Walking around on the surface of the Earth every day, it’s easy to forget that a superhot pool of melted rock lies deep beneath our feet. Volcanoes are here to remind us.
Volcanoes are channels where melted rock, ash and gas can rise to the surface.
The Earth has around 1,500 potentially active volcanoes. Many of them are found along the edge of the Pacific Ocean, an area called the Ring of Fire. This is where many of the planet’s tectonic plates meet. These huge slabs, which make up Earth’s outer layer, crash into and slide over each other in extreme slow motion. When they do, they can raise up mountains, cause earthquakes — and open up volcanoes.
Huge volcanic explosions can wipe out ecosystems. They can build new land. And the biggest ones can change the Earth’s climate. The clouds of ash they throw up can cool the whole planet for years at a time. Some scientists thought that huge volcanic explosions might have cooled the planet and helped kill off the dinosaurs. But new evidence suggests that probably wasn’t true.
Volcanoes aren’t just on Earth. Other planets — such as Venus — might have them too.
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