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Volcanic Cones

Volcanic Cones

A volcanic cone is the hill-shaped landform that forms around a volcano. Volcanic cones can be steep or gently sloping depending on the type of eruption that form them.


Grades

12

Image

Shishaldin

Photo of a snowy volcanic peak.

Photograph by J. Baylor Roberts, National Geographic

A volcanic cone is a hill-shaped landform that forms around a volcano. Volcanic cones can be steep or gently sloping depending on the type of eruption that forms them.

The steepest cones form around cinder cone volcanos. Cinder cones form from ash and magma cinders--partly-burned, solid pieces of magma, that fall to the ground following a volcanic eruption. This type of eruption contains little lava, as the magma hardens and breaks into pieces during the explosion. As a result, cinder cone volcanoes tend to be smaller than other types of volcanoes. Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius is a famous cinder cone volcano.

In contrast, shield volcanoes are characterized by a large, broad cone with sides sloping gently away from the center. The lava that erupts from these volcanoes is a thin liquid that slowly emerges from the center of the volcano as well as from cracks in its sides. The lava spreads in a thin layer before cooling. Hawaii’s Mauna Loa is a famous example of a shield cone volcano.

A third type of volcanic cone is a composite cone. Composite cone volcanoes are also called stratovolcanoes. They form when different types of eruptions deposit different materials around the sides of a volcano. Alternating eruptions of volcanic ash and lava cause layers to form. Over time these layers build up. The result is a cone that has a gentler slope than a cinder cone but is steeper than a shield volcano. Washington state’s Mt. St. Helens is an example of a composite cone volcano.

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Director
Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
Author
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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