Hollywood disaster movies are a popular genre of film. This article will explore the realism of the scenes shown in this particular movie.

Volcano, which was produced in 1997 is a film about the birth and tragedy inflicted by a new volcano. Directed by Mick Jackson and produced by Andrew Z. Davis, this film was based on the mass destruction of the city.

Volcanoes in Reality

This hazard is caused by a number of processes. One of which is triggered by earthquakes. Earthquakes also occur along constructive and destructive boundaries. They appear when tectonic plates grind against each other along lines called faults, eventually the fault gives way and the energy is released and races through the earth in the form of seismic waves.

The boundaries/cracks allow magma to rise up from below the earth's crust. Pressure builds and is released causing the magma to explode,thus magma eventually cools to form rock. After more eruptions over time the rock builds up forming a shield or composite volcano.

* the diagrams bellow shows the process of a volcanic eruption


The location where this type of hazard usually occurs is along constructive/destructive boundaries are where tectonic plates inside the earth are pushed together or dragged apart.
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Case study

On 10 April 1815, Tambora produced the biggest volcanic eruption ever recorded., The volcano erupted more than 50 cubic kilometers of magma and collapsed afterwards to form a 6 km wide and 1250 m deep caldera. The eruption produced global climatic effects and killed more than 100,000 people, directly and indirectly. Minor lava domes and flows have been extruded on the caldera floor at Tambora during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The hazard was typical and different to other similar hazard events, different because the eruption Tambora produced was huge, maybe even Hollywood film worthy. However there were similar effects such as loss of lives, destruction of man made property. However the effect the eruption had on the weather was catastrophic, 18000 froze to death as a result. This weather crisis is most commonly referred to as " a year without summer"

Possible Effects of this Hazzard

  • loss of lives
  • If the ash and mud from a volcanic eruption mix with rain water or melting snow, fast moving mudflows are created. These flows are called lahars.
  • lava can destroy areas of woodland, agriculture and settlements
  • natural landscapes can be destroyed and changed drastically forever
  • lava and ash when broken down provide nutrients for the soil, the soil is very fertile so it’s good for agriculture
  • landslides

Similarities to Reality

The film clip is similar to real life hazards in a number of ways.An event during the clip shows a dog barking before the eruption. This is typical because outside the screen, animals such as cats, dogs and birds can sense natural disasters before they happen.

For example On February 26th, dogs in Nanawale Ranch in Hawaii were acting abnormally. They ran around frantic and dug holes. Dr. Gordon A. MacDonald, then director of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, was called. He and his colleagues had suspected that a volcanic eruption might be coming soon although they couldn't predict exactly when it would occur. Each day there were increasing numbers of earth tremors at the Nanawale Ranch. No cracks were found. There was no odor of volcanic gases could be detected in the holes made by the dogs. Yet the following morning the eruption began less than half a kilometer from where the dogs had been digging.

Another expected aspect of the film that occurs in reality is what the Volcanic eruption produced. As expected tephra, lava and ask poured from earths outer layer. However some expected factors of this particular eruption from the movie were lahars and lava didn’t occur. This is because of the difference in shape of the volcanoes, a new volcano wouldn’t be shaped because the lava wouldn’t have had the chance to harden yet. Whereas a older volcano such as the Tambora would have been able to produce these effects because of it’s cone shape

Differences from Reality

However there are also some less realistic aspects of the film. For example the location map shows that the hazard in the film is highly unlikely to occur at the location of which the film is based. In the film the hazard was shown to be occurring in LA. This is /inaccurate location for this type of hazard because LA is not along a constructive or destructive boundaries.

Another highly factor unlikely is that an earthquake could cause a volcanic eruption. Especially as the volcano from the movie was described in trailers as “harmless” and “small”. There have been cases of large earthquakes triggering volcanic eruptions such as Kīlauea. An earth quake under Kīlauea, Hawaii caused the volcano above to erupt immediately after. However Kīlauea was showing signs of pressurisation and was probably due to erupt anyway. The earth quake that triggered the eruption was drastically large.

A less realistic example of this is seen at 1:03 seconds into the clip showing ash and lava there were also bolts of lightning. This was shown to exaggerate the intensity of the movie because lightning has no connection at all to a regular volcanic eruption.


In conclusion, although the events that took place in the movie were not impossible, however throughout my research I have concluded that the events that occurred in the duration of this movie were most highly unlikely.

However compared to another, more recent volcano disaster movie, Pompeii, 2014 the notion that Volcano could be realistic seams even more ridiculous. Pompeii was based on a real event and volcano, Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and was was one of the most catastrophic and infamous volcanic eruptions in European history. This eruption buried the Roman settlements of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontisand Stabiae.

Hollywood has taken factors that were unlikely to occur in the largest volcanic eruption earth has ever recorded and infused them all into one single volcanic eruption. This put together with the fact that volcanoes rarely occur away from de/constructive boundaries makes the whole disaster movie, just that a fictional film. Hollywood has dramatised natural disaster when they are made into a movie to increase suspense and action therefor increasing ratings of the movie.