Volcanic Explosivity Index

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Volcanic explosivity index)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
VEI and ejecta volume correlation

The Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) is a relative measure of the explosiveness of volcanic eruptions. It was devised by Chris Newhall of the United States Geological Survey and Stephen Self at the University of Hawaii in 1982.

Volume of products, eruption cloud height, and qualitative observations (using terms ranging from "gentle" to "mega-colossal") are used to determine the explosivity value. The scale is open-ended with the largest eruptions in history given a magnitude of 8. A value of 0 is given for non-explosive eruptions, defined as less than 10,000 m3 (350,000 cu ft) of tephra ejected; and 8 representing a mega-colossal explosive eruption that can eject 1.0×1012 m3 (240 cubic miles) of tephra and have a cloud column height of over 20 km (66,000 ft). The scale is logarithmic, with each interval on the scale representing a tenfold increase in observed ejecta criteria, with the exception of between VEI-0, VEI-1 and VEI-2.[1]


With indices running from 0 to 8, the VEI associated with an eruption is dependent on how much volcanic material is thrown out, to what height, and how long the eruption lasts. The scale is logarithmic from VEI-2 and up; an increase of 1 index indicates an eruption that is 10 times as powerful. As such, there is a discontinuity in the definition of the VEI between indices 1 and 2. The lower border of the volume of ejecta jumps by a factor of one hundred, from 10,000 to 1,000,000 m3 (350,000 to 35,310,000 cu ft), while the factor is ten between all higher indices. In the following table, the frequency of each VEI indicates the approximate frequency of new eruptions of that VEI or higher.

VEI Ejecta
Classification Description Plume Frequency Tropospheric
0 < 104 m3 Hawaiian Effusive < 100 m continuous negligible none
Hoodoo Mountain (c. 7050 BC),[3] Erebus (1963), Kīlauea (1977), Mauna Loa (1984), Socorro Island (1993), Mawson Peak (2006), Dallol (2011), Axial Seamount (1998, 2011, 2015), Holuhraun (2014-2015), Piton de la Fournaise (2017)
1 > 104 m3 Hawaiian / Strombolian Gentle 100 m – 1 km daily minor none
Stromboli (since Roman times), Mount Etna (since Roman times), Kick 'em Jenny (1939), Ritter Island (1972, 1974, 2007), Iliwerung (1983), Unzen (1991), Nyiragongo (2002), Raoul Island (2006), Havre Seamount (2012)
2 > 106 m3 Strombolian / Vulcanian Explosive 1–5 km every two weeks moderate none
Unzen (1792), Mount Hood (1865), Ruang (1871), Mount Baker (1880), Ritter Island (1888), Teide (1909), Tristan da Cunha (1961), Didicas (1969), Cumbre Vieja (1949, 1971), Galeras (1993), Mayon (1993), Mount Bromo (2004), Koryaksky (2009), Sinabung (2010), El Hierro (2011-2012), Mount Stromboli (2019), Whakaari (2019)
3 > 107 m3 Strombolian / Vulcanian / Peléan / Sub-Plinian Paroxysmic 3–15 km 3 months substantial possible
Mount Etna (1669), Mount Papandayan (1772), Dubbi (1861), Tori-shima (1902), Taal (1911), Lassen Peak (1915), Paluweh (1928), Mount Merapi (1931), Mount Vesuvius (1944), Hibok-Hibok (1948-1953), Surtsey (1963-1967), Volcán Arenal (1968), Eldfell (1973), Nevado del Ruiz (1985), Mount Redoubt (1989), Karymsky (1996), Soufrière Hills (1997), Jabal al-Tair (2007), Ontake (2014), Kīlauea (2018), Volcán de Fuego (2018), Anak Krakatoa (2018), Cumbre Vieja (2021), Mount Semeru (2021)
4 > 0.1 km3 Peléan / Plinian/Sub-Plinian Catastrophic > 10 km (Plinian or sub-Plinian) 18 months substantial definite
Mount Rainier (c. 250 BC), Kolumbo (1650), Oshima–Ōshima (1741), Laki (1783), Kīlauea (1790), Mayon (1814), Makian (1861), Cotopaxi (1877), Mount Bandai (1888), Pelée (1902), Colima (1889, 1913), Sakurajima (1914), Kelud (1919), Rabaul (1937), Mount Lamington (1951), Galunggung (1982), Chaitén (2008), Eyjafjallajökull (2010), Mount Merapi (2010), Nabro (2011), Mount Sinabung (2013-2018), Calbuco (1893, 2015), Ulawun (2000, 2019), Taal (2020), La Soufrière (2021)
5 > 1 km3 Peléan / Plinian Cataclysmic > 10 km (Plinian) 12 years substantial significant
Avachinsky (c. 1500 BC), Mount Etna (122 BC), Mount Vesuvius (79), Mount Haruna (550), Towada (915), Hekla (1104), Mount Asama (1108), Agua de Pau (1563), Mount Fuji (1707), Mount Tarumae (1667, 1739), Katla (1625, 1721, 1755), Galunggung (1822), Cosigüina (1835), Askja (1875), Mount Tarawera (1886), Cerro Azul (1932), Agung (1963), Mount St. Helens (1980), El Chichón (1982), Hudson (1991), Puyehue (2011)
6 > 10 km3 Plinian / Ultra-Plinian Colossal > 20 km 50–100 yrs substantial substantial
Laacher See (c. 10,950 BC), Nevado de Toluca (8,550 BC), Fisher Caldera (c. 7420 BC), Menengai (c. 6050 BC), Veniaminof (c. 1750 BC), Ambrym (50), Lake Ilopango (450), Ceboruco (930), Quilotoa (1280), Bárðarbunga (1477), Billy Mitchell (1580), Huaynaputina (1600), Long Island (1660), Krakatoa (1883), Santa Maria (1902), Novarupta (1912), Mount Pinatubo (1991)
7 > 100 km3 Ultra-Plinian Super-colossal > 20 km 500–1,000 yrs substantial substantial
Mesa Falls Tuff (1,300,000 BC), Valles Caldera (1,264,000 BC), Phlegraean Fields (37,000 BC), Aira Caldera (22,000 BC), Kurile Lake (c. 6460 BC) Mount Mazama (c. 5,700 BC), Kikai Caldera (4,300 BC), Cerro Blanco (c. 2300 BC), Santorini (c. 1620 BC), Taupō (180), Paektu (946), Samalas (1257), Mount Tambora (1815)
8 > 1,000 km3 Ultra-Plinian Mega-colossal > 20 km > 50,000 yrs[4][5] vast vast
Wah Wah Springs (30,000,000 BC), La Garita (26,300,000 BC), Ōdai Caldera (13,700,000 BC), Cerro Galán (2,200,000 BC), Huckleberry Ridge Tuff (2,100,000 BC), Yellowstone (630,000 BC), Whakamaru (in TVZ) (254,000 BC),[6] Toba (74,000 BC), Taupō (26,500 BC)

About 40 eruptions of VEI-8 magnitude within the last 132 million years (Mya) have been identified, of which 30 occurred in the past 36 million years. Considering the estimated frequency is on the order of once in 50,000 years,[4] there are likely many such eruptions in the last 132 Mya that are not yet known. Based on incomplete statistics, other authors assume that at least 60 VEI-8 eruptions have been identified.[7][8] The most recent is Lake Taupō's Oruanui eruption, more than 27,000 years ago, which means that there have not been any Holocene eruptions with a VEI of 8.[9]

There have been at least 10 eruptions of VEI-7 in the last 11,700 years. There are also 58 Plinian eruptions, and 13 caldera-forming eruptions, of large, but unknown magnitudes. By 2010, the Global Volcanism Program of the Smithsonian Institution had cataloged the assignment of a VEI for 7,742 volcanic eruptions that occurred during the Holocene (the last 11,700 years) which account for about 75% of the total known eruptions during the Holocene. Of these 7,742 eruptions, about 49% have a VEI of 2 or less, and 90% have a VEI of 3 or less.[10]


Under the VEI, ash, lava, lava bombs, and ignimbrite are all treated alike. Density and vesicularity (gas bubbling) of the volcanic products in question is not taken into account. In contrast, the DRE (dense-rock equivalent) is sometimes calculated to give the actual amount of magma erupted. Another weakness of the VEI is that it does not take into account the power output of an eruption, which makes the VEI extremely difficult to determine with prehistoric or unobserved eruptions.

Although VEI is quite suitable for classifying the explosive magnitude of eruptions, the index is not as significant as sulfur dioxide emissions in quantifying their atmospheric and climatic impact.[11]

Lists of large eruptions[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Newhall, Christopher G.; Self, Stephen (1982). "The Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): An Estimate of Explosive Magnitude for Historical Volcanism" (PDF). Journal of Geophysical Research. 87 (C2): 1231–1238. Bibcode:1982JGR....87.1231N. doi:10.1029/JC087iC02p01231. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 13, 2013.
  2. ^ "Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI)". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on November 10, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
  3. ^ "Hoodoo Mountain: Eruptive History". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  4. ^ a b Dosseto, A. (2011). Turner, S. P.; Van-Orman, J. A. (eds.). Timescales of Magmatic Processes: From Core to Atmosphere. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4443-3260-5.
  5. ^ Rothery, David A. (2010), Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis, Teach Yourself
  6. ^ Froggatt, P. C.; Nelson, C. S.; Carter, L.; Griggs, G.; Black, K. P. (13 February 1986). "An exceptionally large late Quaternary eruption from New Zealand". Nature. 319 (6054): 578–582. Bibcode:1986Natur.319..578F. doi:10.1038/319578a0. S2CID 4332421.
  7. ^ BG, Mason (2004). "The size and frequency of the largest explosive eruptions on Earth". Bull Volcanol. 66 (8): 735–748. Bibcode:2004BVol...66..735M. doi:10.1007/s00445-004-0355-9. S2CID 129680497.
  8. ^ Bryan, S.E. (2010). "The largest volcanic eruptions on Earth" (PDF). Earth-Science Reviews. 102 (3–4): 207–229. Bibcode:2010ESRv..102..207B. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2010.07.001.
  9. ^ Mason, Ben G.; Pyle, David M.; Oppenheimer, Clive (2004). "The size and frequency of the largest explosive eruptions on Earth". Bulletin of Volcanology. 66 (8): 735–748. Bibcode:2004BVol...66..735M. doi:10.1007/s00445-004-0355-9. S2CID 129680497.
  10. ^ Siebert, L.; Simkin, T.; Kimberly, P. (2010). Volcanoes of the World (3rd ed.). University of California Press. pp. 28–38. ISBN 978-0-520-26877-7.
  11. ^ Miles, M. G.; Grainger, R. G.; Highwood, E. J. (2004). "Volcanic Aerosols: The significance of volcanic eruption strength and frequency for climate" (PDF). Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 130 (602): 2361–2376. Bibcode:2004QJRMS.130.2361M. doi:10.1256/qj.03.60.

External links[edit]