Volcanoes of Central America

Guatemalan Volcanoes

Michael J Carr
Rutgers University
Department of Geological Sciences, Wright Laboratory
610 Taylor Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854-8066 U.S.A.
Author Profile


Interactively plot volcano locations on a vivid topographic and bathymetric basemap to evaluate right-stepping offsets of the volcanic front of an active arc, Central America.

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Learning Goals

Test a published hypothesis on factors controlling volcano distribution in convergent margins using original data that is now a few decades old. Next, use a new data set that is substantially richer and more detailed to retest the old idea and develop new hypotheses concerning the relationships between volcanoes and faults (visible in the topography).
  • Exploration of data
  • Tool use (GeoMappApp)
  • Recognition of volcanoes using GeoMapApp
  • Identify patterns (what does the volcanic front look like?)
  • Filtering of data using symbols, colors and changes in scale - deciding what data are critical to the question at hand

Context for Use

Sophomore course in Earthquakes and Volcanoes

Description and Teaching Materials

A five page word document gives background and describes exercises. The exercises require 2 data files and I include an Excel version of each.

Volcanoes of Central America mini lesson (Microsoft Word 331kB Sep17 09)
Smithsonian List of Volcanoes (Excel 21kB Sep17 09)
Central American Vents in 2008 (Excel 152kB May8 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The exercise requires GeoMapApp , a free java tool for exploring the earth.


Ideally, students will get immersed in the rich data sets of topography, vent location and volcano size and go beyond the first two sections where the goals and methods are defined. That is a real success.

Problem 1: Can identify two or three right stepping offsets and realize that the raw topography works best, after using the vent data to learn to identify the volcanos.

Problem 2: Vent locations show no evidence of volcanic centers or clusters but the profile tool shows the centers quite well.