Volcanic Ash Can Travel Over 10,000 Miles

Volcanic eruptions affect air quality in many ways. But how far away from the eruption is air quality affected? How far can volcanic ash and smoke travel?

Larger Volcanic Ash Typically Does Not Travel Very Far

During a volcanic eruption, the general rule of thumb is larger ash falls to the ground sooner than smaller pieces of ash.

In fact, most of ash larger than .01 mm falls to the ground within 30 minutes of eruption. But during powerful eruptions, larger pieces of volcanic rock (called pumice) have travelled over 6 kilometers from the eruption.

Smaller particulates of ash can travel much farther. These pieces of ash are typically less than 2.5 micrograms (PM2.5) in size. See below for some perspective on how small these particles really are.

Volcanic Ash PM2.5

How Far Can Tiny Dangerous Volcanic Ash Particles Travel?

These tiny particulates of ash (considered PM2.5) are of greatest concern to humans, as they are small enough to enter the blood stream and organs.

WATCH: 5 Things You Should Know about PM2.5 Air Pollution

5 Things You Should Know about PM2.5 Air Pollution

Subscribe to Smart Air on YouTube Smart Air Youtube

Unlike the larger pieces of ash emitted from a volcano, these tiny particulates of ash can travel hundreds and even thousands of kilometers!

Small Volcanic Ash Can Travel 10000+ Miles
Volcanic ash

Exactly how far can depend on a lot of factors, including the strength of the eruption and wind conditions. But there are plenty of examples of volcanic smoke and PM2.5 spreading all the way around the globe.

As early as 1883, particulates from Indonesia’s Krakatau volcanic eruption were seen all the way on the other end of the world in New York.

How Far Can Volcano Smoke Travel?

How long did it take to get from Indonesia to New York? 13 days. In fact, volcanic ash from this eruption stayed in the atmosphere for years. The ash created vivid red sunset glows in areas of New York. These unusual sunsets even continued for three years!

How far does volcano ash travel?
Krakatau, Indonesia

How High Can Ash Get In the Atmosphere?

Volcanic ash emitted from a powerful volcano can get blasted 50 km into the earth’s stratosphere. Plumes (volcanic smoke) from Mt. St. Helens reached 31 km high into the atmosphere, while plumes from the Pinatubo eruption reached 45 km high.

Similar to the phenomenon that can occur with wildfires, plumes from volcanos can form pyrocumulonimbus clouds which can act as a “volcano in the sky”, blasting the volcanic plume to further heights into the stratosphere.

How high can volcano smoke get in the atmosphere?

Read More: How Volcanos Can Be a Danger to Your Health

Bottom Line: Volcanic Ash Can Travel 10,000s of Miles!

How far volcanic ash travels depend on a variety of factors, but ash from powerful volcanos have hovered in the atmosphere for years, traveling 10,000s of miles.

Smart Air

How I Protect Myself

Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to inflate the price of clean air.

Smart Air provides empirically backed, no-nonsense purifiers and masks, that remove the same particles as the big companies for a fraction of the cost. Only corporations benefit when clean air is a luxury.

Check out the Sqair!

Sqair Air Purifier

Free Guide to Breathing Safe

Want to learn more about breathing clean air? Join thousands more and stay up to date on protecting your health.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Smart Air low cost purifiers

Smart Air is a social enterprise and certified B-Corp that offers simple, no-nonsense air purifiers and provides free education to protect people from the harms of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.

Certified B-Corp air purifier company