Beautiful destruction: 11 magnificent geological maps of volcanoes

What scientists find beautiful in a graph, a microscope slide, a soil sample, or any other aspect of their work is not always obvious. It looks like numbers, smudges, or dirt to the rest of us. But sometimes a scientific result or product is so visually appealing that anyone would want to hang it on their wall like a work of art. Geological maps are often in this category. And some of the most beautiful geological maps are volcanoes. Colors on geological maps represent different rock units of different ages. With an active lifespan of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, volcanoes produce many layers of ash and lava flows that will appear in different colors on the map. And with the circular shape of many volcanoes and the radiating rock units, the maps can really be striking. Here we have put together some great examples of geological maps of volcanoes from the United States and Japan. You don’t have to be a geologist or even a scientist to have a hard time choosing a favorite.
Special thanks to the Geological Survey of Japan for permission to use some of their maps in this gallery.


Type: stratovolcano Last erupted: 2010 Summit elevation: 2,674 feet (815 m) Miyake-jima rises about 3,600 feet from the seabed about 110 miles southwest of Tokyo. The top of the volcano is an 8 km wide circular island that is home to around 3,000 people. It erupted as recently as last year, but its last major eruption streak occurred in June-July and September 2000 (see below). It was accompanied by thousands of earthquakes, including a magnitude 6.4 that killed one person, ash plumes 9 miles high, pyroclastic flows, ash falls, crater collapses and a evacuation order which lasted for five years and kept the island largely uninhabited until January 2011.
Geological map: Geological Survey of Japan. Image below: Miyake-jima in July 2000 (left) after large eruptions and vent steam in September 2000 (right) (ash appears dark gray, vegetation appears red, and water is blue-gray). Nasa.

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