Will it live for several million years?

Is 3-4 millions years normal?

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    $\begingroup$ No time for a proper answer for now, but I'd say yes, a few million years is pretty common. There are some old stratovolcanoes close to where I live in Central France. The monts Dore massif had the Guéry volcano between 3 and 1.5 Ma (it lived 1.5 million years), then the Sancy volcano between 1.2 and 0.2 Ma (1 million years). Further south is Cantal, which used to be Europe's largest volcano and was active between 13 and 3 Ma, although its two main phases were 9–7 Ma (paleo Cantal) and 7–5.5 Ma (neo Cantal). Mount Etna, Europe's current largest stratovolcano, is already 500,000 years old. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 13:46

1 Answer 1


I was going to write an answer based on a few known examples (see my previous comment), but a few examples are not necessarily statistically representative. So I checked good old Encyclopedia of Volcanoes (Sigurdsson et al., eds, 1999) and there is exactly what you need! Chapter 41, section III, "Lifetimes of Composite Volcanoes"$^1$, states:

The general impression from the sparse and largely poorly constrained geochronological data on composite volcanoes is that these are long-lived. [...] Composite volcanoes stay active for periods of up to 500 ka. Mount Adams in the Cascades dates back to ~520 ka and appears to be typical of other large composite cones in the Cascade arc of North America. Although the data are sparse, Mounts Baker, Rainier, Hood, Jefferson, Mazama, and Shasta are thought to have lasted 300 ka. [...] The observations from the Cascades are ratified from other regions. Tongariro (New Zealand) had been active since ~250-275 ka. In the southern volcanic zone of the Andes, composite volcanoes are thought to have been active for periods of up to 300 ka. Volcan Parinacota, in the central Andes, was initiated ~250 ka, after the vent shifted slightly s outhward from its older twin cone Pomerape.

So the usual lifespan is in the order of a few hundred thousands years. From my knowledge it can be longer, a few million years, but then they are generally subdivided into multiple edifices. For example, the monts Dore massif (France) is generally divided between the Guéry stratovolcano, which was active between 3.09 and 1.46 Ma, and the Sancy stratovolcano, which was active between 1.10 and 0.28 Ma (Nomade et al., 2014). A current example of this is Mount Vesuvius, which has replaced older Mount Somma at the same place.

$^1$ Composite volcano is synonymous, and generally preferred, to stratovolcano.


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