An active stratovolcano located on the island of Luzon, at the intersection of the borders of the Philippine provinces of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga. It is located in the Cabusilan Mountain range separating the west coast of Luzon from the central plains, and is 42 km (26 mi) west of the dormant and more prominent Mount Arayat, occasionally mistaken for Pinatubo. Ancestral Pinatubo was a stratovolcano made of andesite and dacite. Before 1991, the mountain was inconspicuous and heavily eroded. It was covered in dense forest which supported a population of several thousand indigenous people, the Aeta, who had fled to the mountains from the lowlands during the protracted Spanish conquest of the Philippines which first commenced in 1565.
The volcano's ultra-Plinian eruption in June 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century (after the 1912 eruption of Novarupta) and the largest eruption in living memory. The colossal 1991 eruption had a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 6, and came some 450–500 years after the volcano's last known eruptive activity (estimated as VEI 5, the level of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens), and some 1000 years after previous VEI 6 eruptive activity.Successful predictions of the onset of the climactic eruption led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the surrounding areas, saving many lives, but surrounding areas were severely damaged by pyroclastic flows, ash deposits, and later by lahars caused by rainwater remobilizing earlier volcanic deposits: thousands of houses and other buildings were destroyed.
The effects of the eruption were felt worldwide. It ejected roughly 10 billion metric tonnes (10 cubic kilometres) of magma, and 20 million tons of SO2, bringing vast quantities of minerals and metals to the surface environment. It injected large amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere—more than any eruption since that of Krakatoa in 1883. Over the following months, the aerosols formed a global layer of sulfuric acid haze. Global temperatures dropped by about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F), and ozone depletion temporarily increased substantially.