How long do volcanoes last?


Volcanoes are sometimes marked by only one eruption (monogenetic). When they erupt more than once, their lifetimes of activity cover age ranges of <1 year to more than 1 million years, with the longer time scales being caldera type volcanoes.  The time patterns of volcano activity have active and quiet periods.  Many circum-pacific volcanoes last up to about 200 thousand years.

Cumulative growth of Volcan de Santa Maria over time. (A) The eruptive activity of cone building has been subdivided into four phases based on the stratigraphy and 40Ar/39Ar ages. Although there are peaks of activity during cone-building phases II and IV, the largest contribution to the erupted volume is the 1902 plinian eruption. Note the exaggerated duration of the 1902 eruption along the age axis for illustrative purposes only. (B) Comparison of Volcan de Santa Maria to other long-lived, well-dated frontal arc composite volcanoes. Growth curves extracted from data in: Hildreth and Lanphere (1994, Mount Adams), Singer et al. (1997, Tatara San Pedro; 2008, Puyehue), Jicha and Singer (2006, Seguam), Thouret et al., (2001, El Misti), Hildreth and Lanphere (1994, Mount Adams ; 2003b, Mount Baker), Frey et al. (2004, Ceboruco), Hora et al. (2007, Parinacota). The heavy curve for the Katmai cone from Hildreth et al. (2003a) illustrates the contrast between volcanoes that rank first and second in the scale of their twentieth-century eruptions.

Escobar-Wolf et al., 2010, Geol Soc Amer Bull 122: 757-771.