A volcano is an opening, or rupture, in a planet’s surface or crust, which allows hot magma, volcanic ash and gases to escape from below the surface.
Volcanoes are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging. A mid-oceanic ridge, for example the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has examples of volcanoes caused by divergent tectonic plates pulling apart; the Pacific Ring of Fire has examples of volcanoes caused by convergent tectonic plates coming together. By contrast, volcanoes are usually not created where two tectonic plates slide past one another. Volcanoes can also form where there is stretching and thinning of the Earth’s crust in the interiors of plates, e.g., in the East African Rift, the Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field and the Rio Grande Rift in North America. This type of volcanism falls under the umbrella of “Plate hypothesis” volcanism.
Intraplate volcanism has also been postulated to be caused by mantle plumes. These so-called “hotspots”, for example Hawaii, are postulated to arise from upwelling diapirs from the core-mantle boundary, 3,000 km deep in the Earth.
The word volcano is derived from the name of Vulcano, a volcanic island in the Aeolian Islands of Italy whose name in turn originates from Vulcan, the name of a god of fire in Roman mythology. The study of volcanoes is called volcanology, sometimes spelledvulcanology.