A satellite image of a swirling hurricane Men with gas masks and protective suits on The planetary rover Sojourner A large group of refugees huddled together

 NATURE’S
 FURY

Volcanoes

Tornadoes

Hurricanes

Wildfires

Earthquakes






Watching a volcanic eruption is as close as any human is likely to come to seeing the titanic forces that are at work in the interior of the planet.

The Earth’s metallic core is cloaked by a mantle of molten rock, which is in a constant state of agitation as it rises, cools, and sinks. Tremendous pressures build up beneath the Earth’s relatively thin crust—the ground on which we walk. This endless churning has split the surface into 20 or so rocky slabs, or plates, that slowly drift about on the mantle. Every so often, like a shaken bottle of carbonated soda, hot, liquefied, gas-infused rock called magma squirts out the top in the form of lava.

Sometimes the eruption is sudden and violent, as was the case at Mount St. Helens in southwestern Washington State in 1980, and at the Philippines’ Mount Pinatubo in 1991. At other times—depending on the nature of the magma—eruptions are relatively slow and quiet. People had plenty of time to get out of the way of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano in 1984. Its lava crept down the slope at about the speed of thick honey.

go to image gallery
An image constructed from satellite data of Mount St. Helens. Click on this photo to enter photo gallery
VIDEO:

Watch as Mount St. Helens erupts.

Real Media Player
VIDEO:

Virtually fly through Mount St. Helens in this 3-D animation compiled from satellite data.

Real Media Player
FAST FACTS:

Flows are high-speed avalanches of hot ash, rock fragments, and gas moving down the sides of a volcano during explosive eruptions, or when the steep edge of a dome breaks apart and collapses.

RELATED PRODUCTS

go to the Eye in the Sky News Articles Archive go to Classroom Ideas earth-info.org go to learn about the history of satellites go to for more information on resources and links

Eye in the Sky powered by NIMA