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This is an image of Mauna Kea erupting.
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Image from: U.S. Geological Survey

Shield Volcanos

Shield volcanoes can grow to be very big. In fact, the oldest continental regions of Earth may be the remains of ancient shield volcanoes.

Unlike the composite volcanoes which are tall and thin, shield volcanoes are tall and broad, with flat, rounded shapes. The Hawaiian volcanoes exemplify the common type of shield volcano. They are built by countless outpourings of lava. The outpourings of lava are typically not accompanied by ash, which make the shield volcanoes relatively safe, as shown in this picture of scientists monitoring the eruption.

Famous shield volcanoes include Mauna Loa, Kilauea, (two of the world's most active volcanoes), andOlympus Mons of Mars.


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Volcano Measurement

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Volcanic Ash

Ash is formed as a volcano erupts when rocks made by the volcano blow apart into millions of tiny pieces. The rocks are still very hot, because they just formed from lava. If the hot rocks come into contact...more

Cinder Cones

Cinder cones are simple volcanoes which have a cone shape and are not very big. Compare the size of this volcano to the strato-volcano in this image. They are usually made of piles of lava, not ash. During...more

Flowing Lava

Lava can move in two ways, wide flat lava flows, or through channels which squeeze the lava into a small area. The fastest lava flows move at about 6 mi/hr, an easy jog, but they average between 2/3 and...more

How Do Plates Move?

Plates at our planetís surface move because heat in the Earthís core causes molten rock in the mantle layer to flow. We used to think the Earthís plates just surfed on top of the moving mantle, but now...more

Clues to Plate Movements

Many kinds of surface features are clues to a sliding lithosphere. Two types of features can form when plates move apart. At ocean ridges, the crust splits apart to make room for molten mantle rock. Continental...more

Magma Chamber

When magma is erupted onto the surface in the form of lava, it becomes silicate rock. With each different eruption of the volcano, lava which comes to the surface is made of slightly different chemicals,...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF