8 of the World’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes, According to Experts (2023)

Dozens of people have died, hundreds are missing and many more homes were destroyed after separate volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and Guatemala that made headlines worldwide in recent months. And although those volcano eruptions are not part of a trend, experts have said, the volcanoes in question are far from the only dangerous ones in the world.

When assessing which volcanoes are the most dangerous in the world, however, several factors come into play, including population density surrounding active volcanoes, the types of magma that emerge during eruptions and each volcano’s eruption history. For example, an explosive volcanic eruption in a remote area is not as dangerous as one in a populous region that requires mass evacuations. And volcanoes that go a long time without erupting pose a higher risk for eruption because of mounting pressure inside them.

Magma content is one way to assess a particular volcano’s danger level, according to Stanley Mertzman, a geosciences professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. Mertzman says experts will look at the level of silica, a rock-forming compound that affects the thickness of lava and a volcano’s overall shape, according to the USGS. Silica can indicate how dangerous an eruption can be because it tends to crystallize into chains in cooling lava, increasing its viscosity, in turn creating thicker magma that can make a volcano erupt more explosively.

“The degree of danger increases dramatically as silica content increases,” Mertzman tells TIME. “The higher the silica content, the greater the viscosity — the magma becomes stickier, thicker, much harder to stir.”

Rising silica levels in magma also give way to pyroclastic flows, a quick-moving mixture of lava, ash, gas and rock pieces that can be deadly because they cause asphyxiation, Mertzman says. “Picture a hot avalanche of material.”

Guatemala’s Fuego volcano eruption on Sunday, which killed at least 75 people, formed a pyroclastic flow.

Unlike Fuego, the lava flow from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting for a month, is a type of basalt. It poses little danger to people, unless they get in the way — thousands of people have been evacuated in the last month and Kilauea has destroyed several homes.

Regions where volcanic eruptions can be deadly include Indonesia, the Philippines, parts of South America and various volcanoes in the U.S. Below, see some of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, based on their volcanic history, population densities and magma type.

Mount Vesuvius

8 of the World’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes, According to Experts (1)

Mt. Vesuvius as seen from above Sorrento.

Bruno Brunelli—Getty Images

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Italy’s Vesuvius has been a menacing figure since an eruption in 79 CE buried the city of Pompeii. Over the last 17,000 years, the volcano has gone through eight major explosive eruptions that were followed by large pyroclastic flows, according to the Smithsonian Institute/USGS Global Volcanic Program database. Vesuvius’ last known eruption occurred in 1944. The Italian government has multiple plans prepared for a possible eruption in the future. At least six million people live in the vicinity of Vesuvius, according to the database.

Mount Rainier

A number of factors make Mount Rainier one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the U.S. The USGS points to Mount Rainier’s high elevation, chemical composition, proximity to Washington’s Seattle and Tacoma suburbs and the volcano’s ability produce intense pyroclastic flows, lava flows and volcanic ash. The heat from Mount Rainier’s lava flows could potentially melt the snow and ice on the volcano, causing a rapid downstream flow of mud, rocks and debris called lahar. Huge lahars are the greatest risk posed by an eruption at Mount Rainier, according to the USGS. More than two million people would be affected by an eruption, according to the Global Volcanism Program.

Novarupta Volcano

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Chlaus Lotscher / Design Pics—Getty Images/First Light

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Located in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve, the Novarupta volcano was formed in 1912 in an eruption that was the world’s largest in the twentieth century, sending nearly 30 cubic kilometers of ash and debris into the air and producing such strong ash flow, it formed the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. While the immediate area surrounding Novarupta is not populous, the 1912 eruption formed an ash cloud that rained sulfurous ash across southern Alaska and parts of Canada. After three days, people in nearby Kodiak had succumbed to eye soreness and respiratory issues caused by ash fall, according to the USGS. The eruption that created Novarupta is not typical of the types of eruptions in the region, the National Park Service for Katmai said on its website. However, more than a dozen active volcanoes at remain under watch by volcanologists at Katmai in an effort to protect the public from harm.

Mount Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo, situated in a populated region of the Philippines, became notorious after a 1991 major eruption that was the second largest eruption of the twentieth century, closely following Novarupta. While Pinatubo did not have a history of explosive eruptions prior to the eruption, the 1991 event killed at least 722 people after producing pyroclastic flows that formed a lake-filled caldera in the volcano. Today, more than 21 million people live within 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) of Pinatubo, according to the Global Volcanism Program.

Mount St. Helens

8 of the World’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes, According to Experts (5)

Southeast side of Mount St. Helens, showing Shoestring Glacier. This pre-1980 view of Mount St. Helens shows the volcano's southeast flank and the headwaters of the Muddy River before the May 18th, 1980 eruption. The broad forested area in the foreground is underlain by many layers of volcanic deposits, chiefly lahars and pyroclastic flows generated from past eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

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Science Source/USGS—Getty Images/Science Source

The 1980 eruption of Washington’s Mount St. Helens was the deadliest and most destructive volcanic event in U.S. history. Fifty-seven people died in the eruption along with thousands of animals, and about 200 sq. miles of forest was destroyed. According to the USGS, Mount St. Helens’ history of explosive eruptions indicates that future episodes are highly likely to occur. Another explosive eruption would send large amounts of ash fall across the Pacific Northwest, according to the USGS, and the volcano is under careful monitoring.

Mount Agung

8 of the World’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes, According to Experts (6)

morning scenery with the eruption of mount Agung, Bali taken at 11/27/2017 from beaskih area

Raung Binaia—Getty Images

The continuously erupting Mount Agung, located in Indonesia, had its last major eruption in 1963, which was one of the most devastating eruptions in the country’s history. Agung’s 1963 eruption lasted 11 months, producing dangerous ash fall and pyroclastic flows that led to more than 1,000 deaths and property damage. Ash plumes above the volcano have been continuously observed throughout 2018, following an eruption in November 2017. The volcano is located in a region with a population of about four million, according to the Global Volcanism Program.

Mount Fuji

8 of the World’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes, According to Experts (7)

Japan's Mt. Fuji is an active volcano about 100 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.

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Kriangkrai Thitimakorn—Getty Images

Japan’s famous Mount Fuji has not erupted since 1707, when a major earthquake earlier that year likely set it off, according to a report from Oregon State University’s Volcano World program. In 2014, experts warned that Fuji was at risk for another eruption following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan in 2011. According to researchers, the earthquake raised pressure below Fuji. The 1707 eruption sent ash and debris into the air that even reached Tokyo. If Fuji erupts again, more than 25 million people in the surrounding area could be affected, according to the Global Volcanism Program.

Mount Merapi

8 of the World’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes, According to Experts (8)

Mount Merapi eruption seen from Deles Village, Klaten, Central Java, Indonesia on November 02, 2010. Photo By WF Sihardian

Wf Sihardian / EyeEm—Getty Images/EyeEm

One of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, Mount Merapi has been continuously erupting for centuries. According to NASA, Merapi’s biggest risk is pyroclastic flows, which can spread over wide areas and threaten people. Merapi erupted again on May 11, sending plumes of smoke into the air and prompting evacuations from the populous region — more than 24 million people live in the surrounding area, according to the Global Volcanism Program.

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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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FAQs

What is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world? ›

Eighty miles west of Bogotá, Colombia, Nevado del Ruiz volcano stretches more than 17,000 feet into the air. The volcano is considered one of the most dangerous in the world and produced one of the deadliest volcanic eruption on record.

Which type of volcano is the most dangerous? ›

Stratovolcanoes are considered the most violent. Mount St. Helens, in Washington state, is a stratovolcano that erupted on May 18, 1980.

What is the most dangerous volcano 2022? ›

The eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano on 15 January 2022 was the largest recorded since the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. The eruption triggered tsunami waves of up to 15m which struck the west coast of Tongatapu, 'Eua and Ha'apai. Ashfall covered an area of at least five square kilometres.

How many Vei 8 volcanoes are there? ›

This would be a mass of uncompacted ejecta ten kilometers in length, ten kilometers in width and ten kilometers deep. Eruptions at Toba (74,000 years ago), Yellowstone (640,000 years ago), and Lake Taupo (26,500 years ago) are three of the 47 VEI 8 sites that have been identified.

What are the 5 most dangerous volcanoes? ›

The Most Dangerous Volcanoes on Earth
  • Mount St. Helens, Washington. ...
  • Mount Kilauea, Hawaii. Mount Kilauea is known to be the most active volcanic mass globally. ...
  • Mayon Volcano, The Philippines. ...
  • Redoubt Volcano, Alaska. ...
  • Mount Pinatubo, The Philippines. ...
  • Mount Fuji, Japan. ...
  • Popocatépetl, México.
5 May 2022

What is the top 10 volcanoes in the world? ›

Full List
  • Mount Vesuvius.
  • Krakatoa.
  • Mount St. Helens.
  • Mount Tambora.
  • Mauna Loa.
  • Eyjafjallajokull.
  • Mount Pelée.
  • Thera.

Which type of volcano is most dangerous when they explode? ›

Pelean and Plinian eruptions are the most dangerous and explosive of the eruption types. Pelean eruptions are named for the catastophic eruption on the island of Martinique in the Carribean Sea in 1902. The eruption and the pyroclastic flow that followed killed 29,000 people almost instantly.

What is the most powerful volcano in the world? ›

The biggest supervolcano on Earth was discovered in 2013: the Tamu Massif, with a 4 km height and a 640 km width, a submarine shield volcano located in the Pacific Ocean, east of Japan.

What are the 3 deadliest volcanoes? ›

Which volcanic eruptions were the deadliest?
EruptionYearCasualties
Mount St. Helens, Washington1980573
Kilauea, Hawaii192411
Lassen Peak, California191504
Mount Vesuvius, Italy79 A.D.3,3602
1 more row

How hot is lava? ›

Here are some temperatures recorded at different times and locations: The eruption temperature of Kīlauea lava is about 1,170 degrees Celsius (2,140 degrees Fahrenheit). The temperature of the lava in the tubes is about 1,250 degrees Celsius (2,200 degrees Fahrenheit).

Is Mount Everest a volcano? ›

No, Mount Everest is not a volcano. It was produced from a tectonic collision between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates tens of millions of years ago.

What is a level 8 volcano? ›

An eruption is classified as a VEI 8 if the measured volume of deposits is greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers (240 cubic miles). Therefore a supervolcano is a volcano that at one point in time erupted more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of deposits.

Is Yellowstone a VEI 8? ›

Yellowstone National Park

The relative sizes of several eruptions based on the volume erupted. The first and third Yellowstone eruptions are VEI 8 super eruptions.

What would a VEI 8 eruption be like? ›

Volcanic eruptions that rated 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. Such eruptions release a tephra volume of at least 1,000 km3 (240 cu mi) with annihilating long-term effects on the surrounding area and devastating short-term effects on global climate, leaving profound effects on the climate for years to come.

What volcano is the smallest and most dangerous? ›

Taal is one of the world's smallest active volcanoes. Despite standing at only 311 meters (1,020 feet), it can be deadly, and an eruption in 1911 killed more than 1,300 people.

What is the most dangerous thing in the world? ›

Find out the top 10 below.
  • Snakes.
  • Dogs (rabies) (Kills 59,000 per year)
  • Assassin Bugs (Chagas disease) (Kills 10,000 per year)
  • Scorpions. (Kills 3,300 humans per year)
  • Crocodiles. (Kills 1,000 humans per year)
  • Elephants. (Kills 600 humans per year)
  • Hippos. (Kills 500 humans a year)
  • Lions. (Kills 200 humans per year)

Where are the 5 biggest volcanoes in the world? ›

Biggest Volcanoes in The World
  • Mount Fuji, Tokyo, Japan. ...
  • Mayon Volcano, Albay, Philippines. ...
  • Mount St. ...
  • Popocatépetl Volcano, Mexico. ...
  • Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica. ...
  • Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru, East Java, Indonesia. ...
  • Mount Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania, South Africa. ...
  • Etna, Catania, Sicily, Italy.
28 Jul 2020

What is the most dangerous volcano in the Philippines Why? ›

Taal is the most lethal of the Philippines' 21 active volcanoes, although the country has more than 200 overall. Its eruptions have been recorded since the late 1500s but casualties were only recorded from 1754 onwards. So far, the volcano has caused at least 6,000 deaths.

What is the most powerful and dangerous eruption? ›

Mt. Tambora is the deadliest eruption in recent human history, claiming the lives of up to 120,000 people. On 10 April 1815, Tambora erupted sending volcanic ash 40km into the sky. It was the most powerful eruption in 500 years.

Which volcano is the most explosive and why? ›

There isn't much in Kamchatka, a remote peninsula in northeastern Russia just across the Bering Sea from Alaska, besides an impressive population of brown bears and the most explosive volcano in the world. Kamchatka's Shiveluch volcano has had more than 40 violent eruptions over the last 10,000 years.

What is the 5 largest volcano in the world? ›

Height of select volcanoes worldwide (in meters)
Volcano, locationHeight in meters
Mauna Loa (Hawaii, United States)9,170
Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)*5,895
Popocatépetl Volcano (Mexico)5,426
Mount Fuji (Tokyo, Japan)3,776
7 more rows
25 Jul 2022

Which country has the deadliest volcano? ›

Deadliest Eruption
DeathsVolcanoWhen
92,000Tambora, Indonesia1815
36,417Krakatau, Indonesia1883
29,025Mt. Pelee, Martinique1902
25,000Ruiz, Colombia1985
21 more rows

Which country has the strongest volcano? ›

Which countries have the most volcanoes?
CountryHolocene VolcanoesActive since 1800 CE
1. United States16263
2. Japan12262
3. Indonesia12174
4. Russia11749
16 more rows

Which volcano can destroy the world? ›

Yellowstone National Park

In the previous 2.1 million years, the Yellowstone supervolcano, which scored an 8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, has erupted three times, most recently 640,000 years ago. An eruption at Yellowstone would be beyond anything the human race has ever known.

Can lava Be Blue? ›

Blue lava, also known as Api Biru, and simply referred to as blue fire or sulfur fire, is a phenomenon that occurs when sulfur burns. It is an electric-blue flame that has the illusory appearance of lava.

Can lava melt a human? ›

The extreme heat would probably burn your lungs and cause your organs to fail. “The water in the body would probably boil to steam, all while the lava is melting the body from the outside in,” Damby says. (No worries, though, the volcanic gases would probably knock you unconscious.)

Can you touch lava? ›

Lava won't kill you if it briefly touches you. You would get a nasty burn, but unless you fell in and couldn't get out, you wouldn't die. With prolonged contact, the amount of lava "coverage" and the length of time it was in contact with your skin would be important factors in how severe your injuries would be!

Who owns Mt Everest? ›

Mount Everest is located at the border between China and Nepal, in political and geographical aspects, Everest is jointly owned by the two countries. Mount Everest was divided into two parts, starting from the highest point of the mountain, southern slope lies in Nepal and north in China.

Is volcano a mountain yes or no? ›

Volcanoes are mountains but they are very different from other mountains; they are not formed by folding and crumpling or by uplift and erosion. Instead, volcanoes are built by the accumulation of their own eruptive products -- lava, bombs (crusted over ash flows, and tephra (airborne ash and dust).

What volcano is bigger than Mount Everest? ›

That prize goes to Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii. While it towers roughly 14,000 feet above the island, much of its height lies submerged below sea level. From its base well underneath the Pacific to the summit, Mauna Kea measures in at 33,484 feet- over 4 thousand feet taller than Mt. Everest.

What are the 8 volcano hazards? ›

Several hazards may affect the area around the volcano, such as lava flows, pyroclastic flows, lahars, jökulhlaups and landslides or debris avalanches. Volcanic activity also produces hazards that can affect areas far from the volcano, such as tephra or ash falls, releases of gas and tsunamis.

Has there ever been an 8 volcano? ›

There haven't been any VEI-8 volcanoes in the last 10,000 years, but human history has seen some powerful and devastating eruptions.

What does lava Zone 8 mean? ›

Zone 7 - Younger part of Mauna Kea volcano. 20% of this area was covered by lava in the past 10,000 years. Zone 8 - Remaining part of Mauna Kea. Only a few percents of this area has been covered by lava in the past 10,000 years. Zone 9 - Kohala Volcano, which last erupted over 60,000 years ago.

Is there a volcano bigger than Yellowstone? ›

Nestled in the San Juan Mountains, there is ample evidence of one of the largest known volcanic eruptions on the planet: a caldera 22 miles wide and 62 miles long. It's called the La Garita Caldera, and it rivals the Toba eruption in Indonesia and all Yellowstone eruptions.

Where are the 3 super volcanoes in the US? ›

The United States is home to three active supervolcanoes, the USGS has determined: The famous Yellowstone, Long Valley and the Valles Caldera in New Mexico.

How big would the explosion be if Yellowstone erupted? ›

As pressure is released, gases dissolved in the magma come out of solution, turning the magma into a boiling froth. The total energy released would be equivalent to an 875,000 megaton explosion. The shockwave would kill 90,000 people. Most of the lava would fall back into the crater.

Is Yellowstone gonna erupt? ›

In its 2.2-million-year history, the Yellowstone caldera system has erupted catastrophically only three times, while producing many localized lava flows. “Yellowstone is not going to erupt again anytime soon, and when it does, it's much more likely to be a lava flow than an explosive event,” Poland said.

What if Yellowstone erupted? ›

If the Yellowstone supervolcano ever erupted, it would bring about a calamity for most of the United States. The supervolcano would spew deadly ash for thousands of miles across the entire country.

When did Yellowstone last erupt? ›

The most recent volcanic activity at Yellowstone consisted of rhyolitic lava flows that erupted approximately 70,000 years ago. The largest of these flows formed the Pitchstone Plateau in southwestern Yellowstone National Park.

What is the most powerful volcano on Earth? ›

Mauna Loa erupts in Hawaii: World's biggest active volcano was dormant 38 years The mountain, which is taller than Mount Everest measured from seafloor to summit, erupted Sunday. Its lava appears to be contained, but scientists say the volcano has a history of rapidly changing.

What volcano is most likely to erupt next? ›

Mauna Loa erupted most recently in 1984, and will erupt again in the future, posing significant risks to people living on the flanks of the volcano.

What are the 3 largest volcanoes? ›

Height of select volcanoes worldwide (in meters)
Volcano, locationHeight in meters
Mauna Loa (Hawaii, United States)9,170
Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)*5,895
Popocatépetl Volcano (Mexico)5,426
Mount Fuji (Tokyo, Japan)3,776
7 more rows
25 Jul 2022

How many years is Yellowstone overdue? ›

The two intervals are thus 0.8 and 0.66 million years, averaging to a 0.73 million-year interval. Again, the last eruption was 0.64 million years ago, implying that we are still about 90,000 years away from the time when we might consider calling Yellowstone overdue for another caldera-forming eruption.

Can we survive if Yellowstone erupts? ›

YVO gets a lot of questions about whether Yellowstone, or another caldera system, will end all life on Earth. The answer is—NO, a large explosive eruption at Yellowstone will not lead to the end of the human race.

Would Yellowstone cause an ice age? ›

One of the most concerning effects of the amount of ash particles in the air would be on the climate. The ash would block out the sun causing the whole world to experience a sudden temperature drop of up to ten degrees. It would even spark a mini ice age.

How many Super volcanoes are in Earth? ›

There are about 12 supervolcanoes on Earth — each one at least seven times larger than Mount Tambora, which had the biggest eruption in recorded history. If all of these supervolcanoes erupted at once, they'd likely pour thousands of tons of volcanic ash and toxic gases into the atmosphere.

What is the most active volcano today? ›

Mauna Loa, one of the Earth's most active volcanoes, has erupted 33 times since 1843, according to the USGS. Kilauea, the other active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, has been erupting since September 2021; before that, lava from a 2018 eruption destroyed more than 700 homes.

When was the last volcano eruption in the world? ›

An eruption on May 28, 2022, sent ash to an altitude of 15 km, causing some disruptions to flights in the North Pacific, including an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Tokyo that diverted back to Los Angeles midway across the Pacific, landing after approximately 12 hours in the air.

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