How many volcanoes are in Hawaii? A comprehensive volcano FAQ!

If you’re paying attention to the volcano eruptions at Mount Kilauea in Hawaii, then you probably have questions. How many volcanoes are in Hawaii? How long will these eruptions last? How much damage will they cause? For all we know about volcanoes–how and why they erupt–there is still much we don’t know. Here are some frequently asked questions about volcanoes!

The volcanic activity in Hawaii is ongoing, and has displaced hundreds of people. Dozens of homes have been destroyed. The ash cloud above Kilauea is expanding. Pilots have been warned to divert their aircraft. More powerful eruptions of steam and molten rock are possible if the magma interacts with underground aquifers. It’s bad, but how bad could it get? We’ll start with the volcano basics, and then discuss the damage potential for this kind of eruption.

What is a volcano?

Volcano a cool word that derives from Vulcanus, the Roman God of Fire. According to legend, an island of the same name off the coast of Sicily was the chimney of the god’s forge. The pagan Romans knew Vulcanus existed because they could see evidence of his work. The frequent volcanic activity spewed tens of thousands of tons of ash into the sky. Can you imagine the impact on the Romans? The wrath of the gods was upon them, always. They didn’t believe it. They knew it.

How we view volcanoes today is fun, but far less spectacular. If a particular location has been home to an eruption of hot molten rock at any point in history, it’s a volcano. These natural wonders occur in places where there is tectonic activity, a thin crust, and magma underneath. When you imagine a volcano, you probably think of a mountainous formation with a caldera up top. Most volcanoes look like this, but don’t be fooled–some are flat.

To be clear, magma is molten rock found underneath the ground while lava is molten rock found above ground.

How do you define an active volcano?

If a volcano is active, then it erupted at least once in the past 10,000 years.

How do you define a dormant volcano?

If a volcano is dormant, then it will likely erupt again. When a volcano is active, it may be erupting now. If an active volcano is not in the process of erupting, then it is also a dormant volcano. These words define characteristics of a volcano, but not the type of volcano. That’s why so many people get them mixed up.

What is an extinct volcano?

An extinct volcano has not erupted in over 10,000 years. It is defined as extinct only if scientists do not expect it to erupt again.

What are the different kinds of volcanic eruptions?

Every volcano is different. The magma underneath is unpredictable and the environmental impacts are equally unpredictable. Small volcanoes can have huge environmental consequences while larger volcanoes can have almost no impact, and vice versa. Even though each volcano has a distinct “personality” we categorize the eruptions as best we can.

The two primary types of eruption are effusive and explosive.

During an effusive eruption, magma rises to the surface in steady liquid streams. Effusive eruptions are slower than explosive eruptions.

During an explosive eruption, magma explodes from the surface in bursts. Explosive eruptions can hurl pyroclasts through the air. Pyroclasts are volcanic fragments.

You can read more about different types of volcanic eruptions here.

Can we predict a volcano eruption?

The prediction of volcanic activity is not an exact science, just like meteorology. We can “predict” the weather, but most predictions are a best guess more than anything else. In order to better predict an eruption, scientists need an accurate history of that volcano’s activity. In addition, it’s important to monitor the volcano without interruption.

Although volcanologists can provide probability that an eruption will occur, they cannot predict the scope of an eruption.

Does volcanic activity follow a pattern? Is it increasing or decreasing?

Although volcanoes can develop anywhere, they are most abundant in areas with tectonic activity. The line of volcanoes that outline the Pacific Ocean is called the “ring of fire” and is home to many of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes.

Overall, volcanic activity is not increasing or decreasing. We have access to a constant deluge of fast information thanks to the Internet and social media. Sometimes this means we focus on any “end of the world” scenario we can find. There are certainly periods of history during which volcanic activity was much greater, but currently there is no evidence that volcanic activity will change significantly in the future.

For more information on geographical location of volcanoes, look here.

How many active volcanoes are in Hawaii?

There are three active volcanoes in Hawaii, one of which is both active and erupting. Mount Kilauea began spewing ash 30,000 feet into the sky at 4:17 a.m. on May 17, 2018. Before the eruption fissures had already opened up to spew lava, ash, and gas about.

Maunaloa and Kilauea are both located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The third volcano, Loihi, is located underwater and last erupted in 1996. In about 250,000 years it could add a ninth Hawaiian island.

How many active volcanoes are there in the world?

There are around 1,500 active volcanoes in the world, about of third of which have erupted during recorded history. About 169 of these volcanoes are located in the United States.

How many dormant volcanoes are there in Hawaii?

There are only five volcanoes in the Hawaiian chain of islands, and we’ve already mentioned three. Of the other two, one is extinct and one is dormant. Kohala erupted 60,000 years ago and is extinct. Mauna Kea erupted only 3,600 years ago, and is therefore dormant.

How many dormant volcanoes are there in the world?

There is no concrete number of dormant volcanoes. This is because there are volcanic fields comprised of hundreds of eruption sites. If you counted each of them, then you would find there are tens of thousands of dormant volcanoes in the world.

What kind of damage could active volcanoes do in Hawaii?

This was news from yesterday night:

And this is later today (5/17/18):

The damage is unlikely to far exceed what Hawaiians have already experienced. There will be more damaged homes, cracked roads, gas-emitting fissures, plumes of ash, and lava streams. Scientists acknowledge that the eruptions could become more explosive and begin to release projectiles, but don’t they believe this eruption is comparable to bigger ones like Mount St. Helens.

What is a super volcano?


Keep in mind that the impacts of a super volcano are usually overstated. To reiterate, we as a species love to find the worst possible case scenario and exaggerate it greatly. The consequences of a Yellowstone eruption would be vast, but such an eruption would not be sudden. If it happens, we have time to evacuate most people from the worst-impacted zones, a fact usually overlooked when these disaster scenarios are described in detail.

There is a mountain of information about volcanoes, and this article barely scratches the surface. If you’re interested in the science behind volcanic activity, we recommend you keep digging into other sources!


About Author

Jeff is a self-proclaimed pragmatic futurist; that is, he has high hopes for absurd life-altering technologies which sound too good to be true, and probably are. Although he writes on a variety of subjects, his real passion is for technological innovation and the people who make it happen. By day, he enjoys fuzzy bunnies, kittens, puppies, roller coasters and a sardonic written word or two. By night, he's busy running MMR, replaying a random Final Fantasy game, or pretending to be Batman. He currently resides in Upstate NY.