You are on page 1of 14

The type of volcanic cone formed during a volcanic eruption, is dependent upon the type of lava (i.e.

basaltic, andesitic (or even rhyolitic - the most explosive)) and the nature of the eruptions. This is greatly dependent on the type of plate margin on which these volcanoes form. Constructive plate margins - tend to give rise to eruptions associated with basaltic magma - forming features such as shield volcanoes and fissure eruptions which often form lava plateaux.

Destructive plate margins - tend to give rise to eruptions associated with more explosive andesitic or rhyolitic magma - giving rise to features such as acid domes, cinder cones, composite cones and calderas.

REMEMBER - there is no volcanic activity associated with either collision or conservative plate margins - this is because there is no magma source as (i) they are not above the rising limb of a convection current so there is no rising magma (ii) there is no exisitng crust being destroyed by subduction to create a magma source

Extrusive igneous landforms: Lava plateaux/ fissure eruption: Lava plateaux are flat and featureless. Eg: Deccan Plateau

1) Lava plateaux are formed from giant cracks (fissures) on constructive plate boundaries that open in the ground and expel vast quantities of BASALTIC lava (fluid) that spread far and wide to create huge pools that can cover almost everything around. 2) Because the lava is runny (low viscosity) and takes a long time to cool, it travels long distances from the fissure. 3) Layered structures are formed which are caused by the accumulation of lava over a series of lava flows, forming as broad plateaux rather than piling up as a volcanic mountain. 4) Because it is formed from basaltic lava which contains low levels of silica causes only gentle frequent eruptions to occur.

Shield Volcanoes: Shield volcanoes have gentle/low sides and are not very high but they cover a large area. They have large craters at their summits. They can be hundreds of miles across and may tens of thousands of feet high. Eg: Mauna Loa rises over 30,000 feet above the ocean floor and is 100 miles wide.

1) Shield Volcanoes are formed on constructive plate boundaries and on hot spots and are made from low viscosity basaltic lava which is built up over a central vent. 2) Because the lava is more fluid it can travel down a gentle slope, but as it cools and its viscosity increases, its thickness builds up on the lower slopes giving the volcano a steeper lower slope. 3) Very little pyroclastic material is found within a shield volcano, except near the eruptive vents, where small amounts of pyroclastic material accumulate. 4) Shield volcanoes form relatively non-explosive eruptions.

Acid/Dome Volcanoes: They have steep convex sides, narrow base and high cones. Eg: Lassen Peak Volcanic Dome

1) Dome volcanoes are formed on destructive plate boundaries which have steep, convex sides due to acidic, rhyolite lava, which is too viscous to flow far from the source/vent and it soon cools and solidifies 2) When the lava solidifies plugs are formed in the vents. 3) Due to the plugging of vents, gasses are trapped and eruptions are often explosive.

Ash and Cinder cones: The sides of Cinder cones are steep and symmetrical with a small crater on top. They are 1 mile across and can be up to 1,000 feet high. They consist of successive layers of material and almost no lava.(ash and cinders) Eg: Paricutin in Mexico.

1) They are found on destructive plate boundaries and are formed by andesitic/ rhyolite lava ejected from the vent. 2) As the lava is blown into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as cinders as well as ash and volcanic bombs are ejected around the vent to form a circular shaped cone. 3) The largest materials fall closest to the summit forming steep but stable sides close to the vent. 4) The finer materials are carried further away and form gentle slopes at the base of the cone.

Composite cones/volcanoes: Composite cones are pyramid shaped volcanoes consisting of layers of ash and acidic lava. They have steep symmetrical sides. They are tens of miles across and are more than 10,000 feet in height. Eg: Mt Fuji in Japan/ Mt Etna in Sicily.

1) Composite volcanoes are found on destructive plate boundaries (subduction zones) and are due to andesitic magma rising upward through a blocked vent which causes eruption to occur. 2) The steep slope near the summit is due to thick, short viscous andesitic lava flows that cannot travel far down slope from the vent. 3) The gentler slopes near the base are due to accumulations of material eroded from the volcano and due to the accumulation of pyroclastic (tephra) material.

Calderas: Calderas are large, steep walled, basin shaped depressions and they often have a lake inside the crater and they are usually a minimum of 2km across. Eg: Crater Lake Caldera, USA

1) Calderas are formed on destructive plate boundaries 2) They are formed as a result of a violent eruption caused by gaseous acidic magma, which results in empty magma chambers. 3) The empty magma chamber is no longer able to support the weight of its roof and the summit collapses inwards forming a large depression. 4) The caldera the gets filled with water to form a lake.

Global distribution of volcanic activity:

Because the upper parts of the Earth are solid, special conditions are necessary to form magmas. These special conditions do not exist everywhere beneath the surface, and therefore volcanism/ volcanic activity does not occur everywhere. 80% of volcanoes are found at destructive plate boundaries. 15% of volcanoes are found at constructive plate boundaries.

Most volcanic activity is located along plate boundaries. As a result most volcanic activity is found: 1) Along divergent plate boundaries, such as oceanic ridges. 2) They are associated with rift valleys, as the African rift valley has a number of volcanoes along it such as Mt Kilimanjaro. 3) Along converging plate boundaries where subduction is occurring. ( subduction zones) The line of volcanoes ( ring of fire) that surrounds the Pacific ocean is associated with plate subduction. 4) Over hot spots which are away from plate boundaries. Eg: The Hawaiian Islands.

For a named and located extrusive igneous landform, describe and explain its characteristics. (6) Cascade Range, USA Composite cones are steep sided symmetrical cones. They typically have concave profiles with slopes of 3o near the summit and 5o near the base. Composite cones are commonly found at subduction zones and are associated with more acidic andesitic magma which is high in silica and gas content. They are formed by alternating eruptions of pyroclastic material (tephra) and lava outflows. Composite cones have conduit systems through which magma rises to the surface at a central vent in the crater at the summit. This conduit system, includes dykes and sills (vertical and horizontal intrusions) which help to support the structure of the volcano as these internal lava flows solidify. If the central vent becomes blocked by a magma plug, the build up of gasses and pressure may result in a lateral explosion. or Caldera e.g. Crater Lake, Oregon, USA. Calderas are large, steep walled, basin shaped depressions. Calderas can be vast in size and are usually a minimum of 2km across. They form following a violent eruption caused by gaseous acidic magma, which results in the evacuation of the underlying magma chambers. The empty magma chamber is no longer able to support its roof and the mountain summit collapses inwards forming a large depression. These features may fill with water forming a crater lake. Crater Lake, Oregon is a 600m deep lake and it occupies a caldera crater with a 9km diameter. It is the caldera left following the collapse of Mount Mazama, a 3,660m mountain following a violent eruption in which the magma chamber was drained. Calderas are often characterised by geothermal activity such as geysers and hotspots. Resurgent calderas may form where magma begins to rise again creating a magma fed bulge, which may eventually result in a devastating eruption.

With reference to a located example, describe and explain the processes and landforms of a constructive plate margin. (6) Constructive boundaries mark the divergence of two lithospheric plates. These plates are moving away from each other as they mark the point of divergence of two convection currents formed in the asthenosphere below. These convection currents are believed to be driven by heat created by radioactive decay in the earths core. Where the two plates move apart the upwelling of molten magma results in the formation of sub-marine volcanoes (basic / shield volcanoes) forming an ocean ridge. Mid-ocean ridges are up to 1000km in width and tens of 1000s of km long, on average rising 2km above the surrounding ocean floor. In some areas along the Mid-Atlantic ridge, notably Iceland, the ridge reaches above sea level. As magma rises at the ridge new lithosphere is created on the edges of the diverging plates and the new crust spreads laterally away from the ridge. Due to tensional forces created as the two plates move apart, ridges have an irregular pattern and are offset by transform faults, large cracks at right angles to the plate boundaries. As well as volcanic activity, constructive activities are characterised by shallow focus earthquakes associated with the rising magma and with the tensional stress between plates sliding past each other along the transform faults.

With reference to a located example, explain how tectonic processes at a destructive plate margin result in the formation of landforms. You may use a diagram to help your answer. (6) At destructive margins, two plate converge (e.g. where the Nazca and South American Plates meet). The denser oceanic plate (Nazca plate, made up of basaltic rock) is subducted under the less dense continental plate. The force of collision results in some folding and faulting producing fold mountains as the overlying plate is crumpled and uplifted (e.g. the Andes). These fold mountains are formed parallel to the subduction zone where the oceanic plate is subducted to form a deep-sea trench such as the PeruChile deep-sea trench. This is a long, narrow depression on the ocean floor, which extends for 5,900 km down the west coast of South America. During subduction, partial melting of the crust (due to friction and internal heat) occurs forming magma. This magma, less dense than the surrounding rock, rises to the surface resulting in an explosive volcano (andesitic magma) forming extrusive features such as composite cones and acid domes. Where two ocean plates converge, subduction of one of the plate will occur and the resulting chain of volcanoes forms an island arc (e.g West Indies).

With reference to a located example, explain how tectonic processes at a collision boundary ( constructive-constructive) result in the formation of landforms. At collision boundaries, two plates composed of continental crust collide (e.g. Eurasian and Indio-Australian). Continental crust is dense and therefore cannot sink. During collision therefore folding and faulting results with sediments being pushed up to form fold mountains. These fold mountains represent points at which the earths crust is thickest. The Himalayas are fold mountains that have formed where the Eurasian and Indio-Austrian plate have collided. (If have question on the formation of fold mountains as landforms remember to mention that they also form at destructive boundaries as the overriding plate is crumpled and uplifted e.g. formed the Andes).

Describe the processes that occur at hotspots Hotspots are jets or plumes of magma are rising from the asthenosphere, although they are not linked to a plate boundary. If the crust is thin or weak, magma may be able to work itself to the surface as the hotspot provides a localised heat source, which can partly melt the overlying plate to create a continuous magma source. This magma will rise and erupt at the surface resulting in intraplate volcanism. The currents are fixed in the mantle and dont move, as plates move over the hotspot a trail of volcanoes are therefore left behind and the oldest volcanoes no longer over the hotspot become extinct. As lava builds up to above sea level it will give rise to a volcanic island e.g. Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

What are Hotspots? These are jets of plumes of hot solid material rising from the mantle. REMEMBER hotspot currents are fixed within the mantle - i.e. they are stationary - as the overlying lithosphere gradually moves over the top of the hot spot, a trail of volcanoes and volcanic islands is gradually left behind. What processes result in Hot-Spot Activity?
1) Hot spots provide localised intensive heat sources (mantle plumes) - which partly
melt the overlying plate, creating a continuous magma source.

2) Magma is lighter than the solid lithosphere and rises up, erupting at the surface. 3) Where crust is thin above a hot spot, this provides further opportunity for magma to
escape as volcanic eruption.

4) Lava builds up over time, eventually creating an island, above the present sea-level.
As plate movement gradually carries an active volcano away from the hot spot it becomes inactive as it looses its magma source and a new volcano will be formed above the hot spot. Eg: Hawaiian Islands/ Yellowstone National Park, USA


Destructive plate boundaries: Fold mountains: - Fold mountains are mountains formed mainly by the effects of folding of layers within the upper part of the Earth's crust.

Fold mountains are formed at destructive plate boundaries ( ocean- continental). Because oceanic crust is less dense it is subducted underneath the continental plate, forcing the plate to crumple and uplift - the resulting folding and faulting results in the formation of a mountain chain that is parallel to the oceanic trench e.g. the Andes Mountains.


Fold mountains can also occur at continental-continental boundaries. When the two continental plates collide (e.g. Eurasian and Indio-Australian), none of the plates can sink as they are dense. As a result, during the collision, the colliding plates resist subduction and uplift occurring which causes sediments to be pushed up to form fold mountains. e.g. the Himalayas.

Ocean trenches: An ocean trench is a narrow, elongate, v-shaped depression in the ocean floor. Ocean trenches are the deepest parts of the ocean floor (about 10km below sea level) 1) Deep oceanic trenches form at destructive margins where the less dense oceanic plate is subducted under the continental crust. 2) The long and narrow oceanic trenches are formed during and mark the place where the ocean floor is deepest. 3) Eg: The Peru-Chile deep sea trench in South America.

Destructive plate boundaries: continued:

Island Arcs: An island-arc is a curved chain of volcanic islands that is formed at destructive plate boundaries. Eg: The Kuril Islands in Japan.

1) Island arcs are formed when oceanic crust is subducted beneath oceanic and continental crusts. 2) During subduction, the subducting plate is melted (due to interior heat, friction and pressure) which creates magma. 3) The light, less dense magma rises to the surface and erupts to form sub-marine volcanoes. 4) Eventually these volcanoes grow through successive eruptions to above the height of sea-level forming a chain of volcanic islands which is known as an island-arc.

Constructive plate boundaries:

Mid ocean ridges: Mid ocean ridges are the longest continuous uplifted features on the surface of the planet and they have a length of 60,000km. The forms of mid ocean ridges depend on the rate at which the plates separate. This is because, if the plates separate at a lower rate, it produces a wide ridge of 30-50 km. eg: Mid Atlantic ridge Whereas at an intermediate rate, it produces a less well marked rift that can be 200m deep with a smoother outline. A rapid rate produces a smooth crest and no rift.

1) Where 2 plates pull apart there is a weaker zone in the crust. 2) This zone is exposed to higher temperatures which causes this weak oceanic crust to expand and stretch to create a ridge. 3) The spilt in the crust provides a lower pressure zone where the more liquid lavas can erupt to form submarine volcanoes. 4) Continued eruptions can cause volcanoes to develop until it reaches the surface, which can lead to the forming of islands. 5) For example, Iceland was formed by the Mid Atlantic Ridge. 6) As the oceanic crust is pushed further away from the heat source, it cools, contracts and sinks towards the deeper regions (forming ocean sea floor) where it is covered in finer sediments. 7) Occasionally fragments of ocean floor (ophiolites) are left at the surface during subduction which leads to exposing layers of basalt and deep ocean sediments. Eg: The Toodos ophiolite suite in Cyprus.

Constructive plate boundaries: Continued:

Rift Valleys: Rift valleys are steep sided, large parallel depressions. An example of this is the African rift valley which extends 4,000 km from Mozambique to the Red Sea. From the Red Sea it extends north into Jordan which is a total distance of 5,500 km.

1) Rift valleys occur where 2 continental plates are moving apart. The heating and updoming (upwards movement of rock into a dome shape) of the crust leads to facturing and rifting. 2) As the side of the rift moves apart, the central sections drop down between parallel faults to form rift valleys. 3) As this process continues the valley becomes wider and wider until it becomes a large basin that fills with sediment from the rift walls and from the surrounding area.

Submarine volcanoes:
- Submarine volcanoes are underwater

fissures in the Earth's surface from

which magma can erupt. 1) Where 2 plates pull apart there is a weaker zone in the crust. 2) This zone is exposed to higher temperatures which causes this weak oceanic crust to expand and stretch to create a ridge. 3) The spilt in the crust provides a lower pressure zone where the more liquid lavas can erupt to form submarine volcanoes. 4) The unlimited supply of water surrounding submarine volcanoes can cause them to behave differently from volcanoes on land. Violent, steam-blast eruptions take place when sea water pours into active shallow submarine vents.

Minor volcanic forms/features: Solfatara: Solfataras are small volcanic areas without cones, which are produced by gases escaping to the surface. It is also where superheated water turns into steam as it condenses on the surface. Eg: Around the Bay of Naples in Italy.


1) Geysers occur when surface water percolates downward through the rocks below the Earth's surface to high-temperature regions surrounding a magma reservoir. 2) Here, the water is heated, becomes less dense, and explodes back to the surface along fissures and cracks. 3) Eg: Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park, USA.

Hot springs/ boiling mud: 1) Sometimes, the water which percolates downwards through the rocks below the Earths surface to high-temperature regions surrounding a magma reservoir, may not explode on to the surface. 2) If this hot water mixes with surface deposits, boiling mud is formed.