Monday, December 30, 2013

El Salvador's Volcan Chaparrastique Erupts

A long-dormant but still historically active volcano has erupted in El Salvador. Volcan Chaparrastique (also known as San Miguel) had an explosive eruption Sunday marking the onset of activity at the volcano which has not erupted in the last 37 years. The eruption was short lived, and created a gas and ash plume that rose approximately 5km into the sky.

Authorities were quick to alert people not to enter the area, as more eruptions could occur at any time. 5000 people were ordered to evacuate near the volcano.


Reuters reports on the volcanic eruption in El Salvador

El Salvador and its associated volcanoes lie on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", the border of the subducting tectonic plate that makes up the plate underneath the Pacific ocean. The Ring of Fire is home to the most active volcanoes on the planet, the majority of which, like San Miguel, are stratovolcanoes. Typically conical volcanoes capable of great explosive eruptions.

Volcanoes on the Ring of Fire are typically more explosive due to a higher content of water within the magma. This is thought to occur due to subduction from the oceanic plates underneath the parts of the plates that are being uplifted. Water is carried under the plates as if it were on a conveyor belt, and melted when it hits the mantle. This generates magma that is highly gaseous and pressurized, so that when it breaks the surface to become lava, you get these really explosive and ashy eruptions.

It is unclear at this time whether San Miguel will continue to erupt, or if this was just a minor random blast, but I'm sure we'll be keeping our eye on it for a while. Many volcanoes have short lived episodes, and some begin with an event like this and move on to other types of eruptions. It is not possible to know what the volcano will do next, but if there are any updates, I will post them here.

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