18 Most Dangerous Volcanoes In The U.S.

The list is a ranking of the “potential severity of impacts” of future hypothetical eruptions. Several factors are taken into account to effectively help local communities in case of a disaster.

Very High Treat

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

It’s no surprise that Kīlauea in Hawaii tops the list as the most dangerous volcano in the U.S., according to newly released rankings from the U.S. Geological Survey, since it seems like it was just yesterday that hundreds of homes were destroyed by molten lava pouring like water. Washington’s Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier are also on the top three slots.

Potential Severity of Impacts

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

The new volcano threat assessment is an update to a 2005 report that determined the greatest risks based on the potential for eruption and human impacts. The report is a ranking of the “potential severity of impacts” of future hypothetical eruptions and does not forecast which are the volcanoes most likely to erupt.

“The threat articulated in this report is the same threat that was there a week ago,” says Ben Andrews, the director of the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program. “It’s maybe just a little better described here.”

The Ranking Helps Prevent Disasters

Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic

This ranking is vital since it provides important information so that the USGS and other organizations can determine which volcanoes deserve the most attention for research, monitoring, emergency planning, and funding. Since funding is very limited, these groups can more effectively help local communities react to future eruptions. The ranking helps scientists and government officials home in on the biggest dangers to avert disaster.

“It’s so critical,” volcanologist Janine Krippner of Concord University says of the report.  “Volcanoes tend to give us warning before they erupt,” Krippner says. “But if we’re not listening, we’ll miss it.”