What is the Canadian Volcanic Arc?

Glaciers, History, Volcanoes

What is the Canadian Volcanic Arc? Exploring British Columbia’s Geologically Active Belt

The Canadian Volcanic Arc in British Columbia (BC) is a geologically active volcanic belt in western Canada. It is a part of the larger Pacific Ring of Fire, renowned for its intense tectonic activity surrounding the Pacific Ocean. Stretching from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the northern reaches of BC and into the Yukon Territory, this volcanic arc presents a fascinating geological phenomenon worth exploring.

Formation and Tectonic Activity:

The Canadian Volcanic Arc owes its existence to the subduction of the oceanic Juan de Fuca and Explorer tectonic plates beneath the North American Plate. As these denser oceanic plates descend beneath the lighter continental plate, the immense heat and pressure generated to cause the subducted crust to melt. The resulting molten rock, magma, rises through the Earth’s crust, leading to volcanic activity upon reaching the surface.

Notable Volcanoes:

The Canadian Volcanic Arc is characterized by a series of stratovolcanoes, also known as composite volcanoes. These majestic mountains feature steep sides formed by layers of volcanic ash, lava, and debris. Within the arc, several notable volcanoes have captured the attention of scientists and nature enthusiasts. Mount Garibaldi, Mount Cayley, Mount Meager, and the Wells Gray-Clearwater region’s volcanic complex are remarkable examples. Over millions of years, these volcanoes have periodically erupted, with the most recent eruptions occurring during the Holocene epoch.

Stunning Landscapes and Geological Features:

The volcanic activity within the Canadian Volcanic Arc has significantly shaped the breathtaking mountainous landscapes and diverse geological features throughout British Columbia. Erosion caused by volcanic eruptions has sculpted rugged terrain, resulting in picturesque valleys, deep canyons, and cascading waterfalls. Exploring these stunning landscapes provides a unique opportunity to witness the dynamic forces of nature in action.

Geothermal Energy Potential:

The volcanoes of the Canadian Volcanic Arc also hold potential for geothermal energy resources. The intense heat generated beneath the Earth’s surface can be harnessed as a sustainable and clean source of electricity. Researchers are actively studying the volcanic systems in BC to understand the geothermal resources and explore the possibilities of utilizing this renewable energy.

Ongoing Research and Mitigating Hazards:

While the Canadian Volcanic Arc’s volcanic activity contributes to the region’s geological wonders, it also presents potential hazards to nearby communities and infrastructure. Hazards such as ashfall, lahars (volcanic mudflows), and pyroclastic flows require careful monitoring and preparedness to mitigate their impact. Continuous research and monitoring by scientists, geologists, and government agencies are essential in understanding volcanic activity and assessing associated risks. Volcano observatories equipped with advanced monitoring instruments play a crucial role in the early detection of changes, enabling timely warnings and effective emergency response plans.

The Canadian Volcanic Arc in British Columbia is a captivating geological marvel that showcases the dynamic nature of our planet. Understanding its formation, exploring its notable volcanoes, appreciating its stunning landscapes, and conducting ongoing research is essential in comprehending the intricate interplay of tectonic forces and mitigating potential hazards associated with volcanic activity in the region.

Experience these amazing landforms and learn more about the history of the Canadian Volcanic Arc on one of our scenic flight tours – we recommend the Coast Mountain Epic tour, which allows you to customize your route, allowing you to hit all the spots on your bucket list!


BC Parks: https://bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/garibaldi/
Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences: https://doi.org/10.1139/e77-064

Explore More

Choose your Adventure

See all Tours