conical volcano


Cinder Cone Volcano


Although they can refer to a part of a volcano cinder cones, or scoria cones, are actually volcanoes themselves. Cinder cone volcanoes are the volcanoes that most people think of when they picture a volcano erupting. That is because these are the ones that have a cone-shaped peak most people have come to associate with volcanoes in general. The main feature of cinder cone volcanoes is their conical shape together with steeply angled sides.

You are most likely to find this type of volcano near other larger volcanoes and these are relatively small in comparison. They are frequently near calderas, stratovolcanoes and shield volcanoes. They can range from tens of meters to hundreds and will usually be created over much shorter periods of time than other volcanoes. In addition, they will generally be topped by a crater at their summit.


When compared to the eruptions you will find with other volcanoes, cinder cone volcanoes have relatively small ones. In their eruptions the lava will generally erupt from one of the small vents found in the crust and fragments will be sprayed into the air. Because these fragments, called scoria or cinders, are melted rock with gas-filled pieces they cool very quickly and will generally accumulate near the opening of the vent, continuing the development of the cone shape of the volcano. Because these fragments can seem to sparkle and glow, they can make very beautiful and dramatic displays during eruptions.

In some cases when strong winds are blowing at the time of the eruption, cinder cone volcanoes may have slightly different shapes at their base, such as more of a horseshoe instead of the normal circular base.

Cerro Negro

Cerro Negro is located in Nicaragua and is currently the youngest volcano in Central America. It was first created in April of 1850 and since then has been one of the most active in the country. This volcano is in a group of four cinder cone volcanoes located in the Maribios Range. This cone is the result of Strombolian eruptions that occurred several years apart and is 500 meters high.


Paricutin is a cinder cone located in Mexico and first started developing on a farm in 1943. It was caused by gas escaping from the molten lava within, which then formed cinders which landed around the vent and eventually built the cone to an altitude of 1,200 feet. It also has a crater at the top that is the result of its last explosive eruption. Paricutin was active for nine years, during which time it destroyed the nearby town San Juan and covered a large area of around a hundred square miles with ash.

Lava Butte

Lava Butte is one of the over 400 cinder cone volcanoes that surround the Newberry volcano. Normal cones in this area are generally 200 feet high while some of the larger ones reach 400 feet. Lava Butte, however, is 4,970 feet high and has created a flow that goes five miles north and three to the west.

Raton Clayton Volcanic Field

Another area with a great deal of cinder cone volcanoes is the Raton Clayton volcanic field located in the northeastern portion of New Mexico. This area has around 120 cinder cones that range from 2,300 years old to over a million. The youngest cone in this field, Capulin, is also one of the most impressive as its rim has a circumference of around 1.7 kilometers, the volcano itself is 305 meters tall and its crater is 125 meters deep.

Sunset Crater

Sunset Crater is in the group of the youngest cinder cone volcanoes found within the United States (with the exception of Hawaii and Alaska). This volcano was created when a 15 kilometer fissure opened and produced small lava flow in addition to a curtain of fire. Over time the volcano built from the results of this fissure.


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Stratovolcanoes, or composite volcanoes, are similar to cinder cone volcanoes in terms of their shape, but that is one of their few similarities. These volcanoes have gentle lower slopes but much steeper upper slopes, creating an upwardly concave cone and generally have many distinct vents. The summit crater of these volcanoes is usually relatively small.

Despite their general shape, there are some variations within stratovolcanoes due to various composition and types of eruptions. For example some of these volcanoes may have features such as calderas or amphitheaters due to past lateral blasts, such as you can see with Mount St. Helens.

These volcanoes generally take between tens of thousands and several hundred thousand years to form. Most of the stratovolcanoes in the world that are currently active are less than 100,000 years old but some are much older, possibly over a million, such as Mount Rainier.


Stratovolcanoes are one of the most deadly types of volcanoes and their most common type of eruption is Plinian, which is highly explosive and dangerous. These eruptions will generally produce pyroclastic flows containing toxic gases and hot volcanic fragments that move at very fast speeds. Stratovolcanoes can erupt any variety of magma types with levels of basalt, andesite, dacite or rhyolite, but most of the time the lava cools and then hardens before it spreads very far, meaning that they will generally have a narrower base than other types, such as shield volcanoes. Unlike several other types of volcanoes, a stratovolcano usually has a large rest between eruptions.

Chilean Andes

Nevado Ojos del Salado is the highest volcano on earth. This Chilean stratovolcano rises to 6,887 meters above sea level. Close to it, also in the Chilean Andes, is Llullaillaco which is the tallest volcano to have eruptions in recorded history, measuring 6,739 meters. Nevado Ojos del Salado has a crater lake at around 6,390 meters above sea level, which is one of the highest lakes in the world, if not the highest. Scientists believe that the most recent eruption took place about 1,300 years ago, but are not positive. There is a possibility that the volcano emitted a small bit of ash in 1993 which would make it historically active and the tallest historically active volcano instead of Llullaillaco.

Llullaillaco is actually right on Chile’s border with Argentina. This stratovolcano is made up of a younger volcano that developed on top of an older one whose upper area collapsed around 150,000 years ago. The younger volcano began developing around 10,000 years ago.

Mount St. Helens

Although Mount St. Helens has the title of one of the youngest stratovolcanoes located in the Cascades, it is the most active. Just within the last 3,500 years, at least 35 layers of tephra have been created by its eruptions. This stratovolcano is most well-known for its eruption in 1980 which killed 57 people in addition to destroying 185 miles of highway, 15 miles of railways, 47 bridges and 250 homes. This eruption was triggered by a 5.1 earthquake and created an avalanche of debris that had a volume of around 0.7 cubic miles.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier is the tallest peak of the Cascade Range and measures in at an elevation of 4,392 meters. Although Mount Rainier itself has developed within the last half a million years, between one and two million years ago there was a similar cone in its place. An eruption that took place 5,600 years ago created a large crater at its top but this was later filled when the summit was rebuilt by later eruptions. Although the most recent magmatic eruption of this stratovolcano took place around 1,000 years ago, it has had several dozen highly explosive eruptions since the previous ice age which have spread tephra all across the state of Washington.


Krakatoa is a volcanic island located that is part of the Sunda Strait. In 1883 this stratovolcano had a series of violent eruptions which sent ash flying more than 50 miles into the atmosphere in addition to being heard at least 2,200 miles away from its location. The large release of energy from its eruption caused tsunamis which in turn took the lives of 36,400 people on Sumatra and Java.


Tambora is an Indonesian stratovolcano that erupted in 1815. In fact, these eruptions were so violently explosive that they are one of the largest in the entirety of recorded history. When the volcano erupted, the global temperatures dropped around three degrees Celsius, which is no surprise as ash was ejected 50 kilometers into the atmosphere. Because the stratovolcano erupted so much material, it caved in after the eruption was complete and in the process created a caldera that is large enough to be visible from space.


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