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15 Huge Volcanic Eruptions Across History

Updated on April 17, 2010

Volcanoes are amazing natural wonders. They’re also terrifying. When they erupt, they can devastate the entire area surrounding them. They take lives and land. Here’s a look at 15 of history’s largest volcanic eruptions.

1.     Mount Skaptar, Iceland, 1783. We all know about the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland but that’s nothing compared to this one that happened late in the eighteenth century. The problem was that the volcano destroyed the country’s food sources (farms and fishing areas) and resulted in a famine that killed off about 20% of Iceland’s population at the time.

2.     Mount Pinatubo, Phillippines, 1991. This fairly recent volcanic eruption wasn’t just bad for the people living in the Phillippines. It was bad for the entire planet. That’s because the 22 million tons of sulfur dioxide that it released actually lowered the temperature of the Earth by at least .5 degrees Celsius.

3.     Mount Krakatoa, Indonesia, 1883. This is a very well-known volcanic eruption. The whole thing lasted for months but that’s not why it’s famous. It’s famous because the eruption was so loud that it could actually be heard by people living over 2000 miles away. It is said to be the loudest sound heard by humans. It was also devastating, of course; 75% of the island its on was destroyed because of it.

4.     Mount Tambora, Indonesia, 1815. This is reported to be the most devastating volcanic eruption of all time in terms of death count alone. Over 10,000 people died as a direct result of the falling ash from the 5-day-long eruption. Another 80,000+ died from other reasons related to the eruption.

5.     Mount Vesuvius, Italy, Multiple Times. The first time that this volcano was known to erupt and kill people was way back in the year 79. It has erupted numerous times since then (at least one dozen) and left devastation in its wake. For example, in the seventeenth century the eruption resulted in boiling hot lava covering the nearby areas and killing 6000 people.

6.     Nevado del Ruiz, Columbia, 1985. This relatively recent volcano reveals a big fact about volcanoes which is that much of their devastation is caused after the initial eruption. In this case, the eruption caused mudslides that killed many people. Over 23,000 people died because of this volcanic eruption.

7.     Mount Kelut, Indonesia, 1919. The mudslides associated with this volcano were also the major cause of deaths. This one wasn’t as big as the one in Columbia but it did still kill more than 5000 people in those mudslides.

8.     Mount Galunggung, Indonesia, 1882. You may have noticed that many of the volcanoes on this list are in Indonesia. That’s because this area has the most active volcanoes of anywhere in the world. This one killed over 4000 people and destroyed the area.

9.     Mount Papandayan, Indonesia, 1772. This volcano was forever changed in shape after an eruption which caused one entire side of it to collapse. The resulting avalanche destroyed more than three dozen villages in the area.

10. El Chichon, Mexico, 1982. This is another volcano that changed significantly after eruption; it created a crater that now contains an acidic lake. This volcano is well-known because it measurably cooled the temperature of the earth due to its sulfuric eruption. It also killed approximately 2000 people.

11. Mt. Pelee, West Indies, 1902. At the turn of the century, this volcano exploded and essentially eradicated an entire city. 40,000 people died and the city of St. Pierre effectively ceased to exist.

12. Soufriere, St. Vincent, 1902. Right before the big eruption of Mt. Pelee, the Caribbean saw another eruption on the island of Saint Vincent. 1680 people were killed.

13. Mt. Unzen, Japan, 1792. The Pacific Rim of Fire is known for being a very active volcanic area. This specific eruption caused a wave of problems including avalanches and tsunamis. The result was 15000 people dead.

14. Mt. Lamington, Papua New Guinea, 1951. This was a sneaky volcano. Nobody knew that it was a volcano until it erupted in 1951 and killed 3000 people.

15. Kick-‘em-Jenny, Caribbean Sea, Multiple Times. This volcano hasn’t actually killed a lot of people but that’s because it’s located underwater. It’s worthy of this list because it’s one of the largest underwater volcanoes in the world and is also a fairly active underwater volcano. There are rules in place that prevent divers from getting too close to this volcano because of its activity.

Sources: LiveScience, InfoPlease and Top 10 List


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  • profile image

    Hud35ad 3 years ago

    I don't think I like volcano gas.

  • unvrso profile image

    Jose Juan Gutierrez 5 years ago from Mexico City

    You've provided a detailed list of volcanic eruptions that have occurred around the world. It's a great job you have done. I'll keep visiting for the updated list. Voted interesting!

  • profile image

    ana 6 years ago

    need taal information

  • WirelessGuy profile image

    charlieiPad 6 years ago from Jakarta

  • profile image

    jingky _17 7 years ago

    its so nice..thanks...

  • borge_009 profile image

    borge_009 7 years ago from Philippines

    When Mount Pinatubo erupted, it was also accompanied by a great typhoon. Though that disaster had never reached our place, I still can remember hearing the news and what it had brought to the citizens here. Thanks for sharing this one.

  • ramkkasturi profile image

    ramkkasturi 7 years ago from India

    Good material. Thanks. I once had seen a documentary, perhaps of the papaua sneeky volcanoe, where I had seen a child stuck in the lava and stayed there for many hours till she finally surrendered. No one was able to save her.


  • Katrina Ariel profile image

    Katrina Ariel 7 years ago from The Highlands of British Columbia, Canada

    Very interesting. Thanks!

  • betherann profile image

    Beth Morey 7 years ago from Montana

    I love learning about natural disasters -- great hub!

  • profile image

    simplestuff 7 years ago

    love your timing Kathryn, great hub :)

  • profile image

    Nan 7 years ago

    Your information is good for teaching a class on natural elements that we can't control. No matter what happens they erupt at will, and as far as I know it is not predictable. I wonder if there is a way to counter the eruptions, its like a giant bomb waiting to go off at will. Keep up the research and writing.

  • BkCreative profile image

    BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

    Great hub! Thanks for all the information. The volcanoes do exist and we just don't think about them. In fact I was happily touring an island on the Pacific rim which in fact was a volcano - and I was reminded that all the craters are just part of the 'sleeping giants' - Yikes!

    Fascinating! Thanks!

  • theblackedition profile image

    Shane Brown-Daniels 7 years ago from Jamaica

    Good timing for this hub Kathryn. You are one clever Hubber. Thanks for the well organized and presented info.