More than 1,000 active volcanoes around our planet can sputter glowing lava and smoky ash, and the world’s biggest one has erupted in Hawaii after 38 years dormant.
The largest active volcano in the world is Mauna Loa, among the five volcanoes that make up Hawaii’s Big Island. The volcano, rising 13,679 feet above sea level, began erupting late Sunday and prompted officials to warn residents of a worst-case scenario and possible evacuations, according to a USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Mauna Loa is significantly shorter than the tallest volcanoes on Earth by height from sea level. But in terms of volume, Mauna Loa and fellow Hawaiian volcano Mauna Kea, which both have immense size below sea level, are considered the largest volcanoes in the world, according to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
Where are the world’s tallest and largest volcanoes?
The world’s highest volcanoes above sea level are all located in the Andes mountains of South America, but massive oceanic volcanoes dwarf other types in comparison.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which calls Mauna Loa the largest active volcano in the world, has an elevation above the sea floor of about 33,500 feet – with about 19,700 feet of its total elevation below sea level.
The world’s highest volcano above sea level is Nevados Ojos del Salado, which towers nearly 23,000 feet over Chile and Argentina, according to the Smithsonian.
Although Mauna Loa is approximately 8,900 feet lower, its height above base is almost 10 times that of the Andean volcano.
20 highest volcanoes in the world
Here are the 20 tallest volcanoes in the world by elevation above sea level, according to Smithsonian:
- 22,569 feet: Nevados Ojos del Salado volcano, Chile and Argentina
- 22,110 feet: Llullaillaco volcano, Chile and Argentina
- 21,844 feet: Tipas, Argentina
- 21,778 feet: Nevado de Incahuasi, Chile and Argentina
- 20,922 feet: Coropuna, Peru
- 20,909 feet: El Condor, Argentina
- 20,787 feet: Parinacota, Chile and Bolivia
- 20,541 feet: Chimborazo, Ecuador
- 20,449 feet: Pular, Chile
- 20,358 feet: El Solo, Chile and Argentina
- 20,253 feet: Sierra Nevada, Chile and Argentina
- 19,997 feet: Aracar, Argentina
- 19,918 feet: Guallatiri, Chile
- 19,915 feet: San Jose, Chile and Argentina
- 19,872 feet: Nevado Chachani, Peru
- 19,787 feet: Socompa, Chile and Argentina
- 19,760 feet: Acamarachi, Chile
- 19,619 feet: Tacora, Chile and Peru
- 19,557 feet: Sairecabur, Chile and Bolivia
- 19,554 feet: Sabancaya, Peru
World’s largest active volcano erupts:Hawaii’s Mauna Loa erupts; officials urge people to take precautionary measures
Falling ash, searing gas:Photos show eruption of Sakurajima volcano in Japan
Ocean crusts become further depressed with each new lava flow, altering a volcano’s true measurements.
But what about the world’s tallest volcanoes by height from their sea floor base? A lack of accurate height-above-base data for enough oceanic volcanoes – measured from their constructional bases rather than sea level – complicates scientists’ ability to provide a meaningful list, Smithsonian says.
How many active volcanoes are in the United States?
The United States ranks third, behind Indonesia and Japan, in the number of historically active volcanoes – with 161 potentially active volcanoes, according to the USGS Volcano Hazards Program.
About 10% of the more than 1,500 volcanoes that have erupted in the past 10,000 years are in the U.S. – mostly located in the Aleutian and Hawaiian Islands, Alaskan Peninsula, and the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest.
Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.
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