Volcanoes erupt all the time. Many of you already know this, but we’re willing to bet that very few can truly grasp the ridiculously high frequency with which they occur.
Collating every single volcanic eruption that has taken place from 1960 to 2016, a team of researchers from the Global Volcanism Program (GVP) at the Smithsonian has produced a stunning animation revealing just how violent our planet’s fiery mountains and titanic tectonic plates have been.
Check out the interactive animation here.
Called Eruptions, Earthquakes, and Emissions (E3), it allows users to watch as the world shakes and burns and, from 1978 onwards, how it’s covered in sulfur dioxide emissions leaking out of those major volcanic edifices. If you’re curious to learn more about any of the individual events, you can click on one of the eruptions or earthquakes to see more information about it.
It’s updated continuously with the help of cutting-edge data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which means that there really is nothing else like this out there.
At first glance, it appears that the symphony of volcanic explosions and effusions is fairly chaotic and without any sort of discernible pattern. The most powerful, infrequent type of volcanic eruptions and quakes are very difficult to predict, and initially, E3 appears to paint a picture of pandemonium.
However, there are patterns that begin to emerge. Volcanic eruptions clearly appear along set lines for the most part, and these are invariably tectonic plate boundaries that feature either subduction zones – where an oceanic plate sinks and disintegrates beneath a continental plate – or along a rift zone, featuring two plates moving apart.
For a variety of reasons, the volcanism that appears above these two types of margins is quite different, with that emerging above subduction zones being particularly viscous, gas-rich, and explosive. Watch out for some incredibly powerful blasts appearing on the animation along these regions, including the famous “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean.
That's a lot of fireworks. Global Volcanism Program/Smithsonian/USGS