According to the United States Geological Survey, cinder cones are one of most common types of volcanoes, and one of the most dramatic, born from firey fountains of red-hot lava. Their name comes from the cinders, or hard bits of rock from which they are made.
Cinder cones form when steam and other underground gases push liquid rock through a vent, or hole, in the Earth's surface, blasting red-hot blobs of material into the air. The blobs cool into cinders -- small stones ranging in size from sand particles to pebbles. The cinders build up over time, creating the bulk of the volcano.
Cinder cones generally feature steep slopes that form a conical mountain, with a noticeable crater that gives the volcano a flat shape at its top. This makes the cinder cone distinguishable from the composite volcano, which has a pointed top.
Most cinder cones reach heights of less than 1,000 feet above other mountains or landforms that surround the volcano.
Cinder cones typically develop to the side of other volcanoes, such as shield volcanoes or calderas. You can find cinder cones on every continent, wherever volcanoes have been active.
Because of the forceful nature of their formation process, cinder cones can build up rapidly over the course of a few years, rather than over hundreds of years.
Paricutin, a volcano located in Mexico, is an example of a fast-growing cinder cone. In 1943, a crack in the ground in a cornfield began spewing rock and ash; within a week the buildup of ash and cinders had reached a height of well over 300 feet. After several years, Paricutin reached a maximum height of about 1,400 feet.
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