Tag Archives: south america

Today in Geological History; Feb 19th – Huaynaputina 1600

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Today 416 years ago South America experienced its most explosive eruption in historical times. The unassuming Huaynaputina volcano sits in southern Peru just 26 km of Ubinas, the countries most active volcano. Unlike its 5672 m neighbour, Huaynaputina has no distinct topographic elevation and lays inside a 2.5 km crater leading many to believe it was just a mountain caused by other forces. Laying in the Andean Volcanic Belt where the Nazca Plate subducts under the western edge of the South American Plate it is situated on the rim of the Rio Tambo canyon further camouflaging it to the untrained eye.

The sleeping giants last eruption was in February 1600. Reaching an impressive VEI 6, it was the biggest eruption of the past 2000 years.

Details of the eruption were captured beautifully by Fray Antonio Vazquez de Espinosa a Spanish monk travelling through Central and South America at the time. Days before the eruption booming noises were heard from the vicinity and steam was seen seeping from the volcano. Locals began to panic, preparing young girls for sacrifice to appease Supay the god of death who people believed was angry at them and causing the mountains behaviour. February 15th marked a strong increase in activity with tremors becoming stronger and more frequent, many began to leave the area fearing something bigger was coming.

At roughly 5 P.M. on February 19th, Huaynaputina erupted violently catapulting ash high in to the stratosphere. Pyroclastic flows sped down all sides of the volcano, to the south mixing with the waters of the Rio Tambo river causing devastating lahars.  Within just 24 hours, Arequipa was covered with 25 centimetres (10 in) of ash. Ashfall was reported 250–500 kilometres (160–310 mi) away, throughout southern Peru and in what is now northern Chile and western Bolivia. It is thought that more than 1500 people were killed by the eruption its self although with little record of populations at the time the figure varies between sources. 10 villages were completely buried by ash and regional agricultural economies took 150 years to recover fully.

It was not just South America which was effected by the eruption. Ice cores recorded a spike in acidity at the time indicating a phenomenal amount of sulphur dioxide was released. Effects on the climate right around the Northern Hemisphere (Southern Hemispheric records are less complete), leading to 1601 being the coldest year in six centuries, leading to one of the worst famines ever recorded in Russia. In Estonia, Switzerland and Latvia, there were bitterly cold winters in 1600–1602 leading the deaths of hundreds; in 1601 in France, the wine harvest came late and in Germany production of wine collapsed completely. In Japan, Lake Suwa had one of its earliest freezings in 500 years and even China recorded peach trees blooming late.

An eruption of this scale in the populated Peru would be devastating so close watch is kept on Huaynaputina and its more active neighbours.

 

Figure 1; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Huaynaputina.jpg

Figure 2; https://volcanohotspot.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/volcanoes-of-peru-3-huaynaputina-catastrophe-in-1600/

 

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The Decade Volcanoes

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As I reblogged my last post, a revision of the Decade volcano list by the authors of VolcanoCafe, I thought before I bring you the new list I should really explain what the original one actually was!

As mentioned in one of my earliest articles, the list was complied in 1990 by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) a nongovernmental society. The aim was to select the worlds most hazardous volcanoes and put measures in place to keep a closer eye on them and raise awareness across the globe on the threats they pose, for a decade (1991-2000 The UN’s International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction). Based on varied criteria from historic eruptions to local populations, the following made the cut;

Figure 1. USGS map of the decade volcanoes.

15 Years on the list is still going all though monitoring in some areas may have slackened slightly. It has seen some success such as the diversion of a lava flow on Etna back in 1992 and has helped form a better understanding of phreatic eruptions on Taal. It has sadly also come at great loss on several occasions as well. Despite increased monitoring of Unzen in 1991 pyroclastic flows killed 43 including volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft and Harry Glicken.  And even closer to the project, in 1993 the Decade Volcano conference took place in Pasto, Columbia an expedition from the conference to the Galeras crater occurred on February 14th when the volcano suddenly erupted. 3 tourists and 6 volcanologists including Professor Geoff Brown, Head of Department of Earth Science at the Open University, all lost their lives.

Many volcanologist are sceptics and/or critics of the program, hence the call for a revamp. Personally I feel any thing which promotes volcanic awareness is great all though there are some which need much more than others. Volcanoes are ever evolving and unlike most geological features can change in minutes rather than millennia and therefore prehaps a decade is too long for reviews of such a program. I know which have made my list, it will be interesting to see what makes the cut for the guys at VolcanoCafe!

Figure 1. http://listas.20minutos.es/lista/volcanes-de-la-decada-decade-volcanoes-301649/

Recent Rumberlings

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Again I must apologise for a lack of posts although there has been a lot occurring in the past few weeks. Sadly life as an Open University student (something I will be writing on shortly), working full-time and having a rather active 7-year-old means my little old website tends to get forgotten about. But enough of my belly aching here of some of the world-wide volcanic updates for the month of May.

Shindake 

Friday at 9.59 am local time Mount Shindake on the island of Kuchinoerabu erupted with little warning. The plume scaled over 9 km high and a pyroclastic flow reached as far as the shore. The alert level was rasied to 5 and all 141 people on the island have been evacuated to neighbouring Yakushima island or the mainland and no one has been reported to have been hurt. It is thought that further explosions or more pyroclastic flows are likely as this volcano rarely produces one-off events. When Shindake erupted on August 3rd last year activity lasted for several days.

Telica

Sods law, I was in Nicaragua only a few months ago and all was relatively quiet. Now both Telica, north of the city of Leon and Concepción on the island of Ometepe have seen small eruptions in the past few weeks. Telica, the more active of the two, hit headlines on May 11th when a group of hikers filmed a small eruption at the summit. The night before a loud explosion was heard but not ash could be seen and it was still deemed safe for people to climb its flanks the next day. I will be honest the video which emerged did annoy me slightly as it is very indicative of todays society; of course when some thing explodes one does not think of their own safety, oh no we get our cameras out and film!

It produced about 50 small explosions within the next week or so before several days of apparent calm. It came back to life again on May 27th with a slightly larger eruption which created an ash column just over 3 km high. It is not thought that these explosions are an indication of movement of magma, rather phreatic eruptions.

Concepción on the other hand experienced about 60 small explosions on May 8th and several small earthquakes nearby. No ash was record although high gas emissions were recorded. By May 24th there had been 947 small explosions near the summit.

Wolf

Isle Isabella, the Galápagos’ largest island, is also home to its most active volcanoes. Last week Volcan Wolf began erupting with lava flows on its south eatern flank and producing an eruption column almost 15 km high according to the Washington VAAC. Satellite monitoring indicates that to plume is sulphur dioxide rich with little ash, with up to 200 kt of sulphur dioxide being emitted during the first 13hrs of the eruption alone.  Media coverage of the eruption has been higher than usual seeing as little threat is posed to the human residants, however the Galapagos islands are rich in wild life found no were else on Earth are being threatened by the situation. 

Piton de la Fournaise

A eruption began on May 17th and continued through to May 26th at Piton de la Fournaise, Reunion Island’s most active volcano. Activity and output has decreased on a whole however shows little sign of ending. 

Calbuco

The alert remains at orange for Calbuco although activity is lower than in recent weeks. Incandescence has still be osbsvered at the crater up until the night of the 26th and small gas and ash plumes tend to be about 300 m abover the summit. 6,685 people are still displaced by the 20 km exclusion zone which remains in place.
Figure 1; Shindake http://beforeitsnews.com/environment/2015/05/mount-shindake-volcano-eruption-2015-japan-issues-highest-alert-2529958.html

Figure 2; Telica http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/68521780/nicaraguas-telica-volcano-roars-to-life-spewing-ash-gas

Calbuco

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I awoke this morning to my phone buzzing with notifications. Not just the usual earthquake alerts and job search emails, but while I slept Calbuco in Chile had begun a tremendous eruption. Many of my friends and family had sent me tweets and links to eruption update; have to say it touched me that so many know my passion for these things.

Figure 1. High out put of SiO2 quickly coloured the skyline with stunning pink and red hues.

I have not yet found an estimate for the ouput of either eruption but it is very evidant that high levels of SiO2 were released as the skyline quickly appeared purples and pinks giving us some spectacular imagery of the eruption as seen in figure 1 above. 
Calbuco is sat near the tourist area of Puerto Montt in Southern Chilie. It is apart of the second largest volcanic chain in the world (Indonesia being the largest), but despite the high levels of activity in the region this particular volcano has been quiet for the past 42 years. This changing rapidly yesterday afternoon. Very little warning was given in the run up to the initial blast with a volcanic swarm occurring just before 6 pm local time and then the eruption began at roughly 6.15. A second spate of activity began around 1.05 am this time with lava being clearly visible through the pyroclastic material. The Bueno Aries VAAC puts the eruption column at 10 km (33,000 ft) although there is speculation from other sources that it is nearly double that. Chile has actually been relatively quiet volcanically this with only Villarrica giving us a show in March. This outburst is believed to be much larger and may be more prolonged.

  
Calbuco, albeit quiet recently, actually caused one of Chile’s worst eruptions back in 1893-94.  Although the seen seems to have calmed since the second blast it is strongly believed that this eruptive phase is not over and further eruptions may occur in the next few days or weeks. It is also thought a more careful watch will now also be made on Puyehue which often erupts at the same time of soon after Calbuco. Andean volcanoes are typically very explosive due to the andesitic lavas they produce. 

 

Figure 1; http://time.com/3832353/calbuco-volcano-erupts-chile/?xid=tcoshare