141 Facts About Shield Volcanoes: Can Their Eruption Hurt You? Find Out

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Oct 06, 2023 By Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Originally Published on Jan 12, 2022
most common volcanoes present on the surface
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.9 Min

Let us start by discussing the appearance and features of a shield volcano, which are actually amongst the most common volcanoes present on the surface of the Earth.

Starting with what they are, shield volcanoes are dome-shaped, or more like the shape of the shield of a warrior laying on the ground, and are volcanoes formed by highly liquid lava caused by the explosive eruption of a volcano, making lava flow farther.

The shield volcano is the result of the accumulation of many layers of such lava due to the stratovolcano.

The profile of these volcanoes is low while they are spread to a large land cover, as the width of these volcanoes can be as much as 20 times their height. These volcanoes can take height and might be the result of continuous eruption or due to several recent eruptions.

These volcanoes are generally made up of solidified lava or that of thin layers.

There are mountains, hills, plates, and volcanoes. Volcanoes are further categorized into active volcanoes, dormant volcanoes, and extinct volcanoes.

An active volcano is one that has recently exploded and might explode in the near future as well, while an extinct volcano is the one that erupted thousands of years ago and has no hope of erupting ever again.

The dormant type lies somewhere in between the two, it has not erupted in the near past but might erupt in the future.

The magma chambers within the Earth’s surface erupt out of an opening on the surface of the Earth due to volcanic activity.

When this molten rock form reaches the surface of the Earth, we call it lava. Hot lava when it condenses takes the form of rocks, which are, in their original state.

Read on to know more about how the lava underneath the magma chamber erupts from composite volcanoes. Afterward, also check Kilauea volcano facts and facts on the most dangerous volcano.

Fun Facts About Shield Volcanoes

After understanding what a shield volcano is and how it is formed to take this shape, we will now look at some fun facts associated with shield volcanoes.

  • There is a short duration(s) between two consecutive eruptions. The lava is more basic and is in a runny format, resulting in the unique shape of the volcano.
  • The sides of these volcanoes are gentle rather than being sharp, as the lava travels a long distance before solidifying.
  • There is no layering as the lava itself solidifies for the formation of these volcanoes.
  • There is very little explosive activity due to the composition of the basaltic magma. This type of magma has a high temperature, low gas content, and very low levels of silica in it.
  • Shield volcanoes are the largest volcanoes on the Earth and are actually look like volcanoes. This means that most of the volcanoes which look like a mountain are likely to be shield volcanoes.
  • One of the most famous examples of a shield volcano is the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, which is in fact the largest volcano on the Earth.
  • In almost all cases, shield volcanoes comprise basaltic lava.
  • Basaltic lava is a particular category of lava that is extremely fluid when it erupts from the magma chamber. As a result, you will notice that most shield volcanoes are not too steep because it is not possible for the fluid running downhill to accumulate on top of other layers.
  • While the eruptions in a shield volcano are not explosive, they might turn out to be a bit explosive if some water enters the vent.
  • Usually, the eruptions from a shield volcano are defined by low-intensity explosions that result in the formation of cinder cones and spatter cones along with the vent.
  • Though, it is important to note that almost 90% of a shield volcano is lava instead of pyroclastic materials.

Geographical Facts About Shield Volcanoes

While we read about the fun facts regarding the shield volcanoes, we cannot ignore the importance geography plays in the eruption and formation of any natural structure, whether a river, mountain, or volcano. So, in this section of the article, we will be finding out about the geography of these volcanoes and the places where they can be found.

  • Generally, these types of volcanoes are found at the boundaries of divergent tectonic plates. These plates are named due to their movement away from each other.
  • As well as Earth, shield volcanoes are found on many different planets including Mars, and even on Venus. This is due to their molten core, which means that any planet or moon with a core that is in molten format can have such types of volcanoes.
  • The magma chamber is one of the important parts of a shield volcano and is located at the base of the volcano.
  • The magma chamber acts as the reservoir of magma which eventually flows out during eruptions from the largest volcanoes.
  • The magma conduit is the primary pipe that allows the magma to erupt through the lava tubes at the time of the eruption.
  • Another important part of a shield volcano is the dike which is a secondary pipe that forms along the side of the shield volcano which allows the flow of the magma through the magma conduit.
  • One more part is the sill which is a tubular intrusion present along with the lava sheets which are fed by dikes and are present parallel to lava sheets. A sill is formed when the magma intrudes from the parent rock sheets.
  • Stratum is the layer of lava that forms as the magma flows onto the surface and is solidified on the surface. When these layers form on top of one another, a shield volcano is formed.
Lava forms an insulating layer that allows the hot lava to flow fast.

Examples Of Shield Volcanoes

After reading so much about shield volcanoes, let us look at some of the examples and the amazing facts associated with each example.

  • The largest volcano in the world is in Hawaii, it is named Mauna Loa. It is not only the largest shield volcano but also the second-largest on Earth in the active volcano category with a height of 13,600 ft (4,145 m) above the water level. Considering the volume, this is again at the top of the list.
  • This volcano is big enough to cover 50% of the surface of Hawaii, followed by Mauna Kea which is taller than this one and is even 4000 ft (1,219.2 m) taller when compared to Mount Everest.
  • The next remarkable place for shield volcanoes is Iceland, as the shield volcanoes of this country are smaller than any other part of the world.
  • The volcanoes found in Iceland are not more than 5000-10,000 years old.
  • Africa has many shield volcanoes, with Erta Ale being in the active category with its lava lake. This lava lake is formed in the crater of this volcano.
  • In the Galapagos, shield volcanoes are older than those present in Iceland. The age of these volcanoes varies from 700,000 years to 4.2 million years.
  • Fernandina Island, the youngest of the Galapagos Islands, is an active shield volcano.
  • New Zealand and the United States are also recognizable places in the list of countries who are known to have shield volcanoes.

Facts About The Shield Volcanoes Eruption

We've already covered numerous facts about shield volcanoes, their geography, and their examples, but now it's time to read about the type of eruption they have and how it is different from other volcanoes.

While these eruption facts help in distinguishing the type of volcano, they also help us in understanding that not every type of volcanic eruption is explosive and like the type we see in cartoons and movies.

  • Generally, these volcanoes have a less-violent eruption rather than an explosive eruption which most of the other volcanoes experience.
  • However, if water somehow enters the vent of a shield volcano, then the eruption can be quite explosive. This is only an exception though, as generally, these volcanoes are considered to be the safest research option for researchers as the chances of any untoward incident are quite minimal.
  • There are hydrovolcanic eruptions that are common. These happen when the hot lava from shield volcanoes meets cold water. The explosive eruption that is caused consists of ash, steam, and even some rocks.
  • The types of eruption shield volcanoes have is that of spilling from the summit and flowing all over the place. Having very low viscosity, the lava travels longer distances than that of the thicker lava.
  • While the main eruption takes place from the summit, lava also flows from the crevices and cracks formed in the structure of a shield volcano.
  • You can consider the eruption of a shield volcano to be the pushing out of lava rather than it popping out of the Earth's surface.
  • Due to the lava being less viscous, there are chances of the formation of lava tubes, which act as a guiding path to the new molten lava to the lowest altitude. One such example is that of the Thurston Lava Tube at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
  • Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on the Earth and is located in Hawaii.
  • Mauna Loa is a shield volcano that has been formed after years of lava accumulation on the surface.
  • Shield volcanoes are comparatively easier to study as compared to other types of volcanoes as the eruptions from shield volcanoes are not violent and, therefore, these volcanoes can be approached by researchers in a safe and secure manner.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 141 Facts about shield volcanoes: Can their eruption hurt you? Find out then why not take a look at famous composite volcanoes, or facts about volcanoes?

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason

Bachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason picture

Adekunle Olanrewaju JasonBachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

With over 3+ years of professional experience, Olanrewaju is a certified SEO Specialist and Content Writer. He holds a BSc in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. Throughout his dynamic career, Olanrewaju has successfully taken on various roles with startups and established organizations. He has served as a Technical Writer, Blogger, SEO Specialist, Social Media Manager, and Digital Marketing Manager. Known for his hardworking nature and insightful approach, Olanrewaju is dedicated to continuous learning and improvement.
Read full bio >