The Physical Environment

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Chapter 16
Volcanic Processes & Landforms


Mount St. Helens in eruption. Aerial view of upper part of volcano.
Eruptive column, ash cloud, ash flows below rim of crater.
Courtesy USGS

Volcanoes are a window into the heart of the Earth's dynamic interior. Born of molten rock from deep within, volcanoes represent the ever recycling nature of the solid Earth.  Awesome displays of fiery fountains of molten rock and massive eruptions of gases and ash impose a significant danger to human habitation in volcanically active regions. In this chapter we'll explore where volcanoes occur, how they are formed, and hazards they pose to humans.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this chapter you should be able to:

  • Draw and label a simple diagram of the features associated with a volcanic cone.
  • Explain the distribution of volcanic activity across the Earth.
  • Describe the features of effusive and explosive eruptions.
  • Describe the hazards associated with volcanism. 

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For Citation: Ritter, Michael E. The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography.
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Michael Ritter (
Last revised 6/5/12

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