A sand volcano or sand blow is a cone of sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...
formed by the ejection of sand onto a surface from a central point. The sand builds up as a cone
A cone is an n-dimensional geometric shape that tapers smoothly from a base to a point called the apex or vertex. Formally, it is the solid figure formed by the locus of all straight line segments that join the apex to the base...
with slopes at the sand's angle of repose
Angle of repose
The angle of repose or, more precisely, the critical angle of repose, of a granular material is the steepest angle of descent or dip of the slope relative to the horizontal plane when material on the slope face is on the verge of sliding. This angle is in the range 0°–90°.When bulk granular...
. A crater
A volcanic crater is a circular depression in the ground caused by volcanic activity. It is typically a basin, circular in form within which occurs a vent from which magma erupts as gases, lava, and ejecta. A crater can be of large dimensions, and sometimes of great depth...
is commonly seen at the summit
In topography, a summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it. Mathematically, a summit is a local maximum in elevation...
. The cone looks like a small volcanic cone
Volcanic cones are among the simplest volcanic formations. They are built by ejecta from a volcanic vent, piling up around the vent in the shape of a cone with a central crater. Volcanic cones are of different types, depending upon the nature and size of the fragments ejected during the eruption...
and can range in size from millimetres to metres in diameter.
The process is often associated with earthquake liquefaction and the ejection of fluidized sand that can occur in water saturated sediments during an earthquake
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...
. The New Madrid Seismic Zone
New Madrid Seismic Zone
The New Madrid Seismic Zone , sometimes called the New Madrid Fault Line, is a major seismic zone and a prolific source of intraplate earthquakes in the southern and midwestern United States, stretching to the southwest from New Madrid, Missouri.The New Madrid fault system was responsible for the...
exhibited many such features during the 1811-1812 series of earthquakes. Linear sand blows are just as common, and can still be seen in the New Madrid area.
In the past few years, much effort has gone into the mapping of liquefaction features to study ancient earthquakes. The basic idea is to map zones that are susceptible to the process and then go in for a closer look. The presence or absence of earthquake liquefaction features is strong evidence of past earthquake activity, or lack thereof.
These are to be contrasted with mud volcano
The term mud volcano or mud dome are used to refer to formations created by geo-excreted liquids and gases, although there are several different processes which may cause such activity. Hot water mixes with mud and surface deposits. Mud volcanoes are associated with subduction zones and about 700...
es which occur in areas of geyser
A geyser is a spring characterized by intermittent discharge of water ejected turbulently and accompanied by a vapour phase . The word geyser comes from Geysir, the name of an erupting spring at Haukadalur, Iceland; that name, in turn, comes from the Icelandic verb geysa, "to gush", the verb...
or subsurface gas venting.