New eruption overnight at Piton de la Fournaise

Piton de la Fournaise erupting on November 5, 2009. Image by Julian Balboni in Clicanoo.

Eruptions reader Richard Oliver pointed out to me that Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island erupted (in french) on Thursday night. The volcano produced at least two lava flows that reached the ocean flowed downslope to ~1970 m above sea level, but by Friday morning, the seismicity and eruptive activity had waned considerably. Local residents of the island went out at night to see (in french) the lava flows, with the typical words of warning from local officials. The timeline for the eruption (in french) looks like this (all local time):

20:50 - An eruption begins in the south cliff inside the Dolomieu crater
21:05 - The crack extends and opens on the southern flank near the edge of the Dolomieu crater
21:20 - A second crack opened on the eastern slope of the cone summit of the Piton de la Fournaise (Marco crater).

By the middle of the night, two lava flows were visible on the flanks of the volcano. However, new reports say that by 9:00 on Friday morning, the harmonic tremors at Piton had returned to normal. Yesterday (Thursday) morning, the volcano did experience a M3 earthquake (in french), ~12 hours before it started to erupt, suggesting that this seismicity might have triggered the eruption (or the earthquake was a result of the eruption process - a bit of chicken and egg). However, the volcano had been inflating over the past few weeks, so it seems that an eruption was becoming more likely. This is the first eruption at Piton de la Fournaise since January of this year.

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Piton de la Fournaise on Reunion Island erupted (in french)

Eruptions sound so much more elegant in French, don't they?


Sorry for being a bit less lyric ... but none of the lava flows of this latest eruption of Piton de la Fournaise actually reached the sea. The lava flows reached a minimum altitude above sea level of about 1970 m (and thus remained far from the coast of Réunion island).

I love the article in the Réunion newspaper, I wish my local paper would write like that sometimes. One thing that strikes me is the detailed, casual familiarity that the inhabitants must have with their volcano; imagine what it's like to grow up, glancing away from eating your breakfast as a small tremor rattles your plate, with phrases like "a fissure on the south side of the crater" as much a part of your vocabulary as "thunderstorms forecast for the rest of the week."

Well, I've lived in Reunion for a year and can say that the familiarity comes from the almost complete lack of danger from the volcano. Eruptions rarely threaten anyone and even major seismic/tremor activity barely affects any inhabited area. Eruptions are still beautiful though (I witnessed the January 2002 one from up close)

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