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How many volcanoes are still active on the planet?

Since February 16, Etna, the highest volcano in Europe with its 3,324 m, has been erupting again. This is’one of the most active volcanoes in Europe and in the world: since the early 2000s, its eruptions have impressed more than once, with its images of smoke clouds or lava flows. However, it is far from being the only active volcano on the globe: dozens of eruptions take place each year.

50 to 70 erupting volcanoes per year

While it may seem difficult a priori to identify the number of active volcanoes across the planet, there is already an important distinction to be made between an active volcano and an active volcano. As recalled Futura Planet, a volcano is considered active when it has known at least one eruption in the last 10,000 years: not necessarily the idea that we had at the beginning … According to the British Institute of Geological Studies (BGS ), there would be 1,500 on the surface of the globe, of which 50 to 70 would erupt each year. Or at least one per week!

Regarding the number of active volcanoes, it is more difficult to say. Already, we must agree on the criteria that establish that a volcano is active or not. Especially since all are not necessarily monitored by the authorities of a country or by scientists. This is nevertheless the objective of an American research program led by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of Natural History, which are working on the development of a database around volcanoes.

45 active volcanoes around the world

The Global Volcanism Program, as it calls itself, has established a register of active volcanoes on the planet. A volcano is considered active when it does not experience an interruption in its eruptions for more than three consecutive months. According to this criterion, the research program estimates that there are currently 45 active volcanoes.

Unsurprisingly, these volcanoes are located at the borders of tectonic plates. Countries that are on the edge of a plate or between two are therefore more likely (at risk?) To have active volcanoes. Indonesia, Russia and Papua New Guinea, located on the edge of the Pacific Plate, are the three countries with the most: 8, 6 and 4 respectively.

Some active volcanoes on the European continent …

In geographic Europe, Italy is the only country to have active volcanoes: Etna and the Stromboli, which are located at the level of Sicily, between the Eurasian and African plate. Remember that Etna has erupted more than ten times since the turn of the century. Iceland remains the country in Europe with the most volcanoes (active, beware): 32 according to the BGS. Although none are active at the moment, the last eruption dates back to 2010, when the Eyjafjöll had paralyzed many European airports.

Surprisingly, there are also active European volcanoes … outside the mainland: this is the case of Mount Michael, on Saunders Island, which is part of the archipelago of the South Sandwich Islands off the coast of Antarctica. and which belongs to the UK.

… and overseas

As for metropolitan France, it has no active volcanoes, not even active volcanoes. Only so-called “sleeping” volcanoes in the Puys chain of the Massif Central. But there are several that are active overseas: Piton de la Fournaise in Réunion (erupting for the last time in April 2020), Mount Pelée in Martinique, and Soufriere in Guadeloupe.

How many volcanoes are still active on the planet?
La Soufrière and the cirque of the red river: views of the Montagne Saint-Louis. Sheet in Atlas of the work of Sainte-Claire Deville: “Geological Travel to the Antilles” (Reproduction Historical Service of Defense / Marine Department in Brest)

While some of the volcanoes considered to be active by the Global Volcanism Program have been active for less than a year, most have erupted regularly for several years. Of the volcanoes listed, half have been in operation in the last ten years.

A volcano that has erupted regularly for… 247 years

But other volcanoes have not experienced an interruption in their activity beyond three months for several decades! Some began to erupt at the beginning of the 20th century… As for the Yasur volcano in Vanuatu, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, it has been erupting regularly since 1774, or 247 years!

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