With the recent eruptions in Hawaii, America is more interested than ever in volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes are a fascinating topic: if they’re active, they could rest peacefully for decades, or erupt at any moment. We’ve compiled a list of eight must-watch volcanoes for 2018. In reality, any of these volcanoes could be the next to go. It can be almost impossible to know ahead of time. Either way, these eight volcanoes are well worth watching.
1. Villarrica, Chile
Not every volcano has an active lava lake, but Villarrica does. You might think of Chile as warm, but Villarrica is covered in snow, looking more like a peaceful mountain than a life-threatening volcano. Don’t be deceived by appearances, however: Villarrica has been increasing in both seismic and lava lake activity. The lake has been producing lava fountains up to 150 meters high, so it’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
2. Cumbre Vieja, Spain
Located in the Canary Islands, Cumbre Vieja is a volcano everyone hopes will stay dormant. Besides risking the lives of Canary Island residents, an eruption of Cumbre Vieja could potentially cause an enormous tsunami, endangering the lives of millions. While no one fears an eruption of Cumbre Vieja tomorrow, it is the most active volcano on the Canary Islands and it’s worth watching.
3. Öræfajökull, Iceland
Since Iceland was settled, Öræfajökull has erupted twice. While that might sound alarming, keep in mind that Iceland was settled before 1362! Öræfajökull erupted in 1362 and 1727. Iceland isn’t all ice, (it is, in fact, lush and green in many places) but it is the home of subglacial lakes. When Öræfajökull erupts, the lakes melt and cause lethal flooding. Another eruption would be devastating. Öræfajökull could erupt at any time, and while it’s impossible to know for sure, it’s something Iceland residents have to be prepared for every day.
4. Nevado del Ruiz, Columbia
When Nevado del Ruiz erupts, the people of Columbia aren’t at risk for lava-related deaths. Instead, they’re at risk for deadly mudflows, caused by small scale eruptions from Nevado del Ruiz. Thousands of Colombians have died throughout history, despite the eruptions from Nevado del Ruiz seeming mild on face value. Nevado del Ruiz is still alive and well, and volcanologists must watch it religiously to protect neighboring towns. It could cause another mudflow any day.
5. Merapi, Indonesia
Some volcanoes are out in the middle of nowhere, and an eruption would mainly endanger wildlife. That isn’t the case with Merapi. Its slopes are densely populated, and every eruption risks human life. It erupted as recently as 2010, and it’s expected to erupt again soon. In fact, by some standards, an eruption of Merapi could be considered overdue. It’s definitely a high risk volcano, and it could be the next one to erupt. So far, there are no increased signs of volcanic unrest, but Merapi is certainly a volcano to keep an eye on.
6. Popocatépetl, Mexico
Not every volcano is waiting to erupt. Popocatépetl has been erupting since 2005, on and off. While the eruption hasn’t caused any serious damage yet, any active volcano is one to keep an eye on. Most of Popocatépetl’s activity has been explosions, lava dome growth, and ash plumes. So far, a deadly eruption hasn’t occurred, but Popocatépetl is known as Mexico’s “smoking mountain” for a reason.
7. Mount St. Helens, Washington, USA
America isn’t home to many dangerous volcanoes, but Mount St. Helens is the exception. In 1980, it erupted and killed 57 people. It laid flat forests, buried cars, and destroyed hundreds of homes. While Mount St. Helens isn’t expected to erupt this week, it’s still alive and well, and we can expect another eruption within the next few centuries — maybe even this one. Like any volcano, Mount St. Helens could suddenly spring into action, which is why volcanologists watch it religiously.
8. Kirishima, Japan
Japan is home to several volcanoes, and Kirishima is one of the most active. Kirishima is compromised of several volcanic cones, one of them called Shinmoedake. While Kirishima has erupted on and off since A.D. 742, Shinmoedake erupted as recently as last October, sending white plumes high into the air. The alert levels for Kirishima are high, and it’s one volcano to watch with care. With Japan’s high population, any lethal eruption could be devastating, making Kirishima one of the most dangerous volcanoes expected to erupt next.
If you don’t live near a volcano, you might not think about them on a regular basis. Earth’s volcanoes, however, are alive and well, and well worth watching. Keep your eyes on these eight volcanoes, since any of them could be the next to erupt.