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While working on some local geography in my world, I came upon these wonderful formations called volcanic plugs and crag and tails, and decided I wished to incorporate them into the land.

My insecurities are as follows:

How are volcanoes realistically positioned?

More specifically, how close to each other can they realistically be?

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  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean with "how close"? How close together or how close to another kind of feature? And right now the question is quite broad, I'd recommend a wikipedia binge untill you run into a more spcific problem. $\endgroup$ – Borgh Oct 22 '19 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Borgh Will that suffice? I really can't find any other resources that point me in the right direction. $\endgroup$ – A Lambent Eye Oct 22 '19 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ There are five volcanos on the not very large island of Hawaii. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are about 40 km apart. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 22 '19 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you could search for actual instances of the formation you refer to? $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Oct 22 '19 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @puppetsock Edinburgh castle is a prominent example. $\endgroup$ – A Lambent Eye Oct 22 '19 at 16:21
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There is no limit set in stone, and the marking line tends to be fluid (pun intended).

When two eruptive craters are really close, they tend to be classified as the same volcano, e.g. look at Etna in Italy, where the experts talk about new eruptive craters instead of new volcano. While with Vesuvius and Phlegraean Fields, though they are about 30 km apart, they are referred to as two different volcanoes.

Same goes in other locations, e.g. Hawaii or Japan.


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Volcanic craters can be very close. Craters often have multiple vents and outflows from the same magma chamber and fissure vents can produce linear series of volcanic cones.

The oceanic crust can move over the magma hotspot and a line of volcanos is the result as in the Hawaiian islands.

One limiting factor is the steepness of the cinder cone slope which tends to be around 30 degrees. So if an erupting volcano is too close to a dormant vent the erupting volcano will eventually overtop and fill the old crater with its cone.

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Volcanoes tend to be situated in lines (not necessarily straight lines).

Some volcanoes (like along the west coast of the US) follow the edges of tectonic plates. So the volcanoes will follow the general mountain chain. There is a formation called the Ring of Fire. It is a series of volcanoes around the edges of the Pacific plate (Western US, Eastern Asia)

Map from Encyclopedia Britannica:

enter image description here

Some volcanoes result from a hot spot under the crust with the plate moving over that hot spot (Hawaii). This results in volcanoes appearing in a straight or slightly curved line in areas of relatively flat terrain.

Wiki:

enter image description here

Then you have the outliers that result from some flaw in the crust that allows magma to work its way to the surface. There is one such under Yellowstone (some day it might blow and take out a good chunk of the middle of the US).

Yellowstone, National Geographic:

enter image description here

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