A webcam focused on Mexico’s volcano, Popcatepetl captured ash erupting, erupt ash from the snow covered upper slopes today. This is one of two active volcanoes in Mexico, the other being Colima with two explosions over this past weekend with ash plumes reaching an estimated 10,000 feet/3km into the skies over the volcano.
It’s been over 100 years since Colima was the site of a large eruption so researchers are studying reports as people prepare to evacuate if the volcano continues to show activity.
According to reports from CENA PRED Mexico, the translated report for the recent activity on Popcatepetl states:
In the last 24 hours the monitoring system of Popocatepetl volcano registered 57 exhalations accompanied by emission of steam, gas and ash. The most significant was presented at 06:57 and recorded 57 minutes of tremor. During the night glow was observed over the crater.
Over a 24 hour period on January 4, CENA PRED reported the Popocatepetl volcano was under a “yellow” alert as they reported “113 low-intensity exhalations” and explosions of “low to intermediate intensity.
The New York Times reports this week that the scientists’ ability to predict volcanic activity in Iceland at Bardarbungo, one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes, and home to 35 active volcanoes, is “nerve-racking” and frustrating:
…sometime soon, the top of Bardarbunga, which lies under as much as half a mile of ice, may erupt explosively. That could send plumes of gritty ash into the sky that could shut down air travel across Europe because of the damage the ash can do to jet engines. And it could unleash a torrent of glacial meltwater that could wipe out the only road connecting southern Iceland to the capital.
All of that could happen. Then again, it may not.
Scientists at the observatory in Iceland have successfully predicted eruptions about two-thirds of the time for the active volcanoes in Alaska and Iceland by studying the seismic activity and changes in the deformation of the volcano’s surface, along with other indicators, but nature often works on its own time schedule. Scientists knew months before Mt. St. Helens, the most destructive volcanic explosion in the Americas, blew that a powerful eruption was imminent. Still, it caught many off-guard. Research continues as scientists look for patterns in the shifting of magma and subduction zones under the surface.
In the Pacific Northwest, the Cascade Mountains feature Mount Rainer and Mount Baker in Washington State, and Mount Hood towers over the Portland area, considered by some scientists and geologists to be the next volcano most likely to erupt, though the last sign of eruption was in 1865-66. Mount Rainer and Baker continue to show signs of activity with the last eruption of Rainer in 1854 and Baker in 1880.
The Cascade Mountains consist of several active volcanoes (triangles) as well as many volcanic centers that were active during the Neogene and Quaternary. These volcanoes are developed above a subduction zone that stretches from northern California to southern British Columbia. The subduction zone involves the Juan de Fuca and related oceanic plates that descend beneath the western edge of North America.
Unlike typical subduction zones, no trench is present along the continental margin. Instead, terranes and the accretionary wedge have been uplifted to form a series of coast ranges and exotic mountains–Klamath Mountains. Inland from these coastal mountains are a series of valleys–Shasta, Willamette, Puget. These valleys represent old forearc basins, which have been uplifted. Major cities of the region are located in these valleys today–Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.
The Cascade Mountains include more than a dozen, large volcanoes. Although they share general characteristics, each has unique geological traits and history.
James Aber report on the Volcanism of the Cascade Mountains, Emporia State University
Like the volcanoes in Iceland, Alaska, and elsewhere, the volcanoes in Mexico are worrisome due to the impact on life in the area as well as their impact on flights in the area as ash fills the sky.
If you would like to learn more about our local volcanoes as well as the rocks and minerals changed by the force of a volcano, a visit to the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals needs to be on your list. The museum features exhibits and educational material on volcanoes.