Chaiten Volcano

The big eruption news today is an unexpected eruption in southern Chile. In fact, it is so unexpected that depending on when and where you read about it, you might get a different answer to what volcano is doing the eruption. What we do know at this point is an eruptive column has been spotted by people on the ground and the Washington VAAC, with estimates of an eruptive column height of between 35-55,000 feet. In other words: pretty darn sizeable. Ash is also coming down in town to the east of the eruption in Argentina. Now it seems that Chilean officials say Volcan Chaiten is the culprit.

The best I can point you towards is the Yahoo! News article which has a nice gallery of images from the eruption.

If you look up Volcan Chaiten in the SI GVP website, the volcano is apparently a caldera system (big volcano with a collapse depression in the center) that last erupted over 7,400 years ago. Mostly it has erupted sticky rhyolite lavas that tend to erupt explosively – which is no great surprised based on early reports of the eruption. If you want a comparison, it sounds like Chaiten might be similar to our own Crater Lake, which last erupted around 7,700 years ago and itself is a caldera.


  1. #1 Rashid Faridi
    May 5, 2008

    a good post indeed.

  2. #2 george wohanka
    August 10, 2008

    Some say that Chaiten and Minchinmavida had a different source of magma . Meaning that the eruption at C has no implication on what M might do.

    Is the source of magma in each volcano known? Is it correct to assume that in spite of the close proximity of both volcanoes that activity at C will not increase the possibility of an eruption at M?

  3. #3 Erik Klemetti
    August 11, 2008

    Sorry it took me a bit to reply to this but …

    The “source of magma” is a tricky question. All volcanoes in a subduction zone (one tectonic plate sliding underneath another) have the same initial source, that is melting of mantle material above the downgoing slab, but that is happens over 50 km (or more) below the surface of the earth. I think in this case, you’re more interested in if Chaiten and Minchinmavida are tapping the same reservoir of magma … and that I am not 100% sure. Based on what I’ve read, I would say no, but there is the famous example of the Katmai eruption in Alaska in 1912, where the eruption came from one vent, but an nearby volcano collapsed during the eruption, suggesting they might have had an interconnected magma system.

    Whether the activity at Chaiten increases the likelihood of an eruption and Minchinmavida, I’d have to err on the side that it really doesn’t changed the likelihood much at this point, but if something more drastic, like a caldera collapse occurs at Chaiten, then all bets are off.

  4. #4 george wohanka
    August 11, 2008

    Don’t mean to clutter your blog, but still want to say thanks. Appreciate your reply very much. In the future, if I ask something and you answer, I will be thanking you silently.

  5. #5 preda
    December 3, 2010

    I was just talking to my partner about this very topic. You must be psychic or something!

  6. #6 Lovetta Gharing
    December 5, 2010

    This is one of the most truthful blogs I have ever browsed. Nothing beats good first hand knowledge on subjects. You are appreciated for being sincere about this.

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