Background Information for a Volcano Science Project

Example of a volcano with lava running down the side.
••• Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Scott Robinson

Understanding how volcanoes work will improve your overall comprehension of your science project. To create the best project possible it is important to know about the characteristics of volcanoes, where volcanoes are most likely to form and what makes them erupt.

Types of Volcanoes

Example of a Composite Volcanoe.
••• Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of flydime

Volcanologists categorize volcanoes into five types: composite, shield, cinder cone, complex and splatter. Most are characterized by their shape or the way they erupt.

Parts of the Volcano

This volcano has a large crater.
••• Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Mike Baird

Volcanoes are made of four parts: vent, pipe, crater and cone. The vent is an opening at the earth’s surface. Magma rises up the volcano through the pipe. The crater is the depression at the top of the volcano where the eruption occurs. The cone is the outer portion of the volcano where lava and ash collect.

Volcanic Terms

Cooled lava usually turns a black or grey color.
••• Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Alan L

Magma refers to the molten rock inside the volcano that has not yet escaped. Magma becomes lava when it leaves the volcano and hits the air or water. Volcanic ash can be in solid or molten form when erupted, and is usually smaller than 2 mm.

How Volcanoes Form

Volcanoes commonly form where tectonic plates collide with each other. When the plates collide, it causes friction that heats up the earth. A volcano erupts when the plates open up and magma rises to the earth’s surface.

Where Volcanoes Form

Most volcanoes form around the Pacific Ocean in an area known as the Ring of Fire. Other famous volcanoes are located in Iceland, Europe and on the bottom of Atlantic Ocean floor.

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