Eruptions


Guatemala’s Santa Maria volcano with the dome complex visible in the foreground.

I got a tip the other day from an Eruptions reader of something afoot at Guatemala’s Santiaguito – a part of the larger Santa Maria volcano – and sure enough, there are reports today that the volcano is experiencing an “unusual and violent” display. The articles I can find only mention that ash was spread over six provinces in the western part of the country, which is unusual for this volcano that normally produces diffuse ash plumes and minor dome collapse avalanches (at least in the recent past). The Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (Insivumeh) placed the volcano on Orange alert status due to the number of explosions and earthquakes, along with the 8.5 km ash plume that was produced yesterday. Authorities have closed schools and warned people to avoid outdoor activity while the ash is in the air.

The volcano is capable of producing deadly eruption, with 2,500 people killed in a 1929 eruption when pyroclastic flows from a dome collapse traveled 10 km from the volcano into surrounding villages. However, since then pyroclastic flow activity has become much rarer.

UPDATE 1: If you want all sorts of details on Santiaguito, check on Magma Cum Laude. I’ve also added a MODIS image taken yesterday of the wispy plume of the volcano (see below).

i-531bfa64cf987423f16ead673cda7020-SantiPlume-thumb-400x250-47855.jpg
The ash plume from the April 26, 2010 eruption at Santiagutio in Guatemala. Image courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Comments

  1. #1 Thomas Wipf
    April 27, 2010

    One of the most crazy amateur videos is the one where dutch tourists are standing at the crater rim of Santiaguito (Santa Maria) in Guatemala while the volcano is having one of his moderate ash explosions around every 30 minutes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cy58xijSZlg

  2. #2 mike
    April 27, 2010

    Erik the picture you’ve posted appears to be of Mayon not Santa Maria.

  3. #3 Scarlet Pumpernickel
    April 27, 2010
  4. #4 Erik Klemetti
    April 27, 2010

    Mike – you’re right, dunno how I missed that. Fixed now.

  5. #5 M. Randolph Kruger
    April 27, 2010

    Ah the ablutions of people who go through the security clearance procedures. Ask computer Alf all your questions and it answers

    That is if you want to quickly find what satellites do what. Here is a quick link for Chile if this pepper decides to go red hot…. Brush up on your spanish though.

    Erik give us a location for this thing on the map below…

    http://www.smn.gov.ar/?mod=satelite&id=1

  6. #6 Passerby
    April 27, 2010

    After looking over the monthly reports, I wonder why SI-GVP doesn’t list Santa Maria as being in continuous eruption since 2004.

  7. #7 Erik Klemetti
    April 27, 2010

    Passerby – If I read the SI/GVP eruptive history correctly, they have the volcano in constant eruption since 1922.

  8. #8 Passerby
    April 27, 2010

    Yes, my bad. I was looking for technical papers on the 1902 eruption and for records of elevated activity periods between 1929-2002. Trying to sort out the various vents and relation to reported overlapping domes.

  9. #9 Guillermo
    April 27, 2010

    This is seismic activity or maybe a problem with seismograph? Llaima is now at Yellow 4 Alert Level because of increased seismicity.

    http://www.povi.cl/pda/llaima.png

  10. #10 Jón Frímann
    April 27, 2010

    Is this volcano making rhyolitic magma or is something else creating this explosions ?

  11. @Jón, Santiaguito is a dacite lava dome-flow complex that has been growing since 1922 within a big crater formed in 1902. The currently active vent (called “Caliente”, which means “hot” or “burning”) is capped by a small active lava dome. There seem to be small pockets of gas accumulating below the surface of that dome, which eventually burst and produce these (mostly small) explosions. This activity is called “Vulcanian”.
    Occasionally there are larger explosions at Santiaguito, which also produce larger pyroclastic flows; one was in 1989 and a much bigger in 1929. These may be caused by partial collapse of a larger part of the lava dome, leading to decompression of the magma in the conduit. Or they are caused by more voluminous batches of gas-rich magma rising to the surface. Not easy to say from a distance …

  12. More information and a lot of interesting links about Santiaguito are available at the Volcanism Blog:

    volcanism.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/guatemala-explosive-eruption-at-santiaguito/

  13. #13 Passerby
    April 27, 2010

    After reading about the Santa Maria volcano observatory
    http://magmacumlaude.blogspot.com/2010/03/santiaguito-volcano-observatory.html

    Astonishing and dismaying.

    it’s really obvious that they need a hand: donation of equipment that is surplussed as facilities are updated at other volcano observatories.

    This is an exceptionally important high altitude volcano complex for it’s demonstrated ability to generate very large eruptions with stratospheric impact (ozone depletion) with long-distance ash dispersal.

    Starbucks could gain a few brownie points here by donating funds to fly/truck in donated equipment.

  14. #14 Mattias Larsson
    April 27, 2010

    Boris I have a question that you might be able to answer with your knowledge of Italian volcanoes. I sometimes check the seismic activity aviable on the Observotory Vesuviano webpage. I have been wondering about the signals of the Vesuvio BKE station. There seem to be some kind of signals occuring during daytime almost every day. But I haven´t seen similar signals during nighttime. What is the cause of those day occuring signals?
    http://www.ov.ingv.it/index.htm?ufmonitoraggio/tempo_reale/segnali_t_r.htm
    By the way, have you seen any recent changes in the micro seismic activity or ground deformation on any of the Italian volcanoes apart from Etna? Thanks for your help! It is always interesting to keep track of the Italian volcanoes when you live in Europe. :)

  15. #16 Scarlet Pumpernickel
    April 27, 2010

    http://www.france24.com/en/20100427-vesuvius-italys-biggest-public-safety-problem

    Looks like Italy might be getting more interested in volcanoes now, good news!

  16. #17 Scarlet Pumpernickel
    April 27, 2010
  17. #18 Scarlet Pumpernickel
    April 27, 2010

    Interesting this blast co-incided with the full moon ?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/27/AR2010042703058.html

  18. #19 Scarlet Pumpernickel
    April 27, 2010

    I hope that there are videos coming in for Guatemala, tour groups are usually in that area, so someone must have got a photo/video? One of my friends actually was there last week and has videos. So someone must have footage of this eruption to see why it is so unusual?

    These guys below are just crazy LOL, though it doesn’t really look much different to the top of Semeru?

    http://www.examiner.com/x-33051-LA-Weather-Examiner~y2010m4d27-Another-eruption-Guatemalas-Santiaguito-Volcano-puts-an-unusual-and-violent-display-on-Monday

  19. #20 Lurking
    April 27, 2010

    Poking around the net, I found that the small volcano (Santiaguito) is in an area where the larger volcano (Santa Maria) had experienced a landslide, leaving a rather steep scarp. It’s generally believed that eventually, Santa Maria will have another landslide… eventually, but no one is holding their breath over it. This made me curious, so I fired up Google Earth, and using it’s terrain elevation data, I took 100 meter measurements over a 2.1 km line dropping from Santa Maria’s peak down towards the smaller volcano. At the steepest part it reached an 800 meter stretch that has an average slope of about 47.2 degrees. (provided my math is right)

    For comparison, dry sand has an angle of repose of about 35 degrees, beyond which it just starts to slide until it gets to that angle. Crushed stone is about 40 degrees, and moist clay is about 45 degrees. Odds are, that the flank of the volcano is mostly rock… but if volcanic gases have worked on it long enough, it may have turned into a clay like state.

    Just food for thought.

  20. #21 Arnold
    April 27, 2010

    @Scarlet I haven’t been to Santiaguito, but from the video it looks like there isn’t much between the observers on the rim of Caliente and the active dome, i.e. the source of any ejecta. Semeru is different in that while the summit area overlooks the active crater, the crater is rather deep (and the bombs originate from its bottom). So the geometry filters out any bombs ejected at a low angle, leaving the observer within range of only extraordinarily high-flying bombs, which are very rare at normal activity levels and would leave much more time to react to.

    Btw, this is the first time I post here, but I’ve been following the blog for a while, especially since the Eyjafjallajökull show started. What a great site and community gathered around it!

  21. #22 Dasnowskier
    April 27, 2010

    @19 SP.
    Those people are A few fries short of a happy meal.

  22. #23 Guillermo
    April 27, 2010

    To M. Randolph Kruger: what interesting with that page? It’s only a meteorological site.

  23. #24 Scarlet Pumpernickel
    April 27, 2010

    @Arnold, Thanks Arnold, I have not been to Santiaguito but have been to Semeru. It is hard to see on the video exactly, but the Santiaguito looks a bit crazy to be standing on. Especially if a bigger then usual eruption occurs, you can see a lot of the rocks on the ground where the people are standing they must have come from somewhere ;)

  24. #25 Scarlet Pumpernickel
    April 27, 2010

    Is a Krakatoa lurking in the pacific while nobody is watching lol?

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/43000/43789/gaua_ali_2010114_lrg.jpg

  25. #26 mike
    April 28, 2010

    Turrialba appears to be erupting…….strong plume and glow on the webcam….I will be there in person next week!

  26. #27 mike don
    April 28, 2010

    Turrialba definitely restless (at least) hope this link works
    http://www.123-cam.com/live-webcam.php?var=http://www.ovsicori.una.ac.cr/videoturri.html

    Even though it’s still night there as I type this

  27. #29 mike
    April 28, 2010

    Much weaker plume now than when I posted my earlier comment. Considerably less glow too. Wonder what’s happening there? (Turrialba)

  28. #30 Scarlet Pumpernickel
    April 28, 2010

    Italy proposes monitoring of ash and sea

    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&sl=it&tl=en&u=http://it.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idITMIE63Q0M120100427&prev=_t&twu=1

    It’s about time the undersea volcanoes start to be monitored, we really don’t know much about them and a lot of it is guesswork because nobody is really watching…

    “Hillier & Watts (2007) surveyed 201,055 submarine volcanoes estimating that a total of 3,477,403 submarine volcanoes exist worldwide. According to the observations of Batiza (1982), we may infer that at least 4% of seamounts are active volcanoes. We can expect a higher percentage in the case of the count taken by Hillier & Watts (2007) because it includes smaller, younger seamounts; a higher proportion of which will be active. Nevertheless, in the spirit of caution and based on our minimum inference of 4% seamount activity from Batiza’s observations, I estimate 139,096 active submarine volcanoes worldwide. If we are to assume, in the absence of other emission figures for mid oceanic plate volcanoes, that Kilauea is a typical mid oceanic plate volcano with a typical mid oceanic emission of 870 KtCpa (Kerrick, 2001), then we might estimate a total submarine volcanogenic CO2 output of 121 GtCpa. Even if we assume, as Kerrick (2001) and Gerlach (1991) did, that we’ve only noticed the most significant outgassing and curb our estimate accordingly, we still have 24.2 GtCpa of submarine volcanic origin.

    If guesses of this order are anywhere near the ballpark, then we can take it that either what has been absorbing all this extra CO2 is not absorbing as much or there has been some variation to volcanic output over the past 500 years or so. Both are normal assumptions given the variable state of the natural environment, and considering that vegetation consumed something on the order of 38GtCpa more in 1850 than today (see my Deforestation article for the quick and dirty calculation), it is hardly surprising that we were missing a large natural CO2 source in the carbon budget. The other possibility is that both Werner et al (2000: approx. 38 KtCpa) and Werner & Brantley (2003: approx. 4000 KtCpa) are correct, which could imply that volcanogenic CO2 emissions are increasing. This certainly would explain steadily rising CO2 observed at stations in regions most affected by volcanic emissions, it could partly explain the recent increase in ocean acidification discussed by Archer (2009, pp. 114-124), and further it would explain the more intense Spring melting centred on the Pacific Coast of Antarctica and along the Gakkel Ridge under the Arctic ice cap.”

  29. #31 VolcanoMan
    April 28, 2010

    I camped on the dome complex a couple of months ago, and witnessed a few eruptions, experienced some ashfall at our campsite. The columns it was producing (violently and vertically erupted every few hours) were mostly ash, but they weren’t very high (always <1 km), so it’s really a toss-up between Strombolian and Vulcanian. Sometimes, during night eruptions, the activity really did look like standard Strombolian, but as I said, the eruptions were few and far between…the volcano was not venting gas easily due to the viscosity of its magma. And then, some of the blocky dacite lava extruded on the dome was breaking away from the flank and creating small pyroclastics, activity associated with the Pelean eruption style. Finally, the dome has thrice (that I know of) put out dacitic lava FLOWS that travelled almost 1 km away. So this volcano’s eruptions are highly variable, and I am sure it could go fully Vulcanian (perhaps even Plinian) if enough gas built up, or, go fully Pelean with the kind of pyroclastics that killed so many in 1929.

    And keep in mind Big Daddy Santa Maria, whose 1902 eruption is considered in the top 4 most violent eruptions of the 20th century. This dome activity has lasted a long time, but what happens when there is a serious blockage in the conduit…the ensuing eruption could trigger another landslide if non-dome material that is helping to keep Santa Maria stable is removed.

    This is really the most interesting volcano I have visited (except for Ol Doinyo Lengai, which will top the list forever I think), and also the most difficult to get to (the hike is BRUTAL – trying to walk down that smooth-polished drainage channel on the flank of Santa Maria, which is coated with a fine dusting of ash is like walking on an inclined rough-ice surface)…it takes a lot of concentration, and you are really worn out MENTALLY by the time you get onto the dome, but man, the volcano is SO active…the violent eruptions sound like a jet engine, the small pyroclastics it continually produces are the first I have ever witnessed. Highly recommended (although climbing Caliente is definitely NOT recommended).

  30. #32 VolcanoMan
    April 28, 2010

    That’s weird, my whole post didn’t appear. Here’s what it says after “but they weren’t very high (always ”

    <1 km), so it’s really a toss-up between Strombolian and Vulcanian. Sometimes, during night eruptions, the activity really did look like standard Strombolian, but as I said, the eruptions were few and far between…the volcano was not venting gas easily due to the viscosity of its magma. And then, some of the blocky dacite lava extruded on the dome was breaking away from the flank and creating small pyroclastics, activity associated with the Pelean eruption style. Finally, the dome has thrice (that I know of) put out dacitic lava FLOWS that travelled almost 1 km away. So this volcano’s eruptions are highly variable, and I am sure it could go fully Vulcanian (perhaps even Plinian) if enough gas built up, or, go fully Pelean with the kind of pyroclastics that killed so many in 1929.

  31. #33 VolcanoMan
    April 28, 2010

    OOOH, I think I know what’s wrong…I used a “less than” symbol, and it expected a tag. Weird. Anyway, here it is.

    less than 1 km), so it’s really a toss-up between Strombolian and Vulcanian. Sometimes, during night eruptions, the activity really did look like standard Strombolian, but as I said, the eruptions were few and far between…the volcano was not venting gas easily due to the viscosity of its magma. And then, some of the blocky dacite lava extruded on the dome was breaking away from the flank and creating small pyroclastics, activity associated with the Pelean eruption style. Finally, the dome has thrice (that I know of) put out dacitic lava FLOWS that travelled almost 1 km away. So this volcano’s eruptions are highly variable, and I am sure it could go fully Vulcanian (perhaps even Plinian) if enough gas built up, or, go fully Pelean with the kind of pyroclastics that killed so many in 1929.

  32. #34 Mattias Larsson
    April 28, 2010

    Thanks for the Italian volcano news links Scarlet! I will put Ischia on my personal list of interesting volcanoes. :)

  33. #35 M. Randolph Kruger
    April 28, 2010

    Guillermo@23-At this time nothing. Its a link for everyone to use if the Chilean volcano starts to go. There was a short burst yesterday that was visible from space but nothing too terribly interesting today.

    I dont know how long you have been here or just watching G. but I always assume zero assumption and that someone has never seen what it looks like from space. This is Kamchatka. Klyuchevskoy, Bezimianny, Sheveluch and Karymsky. There is a large cloud formation over the top running from 5000 feet in layers up to 33,000 so the bloom you are seeing is quite large to be able to punch a hole to be even moderately visible from space.

    I dont know enough about volcanoes except their general effects on the worlds climate and as you can see from the second one that there was a substantial eruption of something (gas, steam, ash) earlier this morning on the visible satellite. If Llaima should start to go it will not go very likely in a vacuum and we will all know that something is happening via the satellites first, then the locals second.

    http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/VAAC/BEZY/ELLR/ellrloop.html

    http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/VAAC/BEZY/IR/irloop.html

  34. #36 Scarlet Pumpernickel
    April 28, 2010

    @33 Yeah I didn’t even know it was there lol

    I guess we can put Methana in Greece also on the list then?

  35. #37 Angel Lisser
    December 17, 2010

    Insightful points:) I will require some time to absorb this site=)

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