5 Most Powerful Volcanic Eruptions in Modern Times

Volcanoes are renowned as one of nature’s most beautiful creations. But sometimes, they are remembered more for the devastating hazards they have caused to civilizations, wiping out towns and affecting global climates.

The five biggest volcanic eruptions in modern times spewed out more than 100 cu km of magma. One of these include the largest eruption in living memory.

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens, a stratovolcano in the state of Washington, USA,  is notorious for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980. It is considered as the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. The eruption produced 19 km high of eruption cloud and 1 cu km of magma.

Mount Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo lies in the provinces of Pampanga, Zambales and Tarlac, Philippines. Its ultra-Plinian colossal eruption which produced 10 cu km of magma in June 1991 is the second largest eruption of the 20th century and the largest eruption in living memory. Global temperatures dropped for three years and ozone depletion temporarily increased.

Novarupta Volcano

The most powerful volcanic eruption of the 20th century occurred in Novarupta, one of a chain of volcanoes on the Alaska Peninsula, USA. It is said to be 30 times more powerful than St. Helens and three times more than Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption. A 12 cu km of magma was erupted during the June 6-9, 1912 eruption.

Mount Krakatoa
Coral block thown onto the shore of Jawa after the Krakatau eruption of 1883

Krakatoa, or Krakatau, is a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. The 1883 eruption of the 813 m (2,667 ft) volcano is equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT — about 13,000 times the power of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, and four times the energy of the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever built. The eruption produced 18 cu km of magma.

Mount Tambora

Rising at 8,930 ft is one of Indonesia’s tallest volcanoes, Mount Tambora. The Poverty Year in 1816 in which severe climate changes left countries in the Northern Hemisphere suffering from devastating famine and epidemic outbreaks was attributed to the volcano’s April 10, 1815 eruption. It was also called “The Year Without a Summer” when snow fell on the month of June and frost was still widespread until July in North America, and record snow falls worldwide. The large quantities of sulfur aerosols in the atmosphere were responsible for stunningly beautiful sunsets across the globe. The Mount Tambora eruption was four times the power of Krakatoa’s 1883 eruption, yielding 100 cubic km of magma.