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Tungurahua continues to erupt, Taal grows increasingly restless, explosions on Etna (and more)

May 9, 2011, 9:29 AM

The light at the end of the finals tunnel has appeared - only one set of papers (where I posed to my volcanoes class the question "if someone asked you 'why bother monitoring volcanoes?', how would you respond?") to grade now. There hasn't been a lot of new eruption news, but there has been a lot of news of simmering volcanoes and threats from volcanoes after eruption. However, we'll start with one that is actively erupting.

Ecuador: Tungurahua continues with its largest eruption since 1999 (video) - and thanks to the bevy of news that Eruptions reader Kirby has sent me, there is a lot to cover. The Instituto Geofisico has put the volcano on Orange Alert status after strombolian activity produced 2-7km / 6,500-23,000 foot ash plumes and a constant sound of explosions/rumbling. The volcano is putting on an impressive show at the summit, with incandescent blocks cascading down the upper flanks of the volcano (see top left), some of which are apparently the size of cars. IG geologists have been quoted as saying the volcano is showing signs of "increased pressure", but the details are scarce. Crop and livestock damage due to the ash in the villages around Tungurahua has been extensive, and now the government will purchase new lands for refugees to move that are a safe distance from the volcano. Even with all this activity, Tungurahua did not stop people from voting in Ecuador.

Philippines: PHIVOLCS is continues to keep a close eye on Taal. Two new pieces of information were released over the weekend. The first is that the lake water on Volcano Island has increased in temperature from 31.5°C to 32°C and has become slightly more acidic, suggesting more degassing under the lake. PHIVOLCS also mentioned that carbon dioxide emissions at the volcano are down - from a peak in March of ~4,750 tonnes/day to ~2,000 tonnes/day. This does not mean that things are necessarily getting better at Taal as there have been cases where gas emissions have gone down and an eruption has still occurred, but it does make the prediction more difficult. Seismicity at Taal also looks to be on the upswing, with upwards of 25 earthquakes per day over the weekend. Meanwhile, a tropical storm arriving in the Philippines has PHIVOLCS worried about landslides and mudflows from the material erupted from Mayon over the past year.

Italy: Dr. Boris Behncke passed along (via Twitter) news of revived activity in the pit crater on Etna. The activity began with the sound of explosions on May 8 and has continued with intermittent strombolian activity since - check out the update on the Etna Observatory website.

Odds and ends: The NASA Earth Observatory posted an excellent image of the Mud Springs Volcano in Nevada, near the epicenter of the Aurora-Bodie swarm (that looks very tectonic in origin, not volcanic) - and I even wrote the caption for this image ... Over on Hawaii 24/7, the latest Volcano Watch article by the HVO staff relives the 1954 eruption of Kilauea (and you can read what Kilauea is doing right now as well) ... Finally, the Sydney Morning Herald has a travel piece on visiting White Island off New Zealand (see below) - an activity that although it is advertised as "safe", one should remember is walking in the crater of an active volcano (video).

An undated image of White Island off the northern coast of New Zealand.

Top left: Tungurahua in Ecuador erupting during the first week of May, 2011.


Tungurahua continues to eru...

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