Updates on eruptions in Guatemala and Ecuador

Dark ash covers an American Airline 737 on the tarmac at the airport in Guatemala City.

Two volcanoes are making headlines right now (and neither is in Iceland).

As I mentioned yesterday, Pacaya in Guatemala erupted (video) causing widespread disruption of life in the nearby Guatemala City and costing two people their lives (including a TV reporter who got too close to the vent). Almost 2,000 people have been evacuated from the region near the volcano. The BBC has posted some impressive video of the eruption of Pacaya, showing the strombolian explosions sending basaltic tephra high into the air. This volcanic tephra has already destroyed or damaged over 800 homes near the volcano with up to 7 cm of ash fall. This could become especially troublesome when one of the first tropical storms of the summer arrives in Guatemala later this weekend - remember, ash can absorb a lot of water, making it even heavier and leaving to roof collapse.

Evacuations yesterday near Baños in Ecuador due to the increased activity at Tungurahua.

Meanwhile, in Ecuador, Tungurahua had a number of explosive eruptions over the last few days, prompting evacuations of nearby villagers and livestock and the closure of Guayaquil Airport. The volcano has produced a 10 km (32,000 foot) ash plume and could top out at 12 km (40,000 feet) according to Hugo Yepes of the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute. The BBC World has images of Tungurahua and the ash from the current eruptions.

It is interesting to note that the news coverage of both of these eruptions made sure to point out the closure of the airport - something that wasn't as common in such article prior to the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.

More like this

This week has been destroyed by workshops and my last death throes with a paper I am submitting on my research in New Zealand. And to think, I thought it might settle down a little after the students left. To news! Ash fall on a taxi cab near Guatemala's Pacaya. Pacaya in Guatemala erupted…
Sally Sennert from the Smithsonian Institution sent me an email to say that this week's USGS/Smithsonian Institute Weekly Volcanic Report will be delayed due to the inclement weather in the Washington DC area. She can't connect with the server, so the report can't be updated on the Smithsonian…
Ah yes, a reminder that there are other volcanoes erupting around the world than Eyjafjallajökull - but yes, it is true! Here is the latest USGS/Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program Weekly Volcanic Activity Report! Highlights (not including Iceland) include: Another volcano in the Kuril Islands of…
Tungurahua in Ecuador erupting on May 31, 2010. Two volcanoes along the edge of the north Pacific had explosive eruptions over the weekend. We have some more details on both of the eruptions, so I'll pass them on: Bezymianny KVERT is excited because they claim to have predicted the explosive…

Yet again stunning video and pictures.
Thanks for posting this.

By R. de Haan (not verified) on 29 May 2010 #permalink

Erik , the link to the BBC video footage isn't working.
The 'hhttp' part is wrong, thanks.

Isnt there some way to work in the phrases "Mayan Prediction", "2012" or "increased frequency". Might help get the hit count up to where it was during the Big E eruption?

On a serious note, wouldnt it be nice if EVERY volcano on the planet had a decent webcam ?

Erupted magma at Pacaya, published 2006: http://www.geo.mtu.edu/rs4hazards/Project%20resources/theses/Durst_MSTh…
and a vulcanological map of the 1961 - 1969 eruption at http://www.geo.mtu.edu/rs4hazards/Project%20resources/theses/matias/Mat… (takes a while to load)
a USGS paper on Volcano Hazards at Fuego and Acatenango, Guatemala is available at http://pdfterms.com/view?title=Vm9sY2FubyBIYXphcmRzIGF0IEZ1ZWdvIGFuZCBv…

NMI/USGS Volcanic Activity Notice

Volcano: Sarigan (CAVW #0804-192)

Current Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Previous Volcano Alert Level: UNASSIGNED

Current Aviation Color Code: ORANGE
Previous Aviation Color Code: UNASSIGNED

Issued: Sunday, May 30, 2010, 2:07 AM ChST (20100529/1607Z)
Source: U.S. Geological Survey
Notice Number: 2010/N2
Location: N 16 deg 42 min E 145 deg 46 min
Elevation: 1765 ft (538 m)
Area: Mariana Islands

Volcanic Activity Summary: Washington VAAC reports an eruption cloud to 40,000 feet appeared in satellite images at 1230 UTC. Although the cloud appeared to be over or near Anatahan volcano in the satellite image, current evidence points to the source being an approximately 300-m-deep submarine seamount south of the island of Sarigan. According to the seismic record from an Anatahan station, the event began about 1147 UTC with the strongest phase ending at approximately 1200 UTC . The cloud may contain ash but could be largely water vapor and appears to be shrinking as northerly winds to 25 kts carry it towards CNMI and Guam. No additional volcanic clouds have been detected and it is unknown if submarine activity is continuing. Observers on Sarigan reported hearing a loud explosion from the south, and shortly thereafter receiving ash fall. They also reported the sound of a wave passing by. A SIGMET and Ash Advisory have been issued.

Recent Observations:
[Other volcanic cloud information] Unknown

Contacts: USGS Northern Marianas Duty Scientist (808) 967-8815
http://volcano.wr.usgs.gov/cnmistatus.phpCNMI Emergency Management Office (670) 322-8001

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 29 May 2010 #permalink

There is hot spots on the Thorolfsfell cam that i don't think were there yesterday, or am i going crazy ?

Zander: rather than clicking the link, copy and paste it into the navigation bar, delete the superfluous "h"

whats happening @ katla cam?

Several indicators are strongly positive for a sharp spike in geothermal and magmetic/tectonic activity over the next 8-12 hours.

Volcanoes in the Pacific kept the ocean floor shaking today:
5.0 M - 2010/05/29 18:02:35 / -19.476 / 169.186 /167.5 / VANUATU
4.8 M - 2010/05/29 11:47:55 / 16.421 / 145.969 / 34.8 / ANATAHAN REG., NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS
5.0 M - 2010/05/29 11:47:43 / -13.952 / 166.662 / 35.0 / VANUATU
4.9 M - 2010/05/29 11:15:53 / -13.863 / 166.562 / 34.8 / VANUATU
5.0 M - 2010/05/29 09:10:30 / -13.574 / 166.585 / 35.0 / VANUATU
4.5 M - 2010/05/29 07:22:14 / 16.353 / 146.042 / 35.0 / ANATAHAN REG., NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS
4.7 M - 2010/05/29 06:13:19 / 16.247 / 145.903 / 69.1 / ANATAHAN REG., NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 29 May 2010 #permalink

Well, I had to be away all day, and it turns out to be a very busy day in volcano land- thanks for all the good posts -

@108 LaKat, I missed the Attenborough video the first time around, hadn't discovered 'Eruptions' yet, so, double-thanks for posting. Had no idea the fountains would be so noisy. Seems there's plenty going on here and there.

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 29 May 2010 #permalink

Still much action going on Tjörnes fracture zone. No reports of a underwater eruption?

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 29 May 2010 #permalink

Well, 10 pints of pickled Okra, 8 pints of string beans, 3 gallons of pickles, one thunderstorm, and a full day of mulling over the images from the Oil-Cam-Bot... I finally found a workable APPROXIMATION of the thermometry of the Tjörnes area.

I'm not very comfortable with the depth data of the surface, so take that with a grain of salt.


* Bathymetry... I was a victim of auto correct.

@ Lurking, good job on the 3d. I've been doing some similar stuff and happen to find these posts. I'm not using the same software you are but my graphs are similar. Backtraking a bit, where did you get the earthquake info for the vanatu islands?

kudos to you Lurking - both for the pickling/canning (done that) and the graphs which are really helpful - I envy you your mathematically oriented brain and am very grateful for it's ability to translate data for my much more visual capabilites.

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

Lurking, good to see you haven't given up on us here.

Could you please rotate the image to show lat head on. Also could you superimpose the IMO Tjornes-Large area map on the bottom of your cube projection, please?

The concentrated area of shakes lie along the Grimsey Line and appear to be a possible interfault extension when compared against historical seismic activity, with the remaining shakes occurring on the HúsavÃk-Flatey Fault.

See Fig. 3a (Tjornes Transform Fault historical EQ activity greater than Mag 1, 1993-2002). Citation: Recent and Present-Day Tectonics near a Hot Spot: the Transform Faults of Iceland. (2010) S Garcia et al

For those of you lacking the visualization tools, you can download WinSnap for configurable screen and document image capture and then copy and paste into Paint.net, a flexible and easy to use shareware graphics program:

Copy the IMO Tjornes-Large recent EQ map, paste into your graphics program, then download and open the pdf mentioned above and capture Fig 3a, move/resize it to match the land contours, as an overlay/separate layer that you first render semi-transparent.

You too can quickly visualize the approximate position of this quake cluster against recent TFZ activity.

This article also has an excellent short synopsis and excellent graphics of EQ activity on the SISZ, with an emphasis on tectonic process complexity.

#17 @Lurking: Thank you so much for posting these graphs. They really help a lot for us to get a picture of what could be happening along those faults. Since I'm no expert, I feel free to boldly speculate about what I see, and, for what I see, it looks pretty much like rising magma. Yes, it would help if we could rotate the image to get different perspectives, but I would love to listen to your interpretations of the graphs showing me I'm wrong. I know this is no novelty to TFZ, but given its peaking activity on the last days and our interest on Icelandic volcanoes, it wouldn't be harmful to speculate a little bit on this, would it?

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

Re: images from the Oil-Cam-Bot. I've been watching that webcam on and off, too. BPs next plan (robotic pipe cut and cap) will also fail due to persistent/surging pressure (actually related to the undulating deep subsurface activity we've been tracking recently).

We have a simple intermediary step that will enable the robotic cut-and-cap to succeed. Hopefully it will bring this oil spill leak to a quick conclusion. We'll also provide a few hints to reduce cleanup extent/cost that they haven't considered yet, thanks to our past experience with the Valdez spill.

Sorry if this is out of thread, but I thought it could be useful for those interested on the the threats posed to Haiti and other volcanic sites in Central America, as well as to the oil spill at the Gulf Coast with the approaching of a possible "turbulent hurricane season" in N. Atlantic, Dr.Jeff Master, from Weather Wunderground will begin a new radio show: "Beginning next week, I'll be experimenting with a live 1-hour Internet radio show called "Hurricane Haven." The show will be aired at 4pm EDT on Tuesdays, with the first show June 1. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. Some topics I'll cover on the first show:
1) What's going on in the tropics right now
2) Preview of the coming hurricane season
3) How a hurricane might affect the oil spill
4) How the oil spill might affect a hurricane
5) New advancements in hurricane science presented at this month's AMS Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology
6) Haiti's vulnerability to a hurricane this season"


By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

I took a look at the chemical analysis of the end products of the two eruptions, at Fimmvorduhals and at Eyjafjallajökull (at http://www2.norvol.hi.is/page/IES-EY-CEMCOM), and my first reaction was: these samples cannot come from the same magma source.

What's the word from the geologists?

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

@Kultsi, Askola, FI: Hyvää iltapäivää! :)
No geologist here, but, for what I could understand from what has been formerly posted, the first effusive eruption had a "newly come" magma from the conduit, which happened to trigger melting of older magma deposits, with different chemical compositions. Don't know if this would help.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

@25: very interested to see what they pros have to say about #4, oil spill effect on hurricanes.

UK Met is also cautiously predicting a potentially active hurricane season and are trotting out a new/improved forecast model.


NINO (ENSO data model/graphics) through April 2010

Last time I looked a few weeks back, Darwin (Aussie Met) model is indicating a near neutral NINO3.4 (equatorial surface temps) forecast, however, so it may be a tad less active than US-UK forecasters are predicting for 2010. The US/NOAA got it so wrong last year (one of the quietest in the past decade) that the UK boyz' correct call for a slow season was shining by comparison, which brought on a call for a shakeup in NHC management/funding.


See: Older crust underlies Iceland. Foulger, 2006 (open-access pdf). Haroldur's 2009 MS student thesis (see his blog for download pdf link) suggests that the chemistry is in line with previously sampled historical eruptive material.


@Renato, boa tarde!

I, too thought the Fimmvorduhals lava to be "fresher": more of the heavier stuff, which I think would fragment to the bottom of the melt as time goes by, like particles in water.

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

#31 @Kultsi, Askola: Hehe! Don't challenge me because I'll start speculating here (love it). There was a big discussion on this matter here before, and I never ventured a guess. Definitely heavier FE an Ni stuff in the Fimm eruption.
@Passerby: I'll have to do my homework, but the fact that -
"chemistry is in line with previously sampled historical eruptive material." - doesn't seem to answer Kultsi's question: perhaps historical eruptions followed the same pattern of events we've seen in the present one but this fact doesn't deny the hypothesis of different sources. (OK, guys, if you don't stop me, I will go on and on.) I'll get the book Erik recommended and be back with more. Thanks for your patience, Passerby!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

OK, fellows, I'm done for now - enough of this "bluffing my way through Geology".
If you guys would take a closer look at what's going on in Guatemala... those people are really in need of humanitarian response, and there's still more to come after TS Agatha hit them hard.
Have a good evening!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

@ Passerby[21]

Cant it be done? Yes. But not with a single software package that I have access too. About the best I can manage is to project a background image on a 2D representation of the 3D scatter plot... if I can ever figure out how to do it. One alternative is to skew the background in the correct ratio then laying it in the 3D scatter... piecemeal but time consuming.

So, instead I took a graphic from andvari.vedur.is/utgafa/greinargerdir/2006/Tjornes_Fracture_zone_final.pdf and cleaned out all the historic quakes, then placed the last 4 days of activity on top of it, color coded by date.

The scaling to the image is not exact, as you can see from the tick marks on the graphic, but it's pretty close. Probably within fractions of a 10th of degree.



@Renato I Silveira - I'm not an expert either... but I come to the same conclusion when I see a vertical stack of quakes dropping down towards the lower part of the crust. Granted, it could just be a pivot point in tectonic movement, grinding away, (like the Mexican Quake a few weeks ago) but with this area's history, magma movement can't be ruled out and is probably a pretty good guess.

Hello fellow volcanism fans!
I wanted to see the Iceland earthquake data (from en.vedur.is/earthquakes-and-volcanism/earthquakes) modelled in 3D. So I made a spreadsheet this rainy afternoon, to generate a Google Earth KML file showing location and timing of the earthquakes for the last 48 hours.
Earthquake depth is represented by putting each marker at an altitude above surface equivalent to the earthquake depth below surface. This trick is needed, because you can't see underground in Google Earth :)
The file is here for download
The results in the Tjörnes fracture zone are especially interesting!

By d9tRotterdam (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

d9t Rotterdan: thanks for that, very interesting.

I overlaid your latest graphic, Lurking, onto the "Recent and Present-Day Tectonics near a Hotspot' 2010 paper Fig 3a - historical seismicity. A useful explanation of the variable force-moment couples (Fig 4), is given in the conclusion section of the paper.

Most of the activity occurs between the two sections of the Grimsey Lineament and follows the depth contours very nicely.

The color-dating of activity was useful, as it followed the progression of increasing intensity of the prognostic indicators I follow.

Think of squeezing thick toothpaste through a narrow opening: as the force moves material upward from depth, it gets channeled and concentrated.

Thanks for posting the insightful graphic, Lurking.

Forgot to mention that, to my eye, the temporal progression of EQ spatial patterns shifted perpendicularly over the four days from ridge spreading to MAR-land boundary squeezing.

I tried to explain this moment-force couple pivot to soucel in a force-visualization graphic in early April as it proves out in the topo shapes/contours of the volcanic centers at the interface between the EVZ and the SISZ, (as this force-couple complex also occurs on the southern boundary at the SISZ as well as the TFZ), but I think I lost him in the technical explanation.

I haven't found a open-access source for the following article, but even a quick read of the abstract is quite useful for understanding the difference in magma structural types from the 'old' (columnar - mentioned in descriptions of Grimsey Island) end at the TFZ verus the 'new' end of the MAR at the SISZ - maybe explaining diffuse (plastic) versus rigidly deformable rock materials and crustal crystallization chemistry differences in SISZ versus TFZ, respectively where newer magma and relict (primordial) reworking (spreading/subduction) differences are also observed.

Rock Control of Faulting: A Case Study from the Icelandic Rift Zone. Tentler and Temperly, 2006, J. Geol. volume 114, p. 449â470.

Another of their papers published in 2007,
Magmatic fissures and their systems in Iceland: A tectono-magmatic model. ECTONICS, VOL. 26, TC5019, 17 PP.

...may also be useful for understanding the inflation/deflation cycle of the present eruption at Eyjaf and may explain the co-occurrence of EQ activity at Hengil and Eyjaf.

Excellent and relevant recent publication - if you can grunt your way through the technical bits - on the interaction of tectonic setting and magma composition with respect to differential geography/geology of Iceland.

Influence of tectonism on the composition of acid and basaltic lava. Sigmarsson 2010

I just had a wee bit of a zen moment... Isn't this three-dee visualising one of those things that VRML and X3D are supposedly good for?

By Reynir, .is (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

@Renato 32 Good link to the newspaper, thank you, and thanks for the video link too, los pobres de la tierra - I am sure there are agencies here sending aid, I will contribute - mi Tia spent a lot of time near Tikal,1960's, she was married to an archaeologist.

Did you see the Eyja cartoon in the same paper?

Passerby, Kultsi, others â thanks for all the exchanges and posts, I will have my vacation work cut out for me, I can see.

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

@Passerby,@Kultsi @Lurking,@d9tRotterdam: I'll need another weekend to digest all this. Nothing to say, but: thank you! Love you guys!
@birdseyUSA: Loved the cartoon. The guy who did it must be reading this blog. Nothing like humor to go through hard moments.
How much would it cost if we all here shared a webcam to each of those volcanic "hotspots" located in poorer areas - Vanuatu, Guatemala? We would be enjoying the show and at the same time contributing for research and forecasting... Mr . Klementti, this is an idea...

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

*still laughing over that cartoon*

@#43: yes, but for advanced videographic apps. High-end research graphics packages utilize these programming approaches for feeding in data streams for continuous modeling/visualization outputs.

@45: While the IMO/IES geologists may find this mundane, the rest of us are happily coalescing an enhanced understanding of HOW THINGS WORK, at least with respect to Iceland, by reading these well-crafted articles.

Deep, Big Picture tectonics controls, along with glaciation cycles, magma melt chemistry and expulsion forms, and these, in turn, affect deep rifting tendency with eruption cycles (in rifts-volcanic centers) which also affects tendency towards surficial tectonics - EQs from faulting near these volcanic-fissure zones, microquakes from pore-pressure (hydrothermal, etc) and seasonal melt/glacier movements and water-magma interactions.

Italy and Iceland are among the best studied volcanoes because they are also among the most lethal with respect to highly populated Europe, but before this past few years, the knowledge-base was largely confined to geologists and volcanologists (and technically-proficient volcanophiles).

Thanks to the world wide web and willingness of geology organizations and professionals to share information and resources, those of us with peripheral professional (mine is eruption gas/ash environmental effects) and lay interests can drink from the well of knowledge as much and as deeply as we care to, if we are willing to put in the time legwork to learn.

Way, way cool.

Yeah, your view is looking along the the failure zone that is predominantly NNE-trending, physical result of blocks undergoing deformation from dominant ridge spreading + boundary fault bending-shear moment forces.

The base is pushing away (spreading), but the surface is 'bent' from the MAR pushing against the spreading plate boundary (pinching motion), and these are thus perpendicular acting forces so that the failure plane isn't vertical, but canted at an angle with respect to vertical. You see a somewhat similar fissure/failure deformation on EVZ terminus at the SISZ, which is why I pointed out the conclusion section and Fig 4 which affords the deformation angle with respect to horizontal surface and vertical inclination observed in EQ trending we saw repeatedly at Eyjaf.

I hope that makes sense.

can someone else please look at the Thor cam I'm not sure about what I'm seeing am I imagining it or so I see another plume way to the left?

#50 Sorry to interrupt, but it DOES make sense!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

#51 @renee: I saw it, but looks like 'tis gone now. A cloud, perhaps?

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

even looking at the Flir something is different it can't be a cloud coming from the left there its too hot. I swear it has to be another steam vent the plume is the same color as the lava hot spots.

@ Renato did you see my post number 49 those plots are high

@renee: Yes, it's back now... but I don't think FLIR cam is proof of anything, since it shows the warmer spots... don't know.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

Wish Jon was around he saw something similar happen earlier.

#55 Yes, Renee, I saw your post. There's always something tricky happening on this volcano. That's why she is so special. But I'm sort of getting skeptical that it is not over.
Now the base of the plume is so dark!

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

@Renee, #49: The plots are not high. The plot amplitude scale gets shifted to accommodate the plot within the boundaries, and the current absolute amplitude is very low.

This plot http://hraun.vedur.is/ja/Katla2009/gosplott.html gives a much better picture of what is going on now, compared to the history of this eruption. As you can see, the tremors now are very slight indeed.

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 30 May 2010 #permalink

The tremor fluctuations at Eyjafjallajokull over the past few days have been pretty minor, but this latest one appears to keep on going. Coupled with some interesting-looking earthquake activity in the last few hours (appears to be following the line of the active fissure), I think this is something to watch.

The Reykjavik Grapevine asked me to write up a 'final' article about this, but I'm holding off. I honestly think we could possibly see some more activity here.

@38 d9tRotterdam

Have you seen the Google Earth quake compilations by IMO? These data are a different way to spend a rainy day....

They have compiled Google Earth files for all recorded Icelandic earthquakes since 2000. They include magnitude, depth, and time. The files and other info are available here:


It's interesting to use the time slider to create a one or two week window and then "play" the quakes for a year to see how the quakes spatially cluster in various locations with time.

The scaling to the image is not exact, as you can see from the tick marks on the graphic, but it's pretty close. Probably within fractions of a 10th of degree.


Since my knowledge of Spanish is such that 'non-existent' would be an upgrade, can someone translate the cartoon at #45?

By Reynir, .is (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

#63 @Reynir:
Dialogue between two volcanoes:
Little angry Pacaya says to big "puffing" Eyjafjall: -"See that I can do it too?"
Loved it.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

#64: Yeah, I can see why.

By Reynir, .is (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

Gigjökull looks like its all boiling in steam.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

#67: That's definitely a VPOW-worthy shot.

By Reynir, .is (not verified) on 31 May 2010 #permalink

Technical Report on Tungurahua:
Benjamin Bernard, France coach Tungurahua Volcano Observatory (OVT), indicated that the activity has not changed much in recent hours, rather, has been slightly upward, the strongest explosions occurred at 04:00 and 7:24 yesterday also slight ground vibrations and windows.
Lava blocks have been driven up to a kilometer above the crater and have fallen to a mile from the slopes of the volcano on the northwestern flank.
In the Geophysical Institute, also was notified that on the morning we observed the expulsion of incandescent blocks that reached a height of up to 1.5 km above the crater, several of which rolled down the flanks.
Activity of Tungurahua
· Yesterday there were 31 movements long period
° 272 explosions
No 7 episodes of tremor of issue.
° In the morning there was a plume of steam with low ash content.
Yesterday there were slight falls of ash in the parishes Choglontus and Bilbao in Chimborazo.

By Renato I Silveira (not verified) on 01 Jun 2010 #permalink