A volcanic crater is a circular depression in the ground caused by volcanic activity. It is typically a basin, circular in form within which occurs a vent (or vents) from which magma erupts as gases, lava, and ejecta. A crater can be of large dimensions, and sometimes of great depth. During certain types of climactic eruptions, the volcano's magma chamber may empty enough for an area above it to subside, forming what may appear to be a crater but is actually known as a caldera.
In the majority of typical volcanoes, the crater is situated at the top of a mountain formed from the erupted volcanic deposits such as lava flows and tephra. Volcanoes that terminate in such a summit crater are usually of a conical form. Other volcanic craters may be found on the flanks of volcanoes, and these are commonly referred to as flank craters. Some volcanic craters may fill either fully or partially with rain and/or melted snow, forming a crater lake.
Breached craters have a much lower rim on one side than the rest. A crater may be breached during an eruption, either by explosions or by lava, or through later erosion.
Some volcanoes, such as maars, consist of a crater alone, with scarcely any mountain at all. These volcanic explosion craters are formed when magma rises through water-saturated rocks and causes a phreatic eruption. Volcanic craters from phreatic eruptions often occur on plains away from other obvious volcanoes. Not all volcanoes leave craters.
- "Glossary of Terms: C". physicalgeography.net. Retrieved 2008-04-12.