Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Headaches For South American Travellers As Puyehue Cordon-Caulle Continues To Erupt

BBC news and local websites are reporting that Argentina's airport in Bariloche, which was closed due to the eruption of Puyehue Cordon-Caulle volcano in Chile, had reopened three days ago after a 7-month closure due to volcanic ash, only to close again today as another wave of ash fell on the airport. I guess you can say this is the Southern hemisphere's Eyjafjallajokull moment. Airports as far as Melbourne, Australia have been forced to close due to the amount of ash in the air, as this volcano continues a strong eruptive cycle.

Chile's  Puyehue Cordon-Caulle volcano sprang back to life last year with major ash emissions coming from the Cordon-Caulle fissure system. The eruption has ejected many thousands of tons of ash into the atmosphere, and the ash cloud has recently circumnavigated the entire southern hemisphere. The current eruption has been characterized as highly explosive, with a VEI of 3, and has ejected pumice, effused lava down the flank, and has so far released enough energy equivalent to 70 nuclear bombs!

The eruption has forced closure of over 10 airports in the Southern Hemisphere, and has caused travel delays and chaos for months. However, like the Icelandic eruption of 2010, it is far better to be late, than to be dead, so I'm certain airlines are erring on the side of caution in this case.

Aside from the ashfall, and danger of lahars, the volcano has not caused any deaths or fatalities (directly) from the eruption. It has been erupting since April/March of 2011 and so far shows no signs of quieting down.

Eruptions from this volcano are somewhat rare, with many reports of historical eruption highly questionable, with the exception of the 1914, and 1960 eruptions.

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