VHP Photo Glossary: Shield volcano

Mauna Loa shield volcano, Hawai`i

Photograph by D. Little (date unknown). View of the NNW flank of Mauna Loa Volcano from the south side of Mauna Kea Volcano, Hawai`i; both are shield volcanoes.

Shield volcano

Volcanoes with broad, gentle slopes and built by the eruption of fluid basalt lava are called shield volcanoes. Basalt lava tends to build enormous, low-angle cones because it flows across the ground easily and can form lava tubes that enable lava to flow tens of kilometers from an erupting vent with very little cooling. The largest volcanoes on Earth are shield volcanoes. The name comes from a perceived resemblance to the shape of a warrior's shield.

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