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Composite Cone Volcanoes

Here’s a fun science experiment to make your own composite cone volcano. You may want to do this outside because things can get messy. Put two spoonfuls of baking soda and a spoonful of dish soap into a plastic bottle. Then, add about some vinegar into the bottle. Pretty cool, huh? 

An image of a composite cone volcano.

This is a composite cone volcano.

If you didn’t perform the experiment, that’s okay! Watch this video below to see what happens: 

What is a composite cone volcano?

There are several different kinds of volcanoes. One of them is a composite cone volcano, or “stratovolcano”. Multiple eruptions create these volcanoes over many many years, unlike other kinds of volcanoes. These eruptions can occur many years apart, sometimes thousands!

An image showing several volcanoes.

Multiple eruptions create composite volcanoes.

What causes a composite cone volcano?

Different types of magma can create a composite cone volcano. The magma sneaks into the cones through cracks and fractures in order to form sills. Sills are made out of igneous rock. Lots of sills eventually form a volcano! The most common kind of magma that causes a composite cone volcano is andesite magma. 

An image showing lava cooling.

Magma forms volcanoes by sliding into cracks in the cones.

How tall can they be?

Andesite magma creates the tallest composite cone volcanoes. In fact, it can become so tall that they sometimes fall over because they are not sturdy enough to keep standing. These volcanoes can reach up to 3,000 meters high, taller than some mountains! That would be about four skyscrapers stacked on top of each other!

Where do they form?

Many composite cone volcanoes form in chains, normally at least 10 miles apart. A popular example of this is the “Ring of Fire”, which is along the Pacific Rim.

An image of Mt. Fugi which is part of the ring of fire.

Mt. Fuji is one volcano in the “Ring of Fire”.

Other Useful Resources:

Sciencing on Stratovolcanoes: https://sciencing.com/composite-volcano-kids-8520190.html

Kids Fun Science on Stratovolcanoes: http://www.kids-fun-science.com/composite-volcano.html

Kids Earth Science on Stratovolcanoes: http://www.kids-earth-science.com/composite-volcano.html

 Written by: Lindley Lund