The 5 Most Powerful Volcanic Eruptions in Modern Times

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.

The word volcano has its origin from the Roman god of fire, Vulcan. Vulcan was said to have had a forge (a place to melt and shape iron) on Vulcano, an active volcano on the Lipari Islands in Italy.

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

Mount St. Helens

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Mount St. Helens was famous for her catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980. It’s the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. It produced 19 km high of eruption cloud and 1 cu km of magma.

Mount Pinatubo

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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

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The most powerful volcanic eruption of the 20th century occurred in Novarupta—one of a chain of volcanoes on the Alaska Peninsula, USA. It was 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

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Krakatoa or Krakatao is a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. Its 1883 eruption was 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. It produced 18 cu km of magma.

Mount Tambora

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Mount Tambora, rising at 8,930 ft is one of Indonesia’s tallest volcanoes. 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 one hundred cubic km of magma.

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34 Responses to “The 5 Most Powerful Volcanic Eruptions in Modern Times”
  1. Yovita Siswati Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 3:45 am

    Interesting list! I watch the eruption of Mount Pinatubo on TV when I was just a little kid. I sure was horrific.

  2. Jojo Skeene Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 4:23 am

    wooow—! I thought i erupted somehwere—

    Very colourful article—and well put!

  3. AC Hamilton III Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 4:42 am

    Very nice article, complimented with great photos. I was working in a hay field in a valley between two mountain ranges when the ash from Mt. St. Helens came over the mountains. As a young man, without a clue what was happening; I thought the world was coming to an end. It was a very eery feeling.

    Great work!

  4. denus Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 4:53 am

    nice article, photos give it that edge, well done.



  5. Joni Keith Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 8:28 am

    This is a great article with fantastic photos. I remember the Mount St. Helen\’s volcano. I wonder where the active volcanoes in Hawaii will measure when they erupt, as scientists predict.

  6. Westbrook Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Very informative. My brother lives in the area of St. Helen and witnessed it’s eruption.

  7. James DeVere Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Many suffered phuonoultramicoscopicsilicovolcanoconiois after Mt. St. Helens I recall. I remember using an image of that eruption in our school concert stage set. Nice work. j

  8. Gon pincha Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 11:57 am

    A wonderful article!
    I fin volcanos very interesting.

  9. Will Gray Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Great article! I learned a lot!

  10. rutherfranc Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    worthy of a thumbs up JK!

  11. maranatha Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Great read and good photos! I will read more of your work.

  12. Angie0000023 Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    nice article… great job!

    check out my stuff?

  13. Anne McNew Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    very well done. awesome. great work!

  14. Dee Gold Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    I’m from Tarlac that is why I know the effect of Mt. Pinatubo.Informative article

  15. K Kristie Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Must have been an interesting experience for you Dee. Thanks!

  16. Maria Blazz Says...

    On January 30, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    There are still active volcanoes around the world, like in Mexico City. The stories are fascinating but I wouldn’t like to live near one of them…

  17. Majic Says...

    On January 31, 2009 at 1:33 am

    Very nice article! When “mother” cries, it’s really terrifying.

  18. K Kristie Says...

    On January 31, 2009 at 2:02 am

    Thanks Maria at salamat Majic. :)

  19. S A JOHNSON Says...

    On January 31, 2009 at 4:46 am

    Very educating.

  20. Joshua Miguel Says...

    On January 31, 2009 at 6:57 am

    I witnessed the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. it was really a terrifying experience… Great compilation.

  21. eddiego65 Says...

    On February 2, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Great article. I specifically remember the ashfall that reached Manila and inhaled lots of it. LOL.

  22. CHAN LEE PENG Says...

    On February 3, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Sorry for the above mistake.

    The volcano eruptions are terrific. I witnessed Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption during my trip there. It was indeed a terrifying experience.

  23. trishia Says...

    On February 6, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Such beautiful pictures! I cannot imagine experiencing such a disasterous event.

  24. CutestPrincess Says...

    On February 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    brings back the memories of the Mount Pinatubo eruption, i was just a kid then, i thought that the ashfall are snow!

  25. slipstream Says...

    On February 11, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Indeed thos eruptions were terrifying.

  26. mance Says...

    On March 3, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    i been searching and searching for the most distructive eruption of Mt Fuji and i cant find it! if anyone knows that would really really help- thanks and please hurry i need it by tomarrow!!!!!

  27. stephencardiff Says...

    On April 1, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Great article and fantastic pictures… the power of the earth exposed

  28. nutuba Says...

    On April 1, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Great article!

  29. ally williams Says...

    On February 23, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    WOW!!! i just love Volcanoes they are so COOL!!!!! But when they explode it’s hard to belive because: the Volcano can kill you if you live close……. Like really close thats why i live in the BayArea (U.S.A) San Bruno!!!! I am doing a report on Mount Pinatubo for my Scinece Class with Mrs.Takahashi!!!! But the Explotions that the cause “Makes NO complete Sence to ME at all!!!” says a researcher of the explotions of the Volcanoes

  30. +ellea+ Says...

    On February 26, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    phuonoultramicoscopicsilicovolcanoconiois that is a really long named dianosis.

  31. +ellea+ Says...

    On February 26, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    im doing a SOSE project on Mt Pinatubo. its hard to understand sometimes how natural disasters can cause so much devastation and chaos…thats probably because i’ve never been in a natural disaster before, but there’s always a first for everything

  32. joseph Says...

    On April 19, 2010 at 4:23 am

    …for me mt. pinatobo was really terrifying… as my mother said too… i will never forget this tragedy… because it was the time when i was born

  33. Alex Says...

    On January 26, 2011 at 4:15 am

    Oh… Mt. Pinatubo I can still remember some ashes even reached neighboring countries of Philippines.

    I was still a kid that time and i can remember I helped my grandpa to remove thick ash falls in our roof even we live very far from Mt. Pinatubo.

  34. Kat Says...

    On February 7, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Mountain St. helen is very big.

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