11 Most Powerful Volcanic Eruptions in History

By Raza Mehdi

Dec 08, 2022

Five years after unearthing the remains of the Vesuvius eruption, a massive blast shook the high plateau area in Southern Peru. The eruption had somewhat impacted the climate, even creating a Little Ice Age.

Huaynaputina — Peru, 1600

Image: Pexels

The volcanic fissure or cracks at the surface known as Lakagígar released a toxic blast that year and hovered for eight months, killing people and livestock. The famine caused by the eruption might have incited the French Revolution.

Laki — Iceland, 1783

The August 24 eruption buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, leaving behind a dreadful scene of the last moments of people who had stayed behind hoping to wait it out. But another blast gassed and incinerated the cities, burying them in mud and ash.

Mount Vesuvius, Italy, 79 A.D.

Image: Wikipedia Images

The most famous eruption after Vesuvius was also the obliteration of Krakatoa. The blast destroyed the entire island, creating a tsunami that reportedly had waves over 150 feet high and generated hurricane-force winds.

Krakatoa, Indonesia, 1883

Image: Wikipedia Images

20th century's first significant blast happened when Santa Maria Volcano’s southern side exploded in an eruption, leaving a mile-wide crater in the side of the mountain. The eruption killed at least 5000 people, although the number is understated.

Santa Maria Volcano, Guatemala, 1902

Video: Pexels

Alaska’s Ring of Fire was the next major eruption of the 20th century, with Novarupta covering the surrounding area with over one foot of ash. The incident even prompted an atmospheric haze that may have reduced summer temperatures.

Novarupta, Alaska, 1912

This was the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The volcano erupted on 15 June, creating an ash cloud that rose 35km into the air. The eruption led to massive avalanches of pyroclastic flows and caused global temperatures to plummet.

Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, 1991

Image: Wikipedia Images

This eruption is presumed to have destroyed several Mayan cities, killing around 100,000 people. Ash and dust filled the atmosphere for more than a year. It is thought to be the cause of the global cooling that led to crop failures from Rome to China.

Mount Ilopango, El Salvador, 450 A.D.

Video: Pexels

The eruption of Baitoushan led to ash and debris strewn as far away as Japan, some 750 miles from the epicentre. The blast created a volcanic crater nearly 3 miles wide and a half-mile deep, which today holds Lake Tianchi.

Baitoushan Volcano, China, 1000 A.D.

Image: Pexels

The still active Mt. Tambora ranks as the most explosive volcanic event ever recorded by humans. The initial blasts were heard some 1200 miles away! Tambora spewed 12 cubic miles of gases and dust 25 miles into the atmosphere, drenching ash around the islands. Roughly 100,000 people perished!

Mount Tambora, Indonesia, 1815

Image: Wikipedia Images

The supervolcano is believed to have erupted at least three times: 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 664,000 years ago. The last left a depression in the ground, 54 km by 80 km in size. Today, the magma underneath Yellowstone is 8 km deep and could bury the Rocky Mountain range in ash if it ever erupted.

Yellowstone, U.S, 664,000 years ago

Image: US Geological Survey