With flaming hot rocks pouring over suburban streets in picturesque Hawaii following the eruption of Kilauea, more extreme weather has rocked the nation following a 2017 packed with fires, earthquakes and other natural devastations.


NBC News reports that Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano could potentially spew boulders the size of refrigerators for miles if the top blows. The week-long lava flow has caused around 2,000 residents to evacuate, though with proper distance precautions taken, the impending explosion is not anticipated to be deadly.


While destructive and devastating, there is a certain beauty found in the natural wonder as molten matter shoots into the sky like a Fourth of July display. As it is with many aspects of nature, volcanoes are an interesting phenomena.


Global movement website dosomething.org lists fast facts about volcanoes, stating “In an eruption, gases and rock shoot up through the opening and spill over or fill the air with lava fragments. Eruptions can cause lava flows, hot ash flows, mudslides, avalanches, falling ash and floods.”


This danger zone area spans a radius of around 20-miles, emitting ashes made of pulverized rock that are often gritty, harsh, acidic, smelly and gassy, according to the website. Meanwhile, around 200 accounts of volcanic lightening have been witnessed live, created by the friction of volcanic ash rushing to the surface during an eruption.


Volcanoes are powerful forces, with their eruptions potent enough to trigger flash floods, earthquakes, mudflows, tsunamis and rockfalls. Over 80 percent of the Earth’s surface is of volcanic origin, which makes sense since sea floor formations and a number of mountains were caused by volcanic eruptions. Additionally, gas emissions from volcanoes form our atmosphere.


It doesn’t come as a surprise that a volcano erupted in Hawaii. While there are over 500 active volcanoes currently in the world, the greatest chance of eruption is in Hawaii and Alaska. Over half of these active volcanoes are found in the “Ring of Fire,” an area that encircles the Pacific Ocean, while other affected states include California, Oregon and Washington.


Another fact from the site is that while some eruptions can be a low hiss or even quiet, others can be so loud that the boom travels hundreds of miles — bringing the damage with it. This sound explosion can cause glass to shatter and hearing loss.


Fraser Cain for Universe Today states in an online article that there are three major types of volcanoes. While all volcanoes are composed of hot magma erupting from Earth’s surface, shield volcanoes are often very wide and smoothly sloping; stratovolcanoes are composed of different types of lava that often reach great heights; and cinder cone volcanoes are smaller with short-lived eruptions.


While volcanoes may seem ancient — and some take thousands of years to form — they are actually capable of forming overnight.


“For example, the cinder cone volcano Paricutin appeared in a Mexican cornfield on February 20, 1943,” Cain writes. “Within a week it was 5 stories tall, and by the end of a year it had grown to more than 336 meters tall. It ended its grown in 1952, at a height of 424 meters.”


Volcanoes are quite spectacular, and the tallest one in the Solar System isn’t even on Earth. Olympus Mons, located on Mars, is cited as the tallest volcano in the Milky Way. This giant shield volcano is 550 km across, rising to a staggering height of 27 km. This formation was likely possible due to the lack of plate tectonics on Mars, allowing a single hotspot to boil for billions of years of slowly building the monster volcano.


For comparison, Cain lists the tallest volcanoes on Earth to be a pair of side-by-side volcanoes in Hawaii. Mauna Kea earns the title of tallest volcano on Earth — with an elevation of 4,207 meters, but a base to peak height of 10,203 meters — while its neighbor, Mauna Loa, has the distinction of being the largest volcano on Earth.


Emma Polini is the managing editor of the Van Alstyne Leader, Anna-Melissa Tribune and Prosper Press. What do you want in your paper? Email her at epolini@heralddemocrat.com to let her know.