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Find out some fiery facts about volcanoes

Discover the fiery facts behind one of the world's notorious natural disasters: volcanoes.

Canada has volcanoes. For real. Twenty-one of these volcanoes are thought to be potentially still active. Below is a photo of The Black Tusk, a distinctive-looking volcano located in the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt in British Columbia. Black Tusk was formed 170,000 years ago, and is pretty much dormant, meaning it hasn’t erupted in forever, though there is still activity deep inside.

No need to worry about this happening, however:

Canada’s most recent volcanic eruption was at Lava Fork volcano in northwestern B.C. in the early 1900s. For those of you who just want the volcano basics, keep reading.


No, no, not the Star Trek Vulcan. We’re talking about the Roman god of fire Vulcan, who is usually drawn with a blacksmith’s hammer. Vulcan’s forge, or workplace, was located under Mount Etna, and there he made weapons for other gods and heroes. The word volcano comes from Vulcano, a volcanic island near Italy, which is named after Vulcan.

Think of volcanoes as massive, mountain-like openings in the Earth’s crust. Volcanoes are usually found along the meeting points of tectonic plates, large sections of the earth that fit together like a puzzle. When the plates shift and collide, magma (hot molten rock), ash and gases escape upward between the plates and erupt out the opening.

Once magma erupts from a volcano, it’s called lava. Lava can be viscous (thick and sticky) or runny, with temperatures between 700°C and 1200°C. Flowing lava burns and melts everything in its path.

When lava cools, the landscape is changed forever. Lava can create islands, mountains and eventually nutrient-rich soil for plants and flowers.

There are different categories of volcanoes:
Stratovolcanoes have steep sides and are extremely high. They have a big potential for violent eruptions. Mount St. Helens is a stratovolcano in the United States. This photo of Mount St.  Helens was taken in 2006. (The volcano erupted in 1980).

Cinder cones are smaller volcanoes than stratovolcanoes, usually less than 300 m high. They are cylindrical and built from piles of ejected rock fragments. If a cinder cone volcano erupts, lava would usually flow from a crack in the side, not from the top. Below are cinder cones in Maui.

Shield volcanoes are the largest volcanoes on Earth. They have gently sloping sides and are created from layers and layers of runny lava. Shield volcanoes build islands. Mauna Loa (below) is the world's largest active volcano. It has erupted 33 times since 1843, but it’s been quiet since 1984… Well, it had been quiet—it’s recently been rumbling back to life.

Resembling a belt more than an actual ring, this area surrounding the Pacific Ocean is home to more than 50% of all of Earth’s volcanoes. The exact number is 452. The “ring” is 40,000 km in length. Ninety percent of the world’s earthquakes occur in this area.

In other words, Mars. Several shield volcanoes dot the surface of Mars. The largest volcano is Olympus Mons, which is as wide as all of the Hawaiian islands strung together. Its crater is 85 km wide

The ocean floor is where the greatest number of volcanoes erupt. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Most of Earth’s active volcanoes are underwater in the Pacific Ocean in the Ring of Fire. An expedition called The Submarine Ring of Fire is exploring the underwater volcanoes. Scientists have actually seen volcanoes erupting below the ocean’s surface, like this one:

Volcanoes erupt in a couple of different ways. Some explode and can shoot particles up to 32 km in the air, hurling boulders and causing avalanches of rocks, lava and ash.

Other volcanoes are effusive, which means lava flows out instead of exploding upward. People don’t usually die from effusive volcanoes because they can outrun the lava...unless they get trapped.

We bet you’ve seen videos or pictures of kids making volcanoes for their school science experiments. It’s a popular choice. If you’ve never made a volcano, you must try it at least once. You’ll need water, dish soap, red food colouring, baking soda and vinegar.

Here’s a step-by-step video instruction with measurements (slow eruption volcano).

Recipe for a Slow Eruption Volcano

You’ll need

  • 1 mason jar
  • Dirt
  • Bin or tray for the jar and dirt
  • ½ cup of water
  • ½ cup of baking soda
  • 6 tbsp dish soap
  • Add food colouring (red for the lava look)
  • Add ½ cup vinegar and wait.


  • Place the dirt in the bin/tray
  • Place the jar in the middle of the dirt and pack the dirt up to the jar, so it looks like a volcano
  • Add all the ingredients to the jar EXCEPT THE VINEGAR
  • And wait...

Here’s video of a super-fast exploding volcano!

Why do the volcanoes erupt?
It’s a chemical reaction between the vinegar and baking soda. When you mix the two, carbon dioxide is created, pressure builds inside the jar or bottle and then the gas bubbles erupt.