For other uses, see Caldera (disambiguation).
Mount Mazama's eruption timeline, an example of caldera formation

A caldera is a large cauldron-like depression that forms following the evacuation of a magma chamber/reservoir. When large volumes of magma are erupted over a short time period, structural support for the crust above the magma chamber is lost. The ground surface then collapses downward into the partially emptied magma chamber, leaving a massive depression at the surface (from one to dozens of kilometers in diameter). Although sometimes described as a crater, the feature is actually a type of sinkhole, as it is formed through subsidence and collapse rather than an explosion or impact. Only seven known caldera-forming collapses have occurred since the start of the 20th century, most recently at Bárðarbunga volcano in Iceland. [1]


The word comes from Spanish caldera, and this from Latin caldaria, meaning "cooking pot". In some texts the English term cauldron is also used. The term caldera was introduced into the geological vocabulary by the German geologist Leopold von Buch when he published his memoirs of his 1815 visit to the Canary Islands, [note 1] where he first saw the Las Cañadas caldera on Tenerife, with Montaña Teide dominating the landscape, and then the Caldera de Taburiente on La Palma.