Sinabung Eruption

Top 10 Volcanic Eruptions of 2019

2019 was a dynamic year in many aspects, and the volcanic world did not disappoint.  According to the Global Volcanism Program, “There were 73 confirmed eruptions at some point during 2019 from 70 different volcanoes; 30 of those were new eruptions that started during the year.”[1] The earth is always alive with volcanic activity, and an average of 10-20 volcanoes are active and erupting at any given time on our planet.  But who were the show stoppers for 2019? 

Here are the top 10 volcanic eruptions that left their mark on 2019:

Honorable Mention:  Kilauea

Kilauea’s eruption ended in late 2018. However, the volcano is not done throwing surprises at us! A boiling water lake has formed in the crater where a lava lake once perched.  The water level continues to deepen daily.  This is the first time, possibly in recorded history, that Kilauea’s summit has held a crater lake.  It’s an amazing opportunity to study the phenomenon and wait to see what cards the volcano plans to play next.  Magma has slowly been refilling the reservoirs beneath the volcano and, as Kilauea is the most active on the planet, it’s only a matter of time before another eruption begins on her mighty slopes.

10.  Mount Etna

Sicily’s Mount Etna is one of the most magnificent and active volcanoes in Europe.  The volcano stands at 10,991’ in height and produces spectacular lava flows, ash clouds, and Gandalf-like smoke rings.  In 2019, it produced all of these things.  Beginning in June, fountains of lava have lit up the night sky.  Smoke rings and ash clouds have wafted up into the air, making each day different on the slopes of this Italian volcano. The show isn’t over on the world’s second most active volcano, and Mount Etna continues its eruption into the new year.

Mount Etna erupting.
Mount Etna – Photo by Shawn Appel on Unsplash.

9.  Piton de la Fournaise  

Piton de la Fournaise in the Reunion Islands erupted five separate times in 2019, sending impressive rivers of molten basalt cascading down its slopes.  This makes the volcano the third most active on our planet.  Definitely a spectacle to behold!

8.  Sinabung

Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung erupted in July 2019, spewing a tremendous column of ash nearly 23,000 feet into the air and creating roaring pyroclastic flows that roared down its steep slopes. The eruption disrupted air traffic for several days, and damage was isolated.

7.  Shiveluch  

Shiveluch volcano in Russia had four major eruptions over the course of the year.  The largest sent an ash column over 35,000’ into the atmosphere. This eruption reached a category 4 on the VEI scale due to its volume and intensity.

As tame or reliable we think a volcano might be, it is always wild and unpredictable.

6.  Ulawun  

Papua New Guinea’s Ulawun volcano erupted on June 26, 2019, sending a tremendous ash cloud over 63,000’ into the atmosphere.  A second eruption in August followed, sending another plume of ash equally as high into the air.  This takes the cake as the tallest ash plume of the year. This eruption reached a category 4 on the VEI scale due to its volume and intensity.

5.  Popocatepetl

Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano has been active continually through 2019.  Ash columns rise into the atmosphere and fantastic fireworks shows of lava are visible at night.  One of the more notable eruptiosn was on Christmas day.  What a way to celebrate!

4.  Raikoke

Russia’s Raikoke volcano erupted for the first time in nearly a century.  It’s June eruption– is currently considered the largest eruption of 2019, reaching a 4 on the VEI scale.  The volcano spewed an ash column over 50,000 feet in the air, which was visible from the International Space Station.  An incredible lightning show ensued, offering scientists an excellent opportunity to study volcanic lightning.  

3.  Stromboli

Stromboli has been Mr. Reliable for years, producing stunning fountains of lava during its regular eruptions. Some used to say that you could set your watch by Stromboli’s eruptions. Safe viewing areas were set up on the volcano for to watch its regular lava shows.  In July of 2019, a powerful eruption rocked Stromboli, sending pyroclastic flows racing down its slopes and rocks and hot gas into the air.  One visitor was killed during the eruption.  Another stark reminder that as tame or reliable we think a volcano might be, it is always wild and unpredictable.

Whakaari / White Island – photo by Farrah Fuerst on Unsplash.

2.  Whakaari/White Island

Whakaari/White Island is a stratovolcano that sits off the north coast of New Zealand. On December 9, molten magma interacted with water and sparked a violent phreatic eruption. Visitors to the island were caught in the blast and, heartbreakingly, 18 were killed.  Others were taken to area hospitals with severe burns. It is another devastating reminder that volcanoes are wild and untamable.

1.  Anak Krakatau

The Son of Krakatoa never ceases to impress, and this volcano refused to let the year go out without a bang! Sneaking in an eruption on December 30, just before 2019 closed out, this was the latest in a series of eruptions over the course of the year.  Switching between fountains of glowing lava and explosive interactions with water following its deadly 2018 landslide and eruption, Anak Krakatau has certainly kept its title of most active volcano in Indonesia this year.  

Do you agree with this list?  Is there a volcanic eruption from 2019 that made your Top 10 list?  Tell us in the comments below!  

I look forward to seeing what 2020 brings, and what volcanic eruptions it has in store.

[1]  2019, December

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