FROM INCANDESCENT RIVERS of molten rock to columns of billowing ash, nothing showcases Earth’s fiery power like a volcano.
These eruptive peaks can be found around the world, both on and offshore, with dozens being active on any given day. Their molten fits have helped craft Earth’s surface, carving craters, piling up peaks, and sending out streams of lava that cool into desolate landscapes. Volcanoes have helped shape life as we know it. Each eruption dredges up nutrients from deep underground, laying down fresh rock that breaks down into fertile soils and bolsters life around the globe. But their blasts are also a stark reminder of the fragility of life, with the power to devastate landscapes in a single blow.
One volcano is not like another, and these images capture their dynamic range. Some burst in massive explosions, others burble with liquidy lava. By studying every burp, shiver, and blast of these geologic giants, researchers hope to decipher their past and peer into the planet’s potential futures.
Sinabung volcano in western Indonesia slumbered for some 400 years before roaring awake in August 2010. Since then, its fiery rampages—as shown here in April 2015—are a reminder of its location on the so-called ring of fire. This disjointed zone of tectonic plate collisions around the Pacific Ocean hosts about 75 per cent of the world’s active volcanoes.
PHOTOGRAPH BY TIBTA PANGIN, ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES