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Difference between Earthquake and Volcano

Earthquake and volcano both are natural hazards with immense destructive potential. They have been a cause of loss of property and innocent lives. Generally, people cannot differentiate between a volcano and an earthquake. Let us see how they differ from each other!


Earthquake is the shaking of Earth's surface. It is caused by the seismic waves that are produced by the movements of tectonic plates in the Earth's lithosphere. Any seismic event, natural or artificial, that generates seismic waves is considered an earthquake. The intensity of an earthquake varies greatly, sometimes it is too low that it cannot be felt and sometimes it is violent enough to toss people around and destroy the whole town, village, city etc.

The crust of the Earth is not all in one piece. Instead, it is made of many pieces called tectonic plates. These plates keep moving around and slide past one another and keep bumping into each other. The boundaries of these plates are made up of faults and earthquakes usually occur on these faults. When the plates move, their faults get stuck as they are rough but the plates keep moving and whey they move far enough the faults get unstuck that result in an earthquake.


Volcanoes are vents or openings in the Earth's crust that allow molten lava and gasses to escape out onto the surface of the Earth. In other words, it is an opening that allows material warmer than its surroundings to escape from its interior. The hot lava and gases that escape out are called magma. When the magma escapes, it causes an eruption that can be explosive, throwing material high in the sky or it can be calmer with gentle flows of lava. When magma flows out of a volcano it is known as lava. The lava can be as hot as 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. A volcano can be active, dormant or extinct.

  • Active volcanoes: The volcanoes that are erupting lave or have had recent eruptions or are likely to have eruptions in near future are called active volcanoes.
  • Dormant volcanoes: The volcanoes that have not erupted for a long time but may erupt in the future.
  • Extinct volcanoes: The volcanoes that have been in the dormant state for more than 10000 years are considered extinct.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between earthquake and volcano are as follows:

Earthquake Volcano
It is the shaking of the Earth's surface. It is a vent or opening in the Earth's crust that releases the hot magma on to the Earth's surface.
It is caused by the movement of the tectonic plates present in the Earth's crust. It is caused when the pressure of hot magma increases below the Earth's surface.
It does not involve the release of the magma. Hot magma (molten rock) is released from the deeper layers of the Earth.
It can occur in any part of the world. It occurs only at the openings in the Earth's crust.
It may cause large-scale property loss and human deaths. Humans do not prefer to live near volcanoes so it does not cause as much as losses as caused by earthquakes.
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