Friday, September 14, 2012

Volcan del Fuego

The eruption of one of the world's most active volcanoes quieted down just a bit on Friday. Local residents were allowed to return home at the foot of the Volcan del Fuego, Spanish for Volcano of Fire, along the Pacific Coast of Guatemala.

This is a brief history courtesy the Global Vulcanism Program:
  •  Volcán Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua.  
  • The scarp of an older edifice, Meseta, lies between 3763-m-high Fuego and its twin volcano to the north, Acatenango. 

  • Construction of Meseta volcano dates back to about 230,000 years and continued until the late Pleistocene or early Holocene.
  •  Collapse of Meseta volcano may have produced the massive Escuintla debris-avalanche deposit, which extends about 50 km onto the Pacific coastal plain. 
  • Growth of the modern Fuego volcano followed, continuing the southward migration of volcanism that began at Acatenango. In contrast to the mostly andesitic Acatenango volcano, eruptions at Fuego have become more mafic with time, and most historical activity has produced basaltic rocks. 

  • Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded at Fuego since the onset of the Spanish era in 1524, and have produced major ash falls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

What happened?
The eruptions forced the evacuations of more than 33,000 who live around the volcano. This is almost half the population of that region.

A vulcanologist with the Guatemalan Government, said the eruptions appear to be in the final stages. This is the biggest activity since 1974, when the eruption was five times stronger than this one.

Villagers and farmers living at the foot of the volcano were awoken Thursday by a massive roar during a series of eruptions that darkened the skies and covered surrounding sugar cane fields with ash.

By Thursday evening, the ash plume had decreased to a little more than a mile high, partly due to heavy rain, which diminished the potential risk to aviation

Emergency workers reported that many villagers living around the slopes of the volcano had begun returning home. The Red Cross of Guatemala was winding down operations, according to Government authorities.

The silver lining to this scare, is that the eruption has turned into a draw for delighted tourists. They've been taking pictures of the nearby colonial city and are making plans to take night hikes to see glowing rivers of lava.

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