In the near future, humanity as a whole decides they need a new volcano at unspecified location X. The bigger, the better, short of a cataclysmic world-ending scenario. The reason behind this desire doesn't matter, only the outcome. Humanity is willing to expend the entire world economy for multiple years or even decades to achieve this goal - but cheaper is obviously preferred.

What is the easiest and most feasible way to intentionally create a new volcano? If today's technology isn't capable, what could we develop that would be?

Related question about possibly using nukes: Could an underground nuclear test start a volcano?

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    $\begingroup$ Conditions of location X will play a big role in the complexity. If there happens to be a magma chamber not too far below the surface, a relatively shallow borehole might be enough to bring lava to the surface. If location X is in a geologically inert spot, however, you'll have to go a lot deeper to find magma. I'd expect that it ranges from "remotely feasible" to "practically impossible" depending on the conditions below ground, so we might need to consider best- and worst-case scenarios. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2020 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


To create a volcano you need to be in a place where magma from the mantle is capable of reaching the surface.

This can happen at:

  • divergent tectonic plaque borders (i.e. Iceland)
  • convergent tectonic plaque borders (i.e. Japan or Andes)
  • volcanic hot spots (i.e. Hawaii)

Coincidentally those places are also where you can find natural volcanoes. But you want an artificial one, quick and cheap.

I suggest you dig some high yield nukes at Yellowstone caldera, and detonate them to weaken the crust. Rinse and repeat.

The place is already like a shaken champagne bottle, the nukes would be like tapping the cork. You would get a nice KABOOM, you won't need to spread the news that the experiment is successful, meters of volcanic ashes will the entire North America that you did it!

The last supereruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, the Lava Creek eruption (approximately 640,000 years ago), ejected approximately 240 cubic miles (1,000 $km^3$) of rock, dust and volcanic ash into the atmosphere.

A study published in GSA Today, the monthly news and science magazine of the Geological Society of America, identified three fault zones on which future eruptions are most likely to be centered. Two of those areas are associated with lava flows aged 174,000–70,000 years, and the third is a focus of present-day seismicity.

Note: considering that in any case you have to dig kilometers of rock, the use of nuke seems to be the only way to quickly dig down. Since you are not worried about the stability of the hole you are creating, at least.

  • $\begingroup$ So that's how the vampires in Van Helsing did it. They set off some nukes at yellowstone! Don't tell me they weren't involved! $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2020 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ "nukes at yellowstone will trigger an eruption" - citation needed. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Jul 8, 2020 at 2:05

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