Of all the volcanic features on Earth, calderas can be the largest.
They are formed in several ways and shouldn’t be confused with volcanic craters. Here you will learn about the different types of calderas and how they are formed.
What is a Caldera?
Perhaps you’ve heard of Crater Lake in Oregon? Surprise! Crater Lake is not even a crater. It’s a caldera, and there is a difference. A crater forms when a volcano erupts, throwing out rocks and other material from the center.
Instead, a caldera forms when a volcano collapses in on itself, sometimes as part of an eruption, sometimes not.Calderas usually have steep sides surrounding a depression where the collapse occurred and messier-shaped edges than craters, which are more symmetrical. Between their shape and history of formation, calderas are aptly named. The word caldera means kettle or cauldron in Spanish.
Three Types of Calderas and How They Form
Calderas usually form in one of three ways. If it wasn’t confusing enough to sort out the differences between craters and calderas, the first type of caldera is a crater lake caldera.
It forms when there is an explosive eruption of a volcano and then an inward collapse. Over time, the depression fills with water and snow.That is, in fact, how Crater Lake, Oregon, formed. Mount Mazama erupted approximately 7,700 years ago, and over time, the caldera that was left behind filled with a lot of water. At roughly 1,932 feet deep, it is the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world.
The second kind of caldera is a shield volcano caldera. Instead of forming after a single, massive eruption, the volcano releases magma (underground molten rock) at different times. This makes for a smaller caldera with a slightly different shape, and the sides of the caldera become almost terraced. Hawaii is known for having a number of shield volcano calderas. Same with the Galapagos Islands, but shield volcanoes are scattered around the world.
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