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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

coined in German (von Seebach, 1866), from strato- + volcano. So called for its layered structure.


n. (context vulcanology English) A tall conical volcano, composed of layers (or strata) of hardened lava, tephra and ash.


A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a conical volcano built up by many layers (strata) of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic explosive eruptions and effusive eruptions, although some have collapsed craters called calderas. The lava flowing from stratovolcanoes typically cools and hardens before spreading far due to high viscosity. The magma forming this lava is often felsic, having high-to-intermediate levels of silica (as in rhyolite, dacite, or andesite), with lesser amounts of less-viscous mafic magma. Extensive felsic lava flows are uncommon, but have travelled as far as .

Stratovolcanoes are sometimes called "composite volcanoes" because of their composite layered structure built up from sequential outpourings of eruptive materials. They are among the most common types of volcanoes, in contrast to the less common shield volcanoes. Two famous stratovolcanoes are Krakatoa, best known for its catastrophic eruption in 1883 and Vesuvius, famous for its destruction of the towns Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 CE. Both eruptions claimed thousands of lives. In modern times, Mount Saint Helens and Mount Pinatubo have erupted catastrophically.

Existence of stratovolcanoes has not been proved on other terrestrial bodies of the solar system with one exception. Their existence was suggested for some isolated massifs on Mars, e.g., Zephyria Tholus.

Usage examples of "stratovolcano".

On Earth, such stratovolcanoes -- like Mount Fuji, Mount Rainier -- could eject debris miles into the air.

An aureole of bright light illuminating the ancient stratovolcano as a second moon rose behind it.