Volcanoes are openings in the surface of the earth, from which molten rock, called magma, can escape.
The earth is made up of three layers, the crust, the mantle and the core. The crust is the outermost layer of rock and can be qite thin. The continental crust 18 and 30 MILES thick, but the oceanic crust is only about 3 miles thick.
(OKAY, TIME OUT. The oceanic crust is only 3 miles thick? That's reassuring to know that could burst one day and when you're swimming, you're suddenly drawn towards the middle of the ocean where it is all falling down a hole in THE EARTh to the abyss below!! sorry, sorry, CONTINUE!)
The crust feels solid, but consists of giant plates...that float on the upper mantle. The upper mantle is made of hot, molten rock called magma which is Ala's moving. Pressure in the mantle forces magma to surface.
Volcanic eruptions occur where the rising magma finds a way through a crack or WEAKNESS IN THE EARTH'S CRUST, usually at the edge of plates. These are called plate margins.
(Fantastic, you who live near a fault line. Instead of just earthquakes, CONGRATULATIONS, we're also subjected to magma just oozing its way out of the world beneath)
Volcanoes are, in a sense, the safety valves of the earth's crust, releasing the build-up of pressure caused by gases beneath the earth's surface.
The strength of a volcanic eruption depends on the type of magma and the amount of gases trapped in it. The magma formed when plates pull apart. YIKES
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