VHP Photo Glossary: Caldera

Aerial view of Aniakchak Caldera, Alaska; view toward east

Photograph by M. Williams, National Park Service, 1977.


A caldera is a large, usually circular depression at the summit of a volcano formed when magma is withdrawn or erupted from a shallow underground magma reservoir. The removal of large volumes of magma may result in loss of structural support for the overlying rock, thereby leading to collapse of the ground and formation of a large depression. Calderas are different from craters, which are smaller, circular depressions created primarily by explosive excavation of rock during eruptions.

Aniakchak Caldera, pictured here, formed during an enormous explosive eruption that expelled more than 50 km3 of magma about 3,450 years ago. The caldera is 10 km in diameter and 500-1,000 m deep. Subsequent eruptions formed domes, cinder cones, and explosion pits on the caldera floor.

More about calderas

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