Hollywood disaster movie, since 1997


Hollywood disaster movies are a popular genre of film. This article will explore the realism of the scenes shown in the film ‘Volcano’ which was produced in 1997.

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Where do volcanoes usually occur?

Volcanoes usually occur near the Ring of Fire. The map shows a picture of the normal locations for this type of hazard. In the film, the hazard was shown to be occurring in Los Angeles. This is an inaccurate location for this type of hazard because Los Angeles is not near the Ring of Fire. The location map shows and proves that the hazard in the film does not occur near the Ring of Fire. Volcanoes can occur in places that are not near the ring of fire, they can occur near tectonic plate boundaries and at hot spots. Volcanoes can occur in Los Angeles but they are unlikely to happen.

How do volcanoes form?

When a volcano erupts, lava and ash are blasted out of the volcano. The lava cools down to form new crust and over time after several eruptions, the rocks build up to form a volcano.
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Types of Volcanoes

Shield Volcanoes:

Shield volcanoes, are low profile and broad volcanoes with gently sloping sides that are generated by Hawaiian eruptions. The diameter of the volcano varies between a few kilometers, too more than 100 kilometers. The unique shape of the volcano results from basalt lava that spreads outward from the summit area. They are formed by eruptions of thin, runny lava. Eruptions of Shield volcanoes are gentle and they tend to be frequent.

Composite Volcanoes:

The lava erupting from composite volcanoes are pyroclastic flows. Pyroclastic flows have temperatures over 400°C and they roll down the sides of volcanoes at very high speeds. They are made up of alternating layers of lava and ash whereas other volcanoes are just made up of lava.


A stratovolcano is a cone shaped volcano that is composed of one layer of hardened lava, tephra and volcanic ash.

Volcanoes described in terms of activity:

  • Active Volcano
  • Dormant Volcano
  • Extinct Volcano

What are the causes and effects of volcanoes?

Causes of volcanoes:

Magma starts to rise from the weakness of the earth's crust. Magma starts to rise from the volcano as the earth’s tectonic plates start to move away from one another, magma can also be formed when the tectonic plates move towards each other and the magma collects in the magma chambers. The magma then pushes through the vents and fissures in the earth's surface and an eruption occurs.

Effects of volcanoes:

Volcanoes can change the weather causing rain, thunder and lightning. Fast moving lava can kill people and the ash that comes from the volcano makes it harder for people to breathe. They can also die from fires and earthquakes. Volcanoes can also damage buildings, houses, fields, and people's possessions. Plants and animals can also be killed when a volcano erupts. Human and natural landscapes can be destroyed or changed forever.

Mount St. Helens (Stratovolcano)

For around 2 months, Mount St. Helens showed signs of it starting to awaken with more earthquakes happening beneath the mountain and steam and ash erupting from the volcano. Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18th, 1980 in Washington, United States. This eruption blew off Mount St. Helens beautiful cone shaped top and blasted a massive crater into the side of it, changing it's size and shape. Since this eruption, smaller eruptions have happened and because of these eruptions, Mount St. Helens is starting to rebuild its shape. This eruption killed an estimated 24,000 animals including 11,000 hares, 6000 deer, 300 bobcats, 200 black bears and 15 mountain lions.

How does this film clip differ from reality?

When magma reaches the earth's surface, its called lava. Lava can pour out in gentle streams, lava flows, or they can erupt violently into the air. Loose rocks inside the volcano can be shot into the air along with the lava. The event during 1:02 to 1:06 is similar to what happens when a volcano starts to erupt.


In conclusion, the clips that are shown in this film are unrealistic. The location of the volcano is inaccurate and as mentioned above, the lava flows should have cooled down as it traveled down the mountain. In this movie, the volcano is located underneath a city and this is unrealistic because geologists would check if there were any hazards before they built the city. The helicopters were flying too close to the lava flow and there were reporters standing right next to the lava flow and they were making reports when there were lava bombs, lava and ash everywhere. The people in this clip didn't seem to be affected by the poisonous gases but there was ash everywhere.

I made sure that my information was from a reliable source by using triangulation to make sure that the information that I used was correct.