Galeras has large eruption - 12 km ash plume?

Undated image of the crater at Galeras in Colombia.

UPDATE 1/3/09 Midnight: I'm bumping this up from the comments, but INGEOMINAS posted some stunning webcam video of the eruption as it happened. Wow is all I say. {Hat tip to Doug C. for the video}

A quick note tonight: Eruptions reader Chance Metz alerted me to an impressive eruption of Galeras in Colombia tonight. The VAAC warning issued for the eruption suggests a 40,000 foot / 12 km ash plume and the reports seem to back it up, with the Red Cross reporting "very high ash cloud". No injuries/fatalities have been reported, but Galeras is very close to the city of Pasto. 8,000 people living close to the volcano have been urged to evacuate.

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Glad I could help. The seismograph near the volcano is going crazy,it looks like a earthquake that lasted for over 10 mintues,must be the eruption.

By Chance Metz (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

Can you give us an estimate of the ash volume in terms of, say, pinatubos? Is this a quarter-pinatubo? Half-pinatubo? Or are we not in that league at all.

just been reading a few days.........
was this eruption a surprise or did they expect it?


Could Galeras put as much material in the stratosphere as the 1991 Pinatubo event did? If so, how likely is that?
(My memory is that ash from Pinatubo's 1991 eruption reached 34 km, and that total material ejected was about 10 km^3 - so it seems Galeras has not yet reached that extent yet, but could it?)

CNN) -- Africa's most active volcano, Mount Nyamuragira in the Democratic Republic of Congo, erupted early Saturday, spewing lava off its southern flank, the Congolese Wildlife Authority reported.

Rangers in Virunga National Park reported hearing a loud explosion at 3:45 a.m. and then seeing lava flowing from the crater of the 10,333-foot volcano.

"I first thought (it) was the sound of war. I thought there was fighting again near our park station," said Innocent Mburanumwe, warden for the southern sector of Virunga National Park. "Then I saw the mountain was on fire with sparks flying. We could see that we were not in immediate danger here at Rumangabo, but there are many people who live to the south of the volcano, where the lava is heading as I speak."

Nyamuragira is 15 miles (25 kilometers) north of the city of Goma and its 600,000 residents, but Mburanumwe said in a blog posting that lava flows from the mountain were unlikely to threaten human populations.

Lava flows from another park volcano, Nyiragongo, destroyed parts of Goma in 2002.

The wildlife authority said the Nyamuragira eruption was likely to destroy habitat for 40 chimpanzees on the volcano's lower slopes.

Virunga National Park is also home to 200 endangered mountain gorillas, but they live on the slopes of the Mikena volcano to the east of Nyamuragira.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History calls Nyamuragira the continent's most active volcano, with 42 eruptions since 1885. Its most recent eruption ended in December 2006.…

Current weather forecast states light SE winds, at least at ground level which will hopefully keep the eruption cloud away from Pasto. We'll have to see in the morning.

By bruce stout (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

No way this Galeras eruption is anywhere near Pinatubo or St Helens or similar. I guess we're talking about a few million cubic meters of pyroclastic material thrown out, as in other recent Galeras eruptions. Pinatubo was four to five orders of magnitude bigger (up to ten cubic kilometers, which is ten thousand million cubic meters). And then, Galeras has been rumbling on and off for the past 20 years, so it seems a relatively "open" sytem, with not much chance of any very large eruption. But there we have already our third significant eruptive event of 2010 - with Piton de la Fournaise on Réunion (Indian Ocean) and Nyamuragira (Congo) having erupted on the same day ...

Any word yet on whether this event generated a pyroclastic flow? An explosion from Galeras in the 1930s resulted in one down the outer flank of the caldera, and this seems to be comparable =which could be bad news for the local population.

Is the height of the ash cloud measured from sea level, or is it the height of the column above the crater?

I have a particular interest in Galeras, since one of the volcanologists killed there in 1993, Geoff Brown, was a fellow post-grad with me at Manchester University in the 1960s, and a personal friend

From the INGEOMINAS video (see link in the update above) it seems there was no pyroclastic flow, just quite some fallout on the upper slopes.
I've been quite touched by Mike Don's remark on Geoff Brown. That event in 1993 - quite a small eruption at Galeras, but deadly for those who were on the crater rim or even WITHIN the crater - was traumatic to volcanology. But it has also shown how often we wrongly associate the bigness of a volcanic eruption with its impact, and how far we still have to go to understand these things.
The height of the plume, as given in the VAAC volcanic ash advisory, should be above sea level - because what's intersting for the VAACs is the flight height of aircraft risking to encounter the ash, which is given relative to sea level.

Thanks, Boris - although I'd almost lost touch with Geoff over the intervening quarter-century, it still came as a shock, and on a volcano which up to that point had barely registered on my personal radar. On column height; since the VAAC figure relates to the height above sea level that would mean that the height above the vent, the figure more relevant for volcanologists, is on the order of 7.5-8km (still rather impressive, though)

Well, 2010 sure started out with a bang! That video of Galeras was quite a show. I just hope no one has been hurt by it. I bet there are some pretty good ash falls.

Has anything more happened at Mayon or is it calming down? It hasn't been in the news lately so I was wondering if it was still erupting lava flows.

I really appreciate all the great info supplied by all of you. I am learning more of the workings and how much we know and don't know about how volcanoes work. I probably should have been a geologist. :-)

Thanks Stephen. That link to Etna is a very nice site. And Mayon seems to be calming down for the moment.

As for Long Valley, currently there are 29 quakes listed in the area over the last week and 14 of them are in the Mammoth Mt. area. Most of the others are south of the caldera and w to sw of Tom's Place. The site I go to is:


This is for California and if you scroll below the map, you will find a link for Long Valley with a map and links to the information on what is going on there.

If the link doesn't work, chalk it up to the fact that I am not sure how to post it so it will work. :-) Not that computer saavy. LOL

There is an area in Nothern CA that gets a lot of quakes that are small and I found out it is due mostly to the geothermal plant injecting water back into the system. Up in that area there is a neat little geyser they call the Old Faithful of the west. You can get real close to that one and it can last for up to 20 min. I guess we were only about 25' from it. It is set up for picnicing and just enjoying a geyser up close. It isn't too far form Mt. St. Helena which is a volcano and there is a college in a crater called Howell Mt. that is closer. Howell is supposed to be extinct. I doubt it if there is a geyser not too far away.

Enjoy checking out Long Valley. If you ever get a chance to go there, do because there are a lot of very large domes in the area and also the Inyo craters. They are easy to get to and are not very large. Then there is Devil's Postpile. They drive you down and you walk about a 1/2 of a mile to get to it. It is quite a place. The whole area is rife with ancient volcanic activity. South of there, you can find the Bishop tuff, some of which was found in Nebraska. It is a pinkish rock with some inclusion crystals in it. No, there isn't anything spectacular in it, but it is an interesting rock. Just a neat place to see all kinds of stuff.