An eruption column or eruption plume is a cloud of super-heated ash and tephra suspended in gases emitted during an explosive volcanic eruption. The volcanic materials form a vertical column or plume that may rise many kilometers into the air above the vent of the volcano. In the most explosive eruptions, the eruption column may rise over 40 km (25 mi), penetrating the stratosphere. Stratospheric injection of aerosols by volcanoes is a major cause of short-term climate change.
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A common occurrence in explosive eruptions is column collapse when the eruption column is or becomes too dense to be lifted high into the sky by air convection, and instead falls down the slopes of the volcano to form pyroclastic flows or surges (although the latter is less dense). On some occasions, if the material is not dense enough to fall, it may create pyrocumulonimbus clouds.