Timeline of volcanism on Earth

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2011 Puyehue-Cordón Caulle eruption1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens1912 eruption of NovaruptaYellowstone CalderaAD 79 Eruption of Mount Vesuvius1902 eruption of Santa María1280 eruption of Quilotoa1600 eruption of Huaynaputina2010 eruptions of EyjafjallajökullYellowstone Caldera1783 eruption of Laki1477 eruption of Bárðarbunga1650 eruption of KolumboVolcanic activity at SantoriniToba catastrophe theoryKuril IslandsBaekdu MountainKikai Caldera1991 eruption of Mount PinatuboLong Island (Papua New Guinea)1815 eruption of Mount Tambora1883 eruption of Krakatoa2010 eruptions of Mount MerapiBilly Mitchell (volcano)Taupo VolcanoTaupo VolcanoTaupo VolcanoCrater Lake
Clickable imagemap of notable volcanic eruptions. The apparent volume of each bubble is linearly proportional to the volume of tephra ejected, colour-coded by time of eruption as in the legend. Pink lines denote convergent boundaries, blue lines denote divergent boundaries and yellow spots denote hotspots.

This timeline of volcanism on Earth is a list of major volcanic eruptions of approximately at least magnitude 6 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) or equivalent sulfur dioxide emission around the Quaternary period (from 2.58 Mya to the present).

Some eruptions cooled the global climate—inducing a volcanic winter—depending on the amount of sulfur dioxide emitted[1] and the magnitude of the eruption.[2] Before the present Holocene epoch, the criteria are less strict because of scarce data availability, partly since later eruptions have destroyed the evidence. Only some eruptions before the Neogene period (from 23 Mya to 2.58 Mya) are listed. Known large eruptions after the Paleogene period (from 66 Mya to 23 Mya) are listed, especially those relating to the Yellowstone hotspot, the Santorini caldera, and the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

Active volcanoes such as Stromboli, Mount Etna and Kīlauea do not appear on this list, but some back-arc basin volcanoes that generated calderas do appear. Some dangerous volcanoes in "populated areas" appear many times: so Santorini, six times and Yellowstone hotspot, 21 times. The Bismarck volcanic arc, New Britain, and the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand, appear often too.

In addition to the events listed below, are many examples of eruptions in the Holocene on the Kamchatka Peninsula,[3] which are described in a supplemental table by Peter Ward.[4]

Large Quaternary eruptions[edit]

The Holocene epoch begins 11,700 years BP[5] (10,000 14C years ago).

Since 1000 AD[edit]

  • Pinatubo, island of Luzon, Philippines; 1991, June 15; VEI 6; 6 to 16 km3 (1.4 to 3.8 cu mi) of tephra;[6] an estimated 20,000,000 tonnes (22,000,000 short tons) of SO
    were emitted[2]
  • Novarupta, Alaska Peninsula; 1912, June 6; VEI 6; 13 to 15 km3 (3.1 to 3.6 cu mi) of lava[7][8][9]
  • Santa Maria, Guatemala; 1902, October 24; VEI 6; 20 km3 (4.8 cu mi) of tephra[10]
  • Krakatoa, Indonesia; 1883, August 26–27; VEI 6; 21 km3 (5.0 cu mi) of tephra[11]
  • Mount Tambora, Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia; 1815, Apr 10; VEI 7; 150 km3 (36 cu mi) of tephra;[6] an estimated 200,000,000 t (220,000,000 short tons) of SO
    were emitted, produced the "Year Without a Summer"[12]
  • 1808 mystery eruption, VEI 6–7; discovered from ice cores in the 1980s.[13][14][15]
  • Grímsvötn, Northeastern Iceland; 1783–1785; Laki; 1783–1784; VEI 6; 14 km3 (3.4 cu mi) of lava, an estimated 120,000,000 t (130,000,000 short tons) of SO
    were emitted, produced a Volcanic winter, 1783, on the North Hemisphere.[16]
  • Long Island (Papua New Guinea), Northeast of New Guinea; 1660 ±20; VEI 6; 30 km3 (7.2 cu mi) of tephra[6]
  • Kolumbo, Santorini, Greece; 1650, September 27; VEI 5; 2 km3 (0.5 cu mi) of tephra[17]
  • Huaynaputina, Peru; 1600, February 19; VEI 6; 30 km3 (7.2 cu mi) of tephra[18]
  • Billy Mitchell, Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea; 1580 ±20; VEI 6; 14 km3 (3.4 cu mi) of tephra[6]
  • Bárðarbunga, Northeastern Iceland; 1477; VEI 6; 10 cubic kilometres (2.4 cu mi) of tephra[6]
  • 1465 mystery eruption "the location of this eruption is uncertain, as it has only been identified from distant ice core records and atmospheric events around the time of King Alfonso II of Naples's wedding; it is believed to have been VEI 7 and possibly even larger than Mount Tambora's in 1815.[19][20]
  • 1452–53 New Hebrides arc, Vanuatu; the location of this eruption in the South Pacific is uncertain, as it has been identified from distant ice core records; the only pyroclastic flows are found at Kuwae; 36 to 96 km3 (8.6 to 23.0 cu mi) of tephra; 175,000,000–700,000,000 t (193,000,000–772,000,000 short tons) of sulfuric acid[21][22][23]
  • 1280(?) in Quilotoa, Ecuador; VEI 6; 21 km3 (5.0 cu mi) of tephra[6]
  • 1257 Samalas eruption, Rinjani volcanic complex, Lombok Island, Indonesia; 40 km3 (dense-rock equivalent) of tephra, Arctic and Antarctic Ice cores provide compelling evidence to link the ice core sulfate spike of 1258/1259 A.D. to this volcano.[24][25]

Overview of Common Era[edit]

This is a sortable summary of 27 major eruptions in the last 2000 years with VEI ≥6, implying an average of about 1.3 per century. The count does not include the notable VEI 5 eruptions of Mount St. Helens and Mount Vesuvius. Date uncertainties, tephra volumes, and references are also not included.

Caldera/ Eruption name Volcanic arc/ belt
or Subregion or Hotspot
VEI Date Known/proposed consequences
Mount Pinatubo Luzon Volcanic Arc 6 1991, Jun 15 Global temperature fell by 0.4 °C
Novarupta Aleutian Range 6 1912, Jun 6
Santa María Central America Volcanic Arc 6 1902, Oct 24
Krakatoa Sunda Arc 6 1883, Aug 26–27 At least 30,000 dead
Mount Tambora Lesser Sunda Islands 7 1815, Apr 10 Year Without a Summer (1816)
1808 mystery eruption Southwestern Pacific Ocean 6 1808, Dec A sulfate spike in ice cores
Grímsvötn and Laki Iceland 6 1783–85 Mist Hardships, French Revolution
Long Island (Papua New Guinea) Bismarck Volcanic Arc 6 1660
Huaynaputina Andes, Central Volcanic Zone 6 1600, Feb 19 Russian famine of 1601–1603
Billy Mitchell Bougainville & Solomon Is. 6 1580
Bárðarbunga Iceland 6 1477
10 October 1465 mystery eruption unknown 7 1465 Possibly larger than Mount Tambora's
Kuwae New Hebrides Arc 6 1452–53 2nd pulse[26] of Little Ice Age?
Quilotoa Andes, Northern Volcanic Zone 6 1280
Samalas (Mount Rinjani) Lombok, Lesser Sunda Islands 7 1257 1257 Samalas eruption, 1st pulse[27][28] of Little Ice Age? (c.1250)
Baekdu Mountain/Tianchi eruption China/ North Korea border 7 946, Nov-947 Limited regional climatic effects.[29]
Katla/Eldgjá eruption Iceland 6 934–940
Ceboruco Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt 6 930
Dakataua Bismarck Volcanic Arc 6 800
Pago Bismarck Volcanic Arc 6 710
Mount Churchill eastern Alaska, USA 6 700
Rabaul Caldera Bismarck Volcanic Arc 6 540 (est.) Extreme weather events of 535–536
Ilopango Central America Volcanic Arc 6 450
Ksudach Kamchatka Peninsula 6 240
Taupo Caldera/Hatepe eruption Taupo Volcano 7 180 or 230 Affected skies over Rome and China
Mount Vesuvius/Pompeii eruption Italy 5 79
Mount Churchill eastern Alaska, USA 6 60
Ambrym New Hebrides Arc 6 50
Apoyeque Central America Volcanic Arc 6 50 BC (±100)

Note: Caldera names tend to change over time. For example, Okataina Caldera, Haroharo Caldera, Haroharo volcanic complex, Tarawera volcanic complex had the same magma source in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Yellowstone Caldera, Henry's Fork Caldera, Island Park Caldera, Heise Volcanic Field had all Yellowstone hotspot as magma source.

Earlier Quaternary eruptions[edit]

2.588 ± 0.005 million years BP, the Quaternary period and Pleistocene epoch begin.

Large Neogene eruptions[edit]

Pliocene eruptions[edit]

Approximately 5.332 million years BP, the Pliocene epoch begins. Most eruptions before the Quaternary period have an unknown VEI.

Timeline of volcanism on Earth is located in Nevada
Santa Rosa-Calico
Santa Rosa-Calico
Virgin Valley
Virgin Valley
Black Mountain
Black Mountain
Silent Canyon
Silent Canyon
Timber Mountain
Timber Mountain
Long Valley
Long Valley
Lunar Crater
Lunar Crater
Nevada/ California:
Volcanism locations.
Timeline of volcanism on Earth is located in Colorado
La Garita
La Garita
Lake City
Lake City
Colorado volcanism. Links: La Garita, Cochetopa and North Pass (North Pass), Lake City, and Dotsero.
Timeline of volcanism on Earth is located in New Mexico
New Mexico volcanism. Links: Valles, Socorro, Potrillo, Carrizozo, and Zuni-Bandera.

Miocene eruptions[edit]

Approximately 23.03 million years BP, the Neogene period and Miocene epoch begin.

  • Cerro Guacha, Bolivia; 5.6–5.8 Ma (Guacha ignimbrite).[59]
  • Lord Howe Island, Australia; Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower are both made of basalt rock, remnants of lava flows that once filled a large volcanic caldera 6.4 Ma.[60]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, Heise volcanic field, Idaho; 5.51 Ma ±0.13 (Conant Creek Tuff).[58]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, Heise volcanic field, Idaho; 5.6 Ma; 500 cubic kilometers (120 cu mi) of Blue Creek Tuff.[4]
  • Cerro Panizos (size: 18 km wide), Altiplano-Puna Volcanic Complex, Bolivia; 6.1 Ma; 652 cubic kilometers (156 cu mi) of Panizos Ignimbrite.[4][61]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, Heise volcanic field, Idaho; 6.27 Ma ±0.04 (Walcott Tuff).[58]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, Heise volcanic field, Idaho; Blacktail Caldera (size: 100 x 60 km), Idaho; 6.62 Ma ±0.03; 1,500 cubic kilometers (360 cu mi) of Blacktail Tuff.[4][58]
  • Pastos Grandes Caldera (size: 40 x 50 km), Altiplano-Puna Volcanic Complex, Bolivia; 8.3 Ma; 652 cubic kilometers (156 cu mi) of Sifon Ignimbrite.[4]
  • Manus Island, Admiralty Islands, northern Papua New Guinea; 8–10 Ma
  • Banks Peninsula, New Zealand; Akaroa erupted 9 Ma, Lyttelton erupted 12 Ma.[62]
  • Mascarene Islands were formed in a series of undersea volcanic eruptions 8–10 Ma, as the African plate drifted over the Réunion hotspot.
  • Yellowstone hotspot, Twin Fall volcanic field, Idaho; 8.6 to 10 Ma.[63]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, Picabo volcanic field, Idaho; 10.21 Ma ± 0.03 (Arbon Valley Tuff).[58]
  • Mount Cargill, New Zealand; the last eruptive phase ended some 10 Ma. The center of the caldera is about Port Chalmers, the main port of the city of Dunedin.[64][65][66]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, Idaho; Bruneau-Jarbidge volcanic field; 10.0 to 12.5 Ma (Ashfall Fossil Beds eruption).[63]
  • Anahim hotspot, British Columbia, Canada; has generated the Anahim Volcanic Belt over the last 13 million years.
  • Yellowstone hotspot, Owyhee-Humboldt volcanic field, Nevada/ Oregon; around 12.8 to 13.9 Ma.[63][67]
  • Tejeda Caldera, Gran Canaria, Spain; 13.9 Ma; the 80 km3 eruption produced a composite ignimbrite (P1) of rhyolite, trachyte and basaltic materials, with a thickness of 30 metres at 10 km from the caldera center[68]
  • Gran Canaria shield basalt eruption, Spain; 14.5 to 14 Ma; 1,000 km3 of tholeiitic to alkali basalts
  • Campi Flegrei, Naples, Italy; 14.9 Ma; 79 cubic kilometers (19 cu mi) of Neapolitan Yellow Tuff.[4]
  • Huaylillas Ignimbrite, Bolivia, southern Peru, northern Chile; 15 Ma ±1; 1,100 cubic kilometers (264 cu mi) of tephra.[4]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, McDermitt volcanic field (North), Trout Creek Mountains, Whitehorse Caldera (size: 15 km wide), Oregon; 15 Ma; 40 cubic kilometers (10 cu mi) of Whitehorse Creek Tuff.[4][69]
  • Yellowstone hotspot (?), Lake Owyhee volcanic field; 15.0 to 15.5 Ma.[70]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, McDermitt volcanic field (South), Jordan Meadow Caldera, (size: 10–15 km wide), Nevada/ Oregon; 15.6 Ma; 350 cubic kilometers (84 cu mi) Longridge Tuff member 2-3.[4][63][69][71]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, McDermitt volcanic field (South), Longridge Caldera, (size: 33 km wide), Nevada/ Oregon; 15.6 Ma; 400 cubic kilometers (96 cu mi) Longridge Tuff member 5.[4][63][69][71]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, McDermitt volcanic field (South), Calavera Caldera, (size: 17 km wide), Nevada/ Oregon; 15.7 Ma; 300 cubic kilometers (72 cu mi) of Double H Tuff.[4][63][69][71]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, McDermitt volcanic field (South), Hoppin Peaks Caldera, 16 Ma; Hoppin Peaks Tuff.[72]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, McDermitt volcanic field (North), Trout Creek Mountains, Pueblo Caldera (size: 20 x 10 km), Oregon; 15.8 Ma; 40 cubic kilometers (10 cu mi) of Trout Creek Mountains Tuff.[4][69][72]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, McDermitt volcanic field (South), Washburn Caldera, (size: 30 x 25 km wide), Nevada/ Oregon; 16.548 Ma; 250 cubic kilometers (60 cu mi) of Oregon Canyon Tuff.[4][69][71]
  • Yellowstone hotspot (?), Northwest Nevada volcanic field (NWNV), Virgin Valley, High Rock, Hog Ranch, and unnamed calderas; West of Pine Forest Range, Nevada; 15.5 to 16.5 Ma.[73]
  • Yellowstone hotspot, Steens and Columbia River flood basalts, Pueblo, Steens, and Malheur Gorge-region, Pueblo Mountains, Steens Mountain, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, USA; most vigorous eruptions were from 14–17 Ma; 180,000 cubic kilometers (43,184 cu mi) of lava.[4][74][75][76][77][78][79][80]
  • Mount Lindesay (New South Wales), Australia; is part of the remnants of the Nandewar extinct volcano that ceased activity about 17 Ma after 4 million years of activity.
  • Oxaya Ignimbrites, northern Chile (around 18°S); 19 Ma; 3,000 cubic kilometers (720 cu mi) of tephra.[4]
  • Pemberton Volcanic Belt was erupting about 21 to 22 Ma.[81]

Volcanism before the Neogene[edit]

Distribution of selected hotspots. The numbers in the figure are related to the listed hotspots on Hotspot (geology).


Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI)[edit]

VEI and ejecta volume correlation
VEI Tephra Volume
(cubic kilometers)
0 Effusive Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua, 1570
1 >0.00001 Poás Volcano, Costa Rica, 1991
2 >0.001 Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand, 1971
3 >0.01 Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia, 1985
4 >0.1 Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland, 2010
5 >1 Mount St. Helens, United States, 1980
6 >10 Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, 1991
7 >100 Mount Tambora, Indonesia, 1815
8 >1000 Yellowstone Caldera, United States, Pleistocene


Volcanic dimming[edit]

The global dimming through volcanism (ash aerosol and sulfur dioxide) is quite independent of the eruption VEI.[99][100][101] When sulfur dioxide (boiling point at standard state: -10 °C) reacts with water vapor, it creates sulfate ions (the precursors to sulfuric acid), which are very reflective; ash aerosol on the other hand absorbs Ultraviolet.[102] Global cooling through volcanism is the sum of the influence of the global dimming and the influence of the high albedo of the deposited ash layer.[103] The lower snow line and its higher albedo might prolong this cooling period.[104] Bipolar comparison showed six sulfate events: Tambora (1815), Cosigüina (1835), Krakatoa (1883), Agung (1963), and El Chichón (1982), and the 1808 mystery eruption.[105] And the atmospheric transmission of direct solar radiation data from the Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO), Hawaii (19°32'N) detected only five eruptions:[106]


But very large sulfur dioxide emissions overdrive the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere. Carbon monoxide's and methane's concentration goes up (greenhouse gases), global temperature goes up, ocean's temperature goes up, and ocean's carbon dioxide solubility goes down.[1]

Map gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


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