If you haven't read it yet, you might be scoffing at the scenario we posed in this issue's What If? feature. “Deadly volcanoes?” you ask. “How can anyone die by lava when it moves so slowly?” Well, outrunning flowing magma might be the least of your worries.

In 1985, Colombia's Nevado del Ruiz erupted, melting summit glaciers and causing mudflows to blanket nearby towns. More than 25,000 people died. Closer to home, Mount St. Helens blew her lid in 1980, killing more than 50 people — most died due to asphyxiation from ash and toxic gas. Volcanoes have been fatal in other ways, from ejecting lethal debris to causing devastating tsunamis and even famine.

So, pay attention to any news reports about active volcanoes. Even if you don't live next to them, you could be vacationing nearby when one of these blows. Or, at the very least, you could spew fun facts the next time your wife decides to watch Joe Versus the Volcano for the umpteenth time. Below is a just a handful of the many active volcanoes on this molten rock we call Earth.


Mount St. Helens, Washington

  • 1980 Death Toll: 57
  • Last Volcanic Activity: 2004 to 2008

Mount Unzen, Japan

  • Made of overlapping stratovolcanoes
  • Caused a tsunami in 1792 that killed 15,000

Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii

  • Average Eruption: Every 6 years
  • World's largest active volcano

Popocatépetl, Mexico

  • Most active volcano in Mexico
  • Spewed gas and ash over 16 miles in 1994

Krakatau, Indonesia

  • 1883 Death Toll: 36,000 people and the island itself
  • Since 1927, a new island volcano (Anak Krakatau) has been building at the same location

Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand

  • Minor eruptions happen annually
  • Major explosions occur about once every 50 years


National Geographic Society > education.nationalgeographic.com
The Weather Channel > www.weather.com
U.S. Geological Survey > www.usgs.gov

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