Island of No Return. Literally.


Thousands of South Pacific islanders will leave for permanent resettlement as one of the most active volcanoes in the world gets ready to rumble. (Guardian)

Why is the South Pacific erupting? Use our resource to learn a little about the Ring of Fire.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources, including today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

The huge ash plume of Manaro Voui stretches across the South Pacific from the volcanic island of Ambae, Vanuatu.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Jeff Schmaltz, using MODIS data from LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response

Discussion Ideas

What’s going on in Vanuatu? Explore layers on today’s MapMaker Interactive map to better understand the latest eruption.


  • Scroll down and take a look at the “Volcanic Hazards” section of our reference resource. What volcanic hazards do you think ni-Vanuatu authorities are most concerned about?
    • volcanic ash. Volcanic ash can reduce visibility, prevent air travel, damage infrastructure, and harm human health. Some parts of Ambae have already been blanketed in ash 30 centimeters (1 foot) deep.
      • visibility. Plumes of volcanic ash can spread over large areas of sky, turning daylight into complete darkness and drastically reducing visibility. Take another look at that image up top to see how far ocean winds can carry volcanic ash.
      • air travel. Airborne volcanic ash is especially dangerous to moving aircraft. The small, abrasive particles of rock and glass can melt inside an airplane engine and solidify on the turbine blades—causing the engine to stall. The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland, produced an ash cloud that forced the cancellation of roughly 100,000 flights and affected 7 million passengers, costing the aviation industry an estimated $2.6 billion. Check out that ash cloud here.
      • infrastructure. Ash can enter and disrupt machinery found in power supply, water supply, sewage treatment, and communication facilities. Heavy ash fall can also inhibit road and rail traffic and damage vehicles. When mixed with rainfall, volcanic ash turns into a heavy, cement-like sludge can collapse roofs. This has already happened on Ambae, as these dramatic photos document.
      • crops. Most residents of Ambae practice subsistence agriculture. Volcanic ash has already buried crops and contaminated animal feed.
      • health. Carbon dioxide and fluorine, gases that can be toxic to humans, can collect in volcanic ash. The resulting ash fall can lead to crop failure, animal death and deformity, and human illness. Ash’s abrasive particles can scratch the surface of the skin and eyes, causing discomfort and inflammation. If inhaled, volcanic ash can cause breathing problems and damage the lungs. Inhaling large amounts of ash and volcanic gases can cause a person to suffocate.
    • displacement. Ambae’s population will be forced to find new homes, schools, jobs, hospitals, community centers, and neighborhoods.


  • Are evacuated residents of Ambae considered “environmental refugees”?
    • Yes. Residents have been forced to flee their homes and communities due to changes in the environment.


  • Island residents are being permanently evacuated because of an erupting volcano. Is Manaro Voui going to go Krakatoa on us?
    • Unlikely. Volcanologists have categorized the eruption as a Volcanic Alert Three, which the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department categorizes as “Danger within caldera, volcanic cone and other specific area, possibility of moderate eruption and also chance of flank eruption.”
      • The evacuation is due to increased emissions of gas, ash, and scoria. The cone at one of the volano’s three crater lakes has also grown significantly.
      • Manaro Voui is a shield volcano. Krakatau is a stratovolcano.
        • Shield volcanoes, like Kilauea in Hawaii, are large, gently sloping mountains that are often characterized by effusive eruptions—a slow, steady outpouring of liquid lava.
        • Stratovolcanoes are steep mountains often characterized by explosive eruptions of gases, ash, rocks, and viscous lava. Pyroclastic flows, the most dangerous of volcanic hazards, are usually associated with the explosive eruptions of stratovolcanoes.
        • Although shield volcanoes are obviously dangerous, they are less likely to erupt with the sort of violent intensity of stratovolcanoes like Krakatau, Vesuvius, or Pinatubo. Learn more about shield and stratovolcanoes with our activity here.




Guardian: Island of no return: Vanuatu evacuates entire population of volcanic Ambae

Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program: Ambae

Nat Geo: Evacuating Ambae Island

Nat Geo: Vanuatu

Nat Geo: What is the Ring of Fire?

Nat Geo: What is a volcano?

Nat Geo: What is volcanic ash?

Nat Geo: Types of Volcanic Eruptions


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