Weekly Feature

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Nature Wages War: Volcanoes

November 27, 2009
by Liz Colville
Beautiful and terrifying at the same time, volcanoes are a thrill ride into the Earth’s inner workings. The Web gives us many ways to learn and explore this strange phenomenon and what insight it provides about the planet’s past and future.

What is a Volcano?

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Students and curious people alike will enjoy San Diego State University’s online tutorial on volcanoes, which takes a comprehensive look at the science and mechanics of the event: what the types of eruptions are, what kind of landforms volcanoes produce and much more.

Where are the Volcanoes?

It’s staggering just how many volcanoes there are in the world, active, dormant or extinct. The Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program raises awareness about volcanoes, their activity and their dangers. Here you’ll find a map of all the volcanoes in the world. Click on a region to see pictures and learn about different volcanoes, such as the dozens that dot the western coast of South America.

Interact with a Volcano

The Discovery Channel’s site Cosmeo is intended for kids, but it’s fun for all: explore the “Virtual Volcano” game to learn more about where volcanoes are located, what’s inside the solid molten rock and how different types of volcanoes differ.
There is, of course, a beautiful side to the volcano, as proven by National Geographic in its photo essay “Volcano Culture,” which lets us step into Indonesia, a country where “life plays out in the shadow of fiery peaks.” In Indonesia, volcanoes affect religion and culture in unique ways, harking back to traditions nearly as old as the formations themselves. The photo gallery is part of a feature article, “Living with Volcanoes,” that explores the connections between Indonesian people and nature.
National Geographic also has a feature on volcanoes as part of their “Forces of Nature” feature. Like TLC’s feature on earthquakes, NG allows you to “build your own volcano,” and answers many questions about where the most threatening volcanoes exist, how they came to be and what scientists have learned by turning active volcanoes like Kilauea in Hawaii into case studies.

A Volcano Star

Mount Vesuvius is surely one of the best-known volcanoes, mostly due to its famous eruption in 79 AD, which destroyed—and preserved—the ancient city of Pompeii. This incredible, terrible event not only taught us about the natural phenomenon of volcanoes, but also taught us about the people living in Pompeii and their customs. Visit the Discovery Channel’s companion site to the show “Pompeii: The Last Day” to build a volcano, read a survivor’s account of the event and watch eruption footage from volcanoes around the world.

What’s Erupting Now?

Beginning on March 22, 2009, Alaska's Mount Redoubt erupted several times, its first activity in 20 years. The U.S. Geological Survey Web site has a section on volcanoes, where you'll find live news and statistics, live video coverage, and more educational information about volcanoes in the U.S.
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