, USA
When: 1.3 million years ago | Volume Erupted: 1000 cubic km
Yellowstone is the biggest volcanic system, a supervolcano, located in North America. The Yellowstone volcano contains 182 geysers and a mud volcano, and is supposed to have been an active volcano for 2 million years. The caldera of Yellowstone is known to be one of the largest hydrothermal systems caused by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the history. The eruption produced over 1000 cubic km of lava. The current Yellowstone caldera is said to have formed by the eruptions that occurred 640000 years ago. Some of the interesting features of Yellowstone National Park are Mammoth Hot Springs, Madison Area, Norris Geyser Basin, and Old Faithful Area among others. Currently, the geologic activity at Yellowstone is considered relatively constant since last 30 years.
2. Toba, Indonesia
When: 72000 years ago | Volume Erupted: 2800 cubic km
Toba Volcano is located in the northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Before around 72000 years ago, there occurred one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in the history, producing over 2800 cubic km of lava. The particles from the Toba eruption remained for 6 years resulting into the reduction of world temperatures by 5-10 degree Celsius. The Toba Volcanic eruption is one of the supervolcanoes and it formed the Lake Toba which is 85×30 km in size. Lake Toba is the world’s largest active Caldera formed in the past 1.8 million years. However, there’s no recent volcanic or seismic activity noticed in Lake Toba currently. According to the new investigations, a supervolcanic eruption is thought to have nearly driven humanity extinct. They are capable of dwarfing anything ever seen in the recorded history.
1. Fish Canyon, USA
When: 28 million years ago | Volume Erupted: 5000 cubic km
There occurred the largest known explosive on Earth some 28 million years ago in USA forming the Fish Canyon Tuff. The supervolcanic eruption was centered at La Garita Caldera in the southwest Colorado which produced over 5000 cubic km of lava. The area which was devastated by the Fish Canyon Eruption is thought to have covered the most of what is now known as Colorado. The volume of La Garita eruption was the greatest known in the geologic history. La Garita Eruption is considered about 5000 times more powerful than Tsar Bomba—the most powerful human-made explosive device ever detonated.
Since time immemorial, volcanic eruptions have wreaked havoc around the world. Looking back at the history of volcanoes, there have been some eruptions which posed no threat to human race. But, there also were scores of deadliest volcanoes that caused moss loss of life and nearly decimated the entire populations. There were many largest volcanic eruptions in the recorded history of mankind that caused upside down in the geographical structure. They are just unpredictable that we don’t know when it’s going to happen next. Volcanoes being natural catastrophes, there’s nothing invented so far for their prevention. But many volcanic points have been identified on earth, posing the risk of eruptions anytime. So, we can do nothing else but simply hope that no human casualties will occur anymore. Let’s hope that Scientists will find better prediction systems in place. And let’s better identify the points posing the risk of volcanoes and stay away from them. The best way, however, is to live in harmony with nature.
Arun is an IT-gradate. But writing is something he has innate passion for. He loves to explore new things, places and ideas.