Volcanoes are grouped into four main types; cinder cones, composite volcanoes, shield volcanoes, and lava domes. Cinder cones are the simplest form and most commonly found. Composites, also known as stratovolcanoes, are some of the largest mountains. Shield volcanoes are made up of mostly lava flows. Lava domes are often located within the craters of composite volcanoes; they are are made of small bulbous masses of lava (USGS, 2011).
There are also caldera volcanoes which are in a class of their own due to different patterns of activity and structure. Caldera volcanoes are the most potentially destructive and also the least understood because scientists haven’t had real world opportunities to study their activity. The 1815 Toba explosion in Sumatra which was the most devastating recorded in modern history, was a Caldera Volcanic eruption. Caldera volcanoes may be former strato or shield volcanoes that had such powerful eruptions that the upper part of the volcano collapsed into the emptied magna chamber. Caldera volcanoes may also just be depressions with several hot springs rather than one major vent. Yellowstone is an example of the latter.
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