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Volcanic Landforms

Volcanoes create an almost infinite variety of landforms and terrain. However, geologists have noticed patterns when studying these different terrains that volcanoes create. This has allowed them to group them into categories, based on how they are the same, and how they are different. The four main landform types are lava flows, volcanic peaks, calderas, and volcanic necks.

An image of a volcanic peak. This is a volcanic landform, created by volcanic activity.

Volcanoes create as much as they destroy

Lava Flows  

A lava flow is a wave of lava disbursed from the volcano. It flows outward, parallel to the surface of the Earth. This creates a large flat lava-covered plain. As more lava flows leave the volcano or fissure, they create layers of igneous rock. Lava forms from molten rock. This results in the making of unique formations, landforms, and topographical features.

An image of a volcanic eruption with a lava flow.

Lava flows away from the volcano and becomes new land

Volcanic Peaks

When you think of a volcano you probably picture a mountain like structure with a hole at the top that spews lava. Similar to the picture below, huh? That is a volcanic peak. It is a volcano that has formed a large cone-shaped hill, or mountain. These cones typically have a large bowl-shaped crater in the top.

Night shot of Tungurahua volcano

Volcanic peak, Hollywoods favorite kind of volcano

Calderas

Volcanic activity doesn’t just make new land but breaks apart old land. Calderas are massive crater-like depressions that can cover many tens of square miles. Calderas form when volcanoes explode and land collapses into the Earth. So a caldera isn’t exactly a landform but more a land-reform. 

An image showing a deep depression that is a caldera formed by a volcano.

Sky view of Santa Margarida Volcano.

Volcanic Necks

A volcanic neck is all that’s left of an old volcano that has died. When a volcano dies, the last little bit of lava left will harden inside the volcanoes opening, or neck. Over many hundreds of thousands of years, the material around the neck chips away. This is because of the process of weathering. Once the volcano has weathered down, only the harder neck gets left behind.

An image showing a round stone formation over an empty bowl, a volcanic neck.

Volcanic neck in Etna Park, Sicily.

 
<Volcanic neck in Etna Park, Sicily>

Other Great Resources:

Tulane University on Volcanic Landforms: http://www.tulane.edu/~sanelson/Natural_Disasters/volclandforms.htm

(Video) Landforms, Hey! by Crash Course Kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN6QX43QB4g&t=147s

(Video) Volcanic Landforms by MajorsGeosystems: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jfa59jAj-3o

(Video) Bill Nye the Science Guy on Volcanoes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F9ovQf9-dg

 

Written By: Monica Siegenthaler