The 10 Largest Volcanoes. Mount Mazama /Crater Lake, Oregon.
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Over 6,000 years ago Mount Mazama (posthumously named) erupted. Before the explosion the mountain was 12,000 feet high; when it was over it had been replaced by a 1,900-foot deep crater. Crater Lake, famed for its intense blue waters, was made a National Park in 1902. Volcanic activity occurred some time after the Mount Mazama explosion, creating Wizard Island in the middle of the lake.
Although Mount Etna (or Aetna) is the highest active volcano in Europe, its renown comes from its role in Greek legends and in ancient works by writers such as Hesiod, Pindar and Aeschylus. According to Greco-Roman mythology, the giants -- the enemies of the gods -- were buried beneath Mount Etna. In their efforts to break free, the Giants caused frequent earthquakes around the mountain. The most recent eruptionoccurredin December 1991.
The largest eruption during the last two centuries, as well as the deadliest volcano in recorded history, Mount Tambora exploded April 10-11, 1815. It killed an estimated 92,000 people. Almost 80,000 of the victims died of starvation brought on by the agricultural devastation in the volcano's wake. The eruption and the resulting massive clouds of dust and ash affected most of the Northern Hemisphere, causing unusually cool temperatures and failed crops in 1816 -- sometimes referred to as "the year without a summer."
On August 27, 1883, Mount Krakatau exploded with such force that it was heard in Australia, over 2,000 miles away. The force of the eruption triggered a series of tsunamis that reached the Hawaiian islands and the coast of South America, killing more than 36,000 people. The five cubic miles of ejecta covered the surrounding areas in darkness for over two days and caused a series of dramatic sunsets around the world throughout the following year. The explosion and subsequent collapse of the volcano left only a remnant of the island above sea level. By 1928, another small island had emerged from a rising volcanic cone.
The eruption on May 8, 1902, killed 29,000, destroying the port town of Saint-Pierre four miles away. Almost all the deaths were caused by the resulting pyroclastic flow -- a deadly, fast-moving cloud of hot gas and dense liquidized volcanic particles. Only two residents of the town survived the flow. Volcanology(also called Volcanism) was at best a primitive science in 1902, and the existence of pyroclastic flows was unknown. After this disaster a "new" type of eruption was named after Mount Pelee - the Pelean-type eruption.
In February 1943, a pile of ash began to rise from a corn field near the town of Parícutin, Mexico. A mountain began to emerge from the earth, reaching a height of 1,200 feet in one year. Although the ensuing nine-year eruption resulted in the destruction of the town of Parícutin, it presented the modern world with a remarkable opportunity to see the birth of a volcano. Only three people died, all by lightning associated with the eruption.
One of the more highly publicized and studied volcanic explosions, Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. The volcano, which had been dormant since 1857, began erupting steam after a series of earthquakes in March 1980. The 1978 prediction of the U.S. Geological Survey that violent and intermittent volcanic activity would begin, "within the next 100 years, and perhaps even before the end of this century," had come true. Luckily, close study of St. Helens prevented a major loss of life. Even so, 60 deaths resulted from the May 18 eruption.
Although the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz (or Mount Ruiz) on November 13, 1985, was relatively small, the ensuing mudslides caused by melting ice and snow resulted in the the death of 23,000 people and the destruction of the town of Armero. Most of the residents would have survived had they moved to higher ground. This eruption brought attention to the fact that growing numbers of people live within the danger zones of the world's volcanoes. A larger eruption of Ruiz in 1845 killed about 700 people.
Killing almost 800 and leaving an estimated 100,000 homeless, Mount Pinatubo's eruption in June 1991 was 10 times larger than the Mount St. Helens' eruption and one of the biggest of the 20th century. It emitted a cloud of smoke and ash over 19 miles high. The evacuation of more than 70,000 people and the volcanic event were broadcast worldwide, making Pinatubo (in)famous throughout the world.