Volcano eruption: How do volcanoes erupt? What is the difference between magma and lava?

Every day, somewhere in the world, a volcano erupts. A volcano is an opening on the surface of the earth, which allows lava, ash and gases to escape from below the earth’s surface.

There are seven major tectonic plates which float on a layer of the Earth’s mantle, and volcanoes are often found where these plates are converging or diverging.

Some volcanoes have formed above sea level, but the majority of them are found underwater.

Other volcanoes, known as supervolcanoes, have larger caldera than usual, and are capable of catalysing widespread devastation.

Examples of supervolcanoes include the Yellowstone Caldera in Yellowstone National Park and the Taupo Volcano in Lake Taupo, New Zealand.


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How do volcanoes erupt?

Much of the world’s volcanic activity occurs along the Ring of Fire, a 25,000 mile stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

The Ring of Fire is also known as the Circum-Pacific Belt, and is also where most of the world’s earthquake activity occurs.

Both seismic and volcanic activity in the region is as a result of tectonic plate movement.

These tectonic plates may also overlap, known as subduction zones.

These zones mean plates can be pushed down, or subducted, by plates on top of it, causing the plate to melt into magma.

Being so close to the earth’s surface, this magma can prompt volcanic activity.

A volcano erupts when magma rises to the surface, and pushes through vents and fissures leading to the earth’s surface.


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A volcanic eruption may be explosive, depending on how the magma is composed.

If the magma is thin, gas can escape quickly, meaning this kind of magma will flow out of a volcano.

But if magma is thick, gas cannot easily escape and pressure causes the magma to explode.

Some volcanic eruptions can be very dangerous and even deadly.

What is the difference between magma and lava?

The difference between magma and lava is simple.

Magma is stored in magma chambers in the Earth’s crust, and is composed of molten rock.

When magma reaches the surface of the Earth, through a volcanic eruption, it is known as lava.

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