When Volcanoes Fall Down—Catastrophic Collapse and Debris Avalanches

Fact Sheet 2019-3023
By: , and 



Despite their seeming permanence, volcanoes are prone to catastrophic collapse that can affect vast areas in a matter of minutes. Large collapses begin as gigantic landslides that quickly transform to debris avalanches—chaotically tumbling masses of rock debris that can sweep downslope at extremely high velocities, inundating areas far beyond the volcano. Rapid burial by the debris avalanches themselves, associated eruptions and lahars (volcanic mudflows), and inundation by tsunamis triggered when avalanches impact bodies of water can all cause widespread devastation to people and property.

Suggested Citation

Siebert, L., Reid, M.E., Vallance, J.W., and Pierson, T.C., 2019, When volcanoes fall down—Catastrophic collapse and debris avalanches (ver. 1.2, August 2019): U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2019-3023, 6 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/fs20193023.

ISSN: 2327-6932 (online)

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title When volcanoes fall down—Catastrophic collapse and debris avalanches
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2019-3023
DOI 10.3133/fs20193023
Edition Version 1.2: August 2019; Version 1.1: June 2019
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 6 p.
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details