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Dome growth continues at Colima 23 January 2010

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Low-level eruptive activity at Colima, the most active volcano in Mexico, has been causing concern recently. On 26 November 2009 an overflight reported that the lava dome, which began its current phase of growth in February 2007, filled 80% of the summit crater. According to reports of the most recent overflight, which took place on 20 January 2010, the dome now fills 85% of the crater and has reached 65 metres in height. The local civil protection authority, the Unidad Estatal de Protección Civil y Bomberos (UEPCB), reports that there is a risk of dome collapses taking place, particularly in the south-western area of the summit where instability is greatest, but that the current activity of the volcano ‘is not a risk to the surrounding population’. A 7.5-km-radius exclusion zone remains in force around the volcano.

News
Sigue creciendo domo del Volcán de ColimaMilenio, 21 January 2010
Prevén derrumbes por crecimiento de domo del Volcán de ColimaEl Informador, 21 January 2010
Prevén erupciones de baja intensidad del Volcán de Colima en México – EFE, 21 January 2010
Mantienen alerta por crecimiento de domo en el Volcán ColimaEl Informador, 22 January 2010

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Colima – information from the GVP for Colima (1401-04=)
Gobierno del Estado de Colima: Informes de Actividad Volcánica – Colima bulletins from the Colima State Government
Observatorio vulcanológico – the University of Colima volcanological observatory, with some information for Colima volcano
Colima webcam – not always operational, but nice pictures (weather allowing) when it’s working

The Volcanism Blog

Mexico: Colima’s restlessness causes concern 3 December 2009

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Colima volcano in western Mexico has the distinction of being the most active volcano in that country: over seventy eruptions (since 7690 BC ± 500 years) are listed by the Global Volcanism Program, with the most recent bout of activity beginning in November 1997 and still ongoing. The volcano is situated in a densely populated region, with over 30,000 people living within 40 km of its crater – as a result it is one of the sixteen Decade Volcanoes, active volcanoes seen as posing particularly high risks to populous areas.

During 2009 Colima (also known as Volcán de Fuego) has been emitting white and grey plumes that have reached as high as 6.4 km above sea level, and there have been occasional ejections of incandescent material. Both ground and air exclusion zones have been imposed around Colima by state civil protection authorities. The high level of activity has been causing some concern in the surrounding area, with reports of a ‘high possibility’ that the volcano is preparing to erupt; the authorities have responded by playing down reports of imminent risks, while stressing the need for local people to remain watchful and prepared to respond to any increase in activity.

On 26 November there was an overflight of the volcano which reported that the lava dome within the main crater of Colima, which has been growing since February 2007, now blocks 80% of the crater and has attained a height of 60 metres (another news source gives a height of 45 metres, diameter of 270 metres and volume of 2 million cubic metres). Material has accumulated against the western wall of the crater and against a section of the southern wall, which could produce occasional landslides down the western slopes of the volcano. High temperatures were reported within the crater.

Fresh lava flows and ejections of incandescent material some 50 metres from the crater were reported on 2 December. The latest available bulletin (2 December) from the Unidad Estatal de Protección Civil Colima reports continuous fumarolic activity and the ejection of incandescent material, without any damage or injuries.

News
Podría hacer erupción el Volcán de ColimaEl Informador, 25 November 2009
Volcán de Colima, en riesgo de erupciónEl Universal, 25 November 2009
Despierta el volcán ColimaEl Occidental, 26 November 2009
Volcán Colima no representa riesgos, según los expertosEl Informador, 26 November 2009
Realizan sobrevuelo de observación en domo del Volcán de ColimaEl Financiero, 26 November 2009
Detectan posible destrucción de domo del Volcán de ColimaExcélsior, 2 December 2009
Volcan de Colima derrama lavaEl Universal, 2 December 2009

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Colima – information from the GVP for Colima (1401-04=)
Gobierno del Estado de Colima: Informes de Actividad Volcánica – Colima bulletins from the Colima State Government
Observatorio vulcanológico – the University of Colima volcanological observatory, with some information for Colima volcano

The Volcanism Blog

Popocatépetl ash falls across Tlaxcala 23 November 2009

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Popocatepetl volcano, 21 November 2009 (CENAPRED)

Popocatépetl volcano had an active 24 hours over 21 and 22 November, reports CENAPRED, Mexico’s Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres (CENAPRED bulletins for November can be found by searching via this archive page). A magnitude 2 volcano-tectonic earthquake was recorded and there were four small eruptive events during the 24 hours preceding 11:00 local time on 22 November, the most significant of which, occuring at 18:31 local time on 21 November, produced an ash column of 3.5 km altitude. The image above, from CENAPRED’s Popocatépetl webcam to the north of the volcano, shows the situation at 18:38 local time, with incandescence and ash emissions clearly visible.

Ashfall was reported to the north and east, across the state of Tlaxcala. The Mexican press (see links below) reports that ash covered vehicles and roads in 38 municipalities in Tlaxcala, but that ash quantities were ‘minor’ and that no problems resulted. Following this event, CENAPRED reports that the volcano returned to its normal conditions.

Popocatepetl, 23 November 2009 (CENAPRED)

Since then things have indeed been quieter, with Popocatépetl producing a number of low-intensity eruptions of water vapour and gas with little no ash . The alert level for Popocatépetl remains at Level 2, Yellow (Amarillo). The webcam image above shows the volcano releasing a thin, mainly steam, plume at 10:41 local time today.

News
Caen cenizas del Popocatépetl sobre al menos 40 municipios de TlaxcalaLa Jornada, 23 November 2009
Cae ceniza volcánica en 38 municipios de TlaxcalaMilenio, 23 November 2009
Reportó el Cenapred la caída de ceniza en Atlixco, Huejotzingo y Tlaxcala el sábado pasadoLa Jornada de Oriente, 23 November 2009
Registra Don Goyo fumarola de 3 kilómetros de alturaEl Sol de Cuautla, 23 November 2009

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Popocatépetl – summary information for Popocatépetl (1401-09=)
CENAPRED – volcano monitoring information from CENAPRED

The Volcanism Blog

Mexico marks Jorullo’s 250th birthday 30 September 2009

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Mexico has been marking the 250th anniversary of the appearance of Jorullo volcano, a cinder cone in the Michoacán-Guanajuato volcanic field situated in the southern state of Michoacán. The eruption which produced Jorullo began on 29 September 1759 and continued for 15 years, with lava flows, ashfall and mudflows affecting the surrounding landscape. By the end of the eruption the cone had reached a height of 1320 metres, with a 400-metre-wide crater 150 metres deep, and Jorullo’s lava flows had covered 9 square kilometres around the volcano.

A number of events will be taking place in Mexico to mark the anniversary, including a conference organized by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Scientist Víctor Huco Garduño Monroy of the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH) has taken the opportunity of the anniversary to warn of the continuing dangers posed by volcanic activity in Michoacán:

Michoacán is located in an area of ‘high risk’ in terms of earthquakes and volcanic activity, as recorded in just over one thousand volcanic cones on the meseta purépecha, which has the potential to give rise to new volcanoes. However, there is as yet no state seismological network, nor any regional seismological or geological monitoring … There is a high rate of the emergence of new volcanoes that could in future give us a scenario like that of Paricutín or Jorullo.

The emergence of Paricutín in 1943 was the most recent eruptive activity in the
Michoacán volcanic field. Paricutín, like Jorullo, appeared from nowhere, gradually building into a cone 424 metres high and swallowing two villages and a large area of farmland before the eruption ceased in 1952. It is certain that the future will see similar eruptions in Michoacán – new Paricutíns, and new Jorullos.

News
Conmemorarán la aparición del Jorullo, el volcán más importante de MichoacánCambio de Michoacán, 28 September 2009
Inician festejos de aniversario del Nacimiento del Volcán El JorulloQuadratin, 28 September 2009
Michoacán, territorio de ‘alto peligro’ por la actividad volcánica y sísmicaLa Jornada Michoacán, 29 September 2009

The Volcanism Blog

Watching Pico de Orizaba: monitoring and hazard prevention in Mexico 5 September 2009

Posted by admin in Mexico, natural hazards, Pico de Orizaba, volcano monitoring.
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Pico de Orizaba volcano, Mexico (picture by David Tuggy, Creative Commons license)

The highest volcano in North America is Pico de Orizaba (also known as Citlaltépetl or Iztactépetl) in Mexico, with a summit elevation of 5675 m. Pico de Orizaba, situated in the state of Veracruz, has a steep-sided and elegant cone constructed of andesitic and dacitic lavas erupted since the late Pleistocene. The eruptive history of the volcano is of repeated explosive eruptions and catastrophic collapses and, while the volcano is currently quiescent (the most recent eruption was in 1846), potential future eruptions present a significant hazard risk for many thousands of people in the surrounding area of south-eastern Mexico.

An article in the local Diario Noticias newspaper today, ‘Continúan el Monitoreo del Volcán Pico de Orizaba’, reviews the potential hazards of Pico de Orizaba and the monitoring and preventive measures in place. The regional director of civil defence, Luis Palma Déctor, explains: ‘Pico de Orizaba is one of the volcanoes that is permanently monitored, with three seismic monitoring stations in place working 24 hours’, and the monitoring network is tied into the national civil defence system run by the Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres (CENAPRED) so that ‘CENAPRED is alerted in case of any situation of risk being registered’.

In addition, the rainy season brings the risk of landslips and mudslides descending from Pico de Orizaba’s steep and unconsolidated slopes and threatening the populated districts at the foot of the volcano: ‘Every year an average of three thousand families settled right across the central area are in constant danger during the rainy season, so the watercourses are constantly monitored’.

Despite the hazards it presents to those living around it, Pico de Orizaba is a singularly beautiful volcano. For an artistic view of Pico de Orizaba, see José María Velasco, ‘Volcán de Orizaba’ (1892) in our Saturday Volcano Art series.

Image: Pico de Orizaba just before dawn, from the south-east. The lights in the foreground are those of the city of Orizaba. Photograph taken by David Tuggy, reproduced here with attribution in acccordance with the applicable Creative Commons license. [source]

The Volcanism Blog

Colima volcano database 19 August 2009

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A new web-based resource is available providing information about the interesting and active Mexican volcano Colima.

The Colima Volcano Database, developed by a group of researchers at the Centro de Geociencias at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (with collaborators from other institutions), includes details of the eruptive history of the Colima Volcanic Complex, a hazard map, data from ongoing research, bibliographies, pictures and films. A mapserver is also under development.

The site is constantly updated, and new information is requested: anyone who has data, picture or publications not already included is invited to contact the website team who will add it to the database.

The Volcanism Blog

The volcanic hazards of Los Tuxtlas, Mexico 15 July 2009

Posted by admin in Mexico, natural hazards, San Martín, volcanology.
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The Los Tuxtlas region consists of an isolated range of volcanic mountains in southern Mexico, in the central southern area of the coastal state of Veracruz. The isolation of this elevated region has given it a virtual island ecosystem, enabling flora and fauna to flourish there in the most northerly tropical rainforest environment on the American mainland. In 1998 a nature reserve was established there by the Mexican Government, the Reserva de la Biósfera Los Tuxtlas.

So, it’s a very interesting part of the world. Yet while the flora and fauna of Los Tuxtlas have been extensively studied, the geology of the region has been somewhat neglected: which is unfortunate, not only because of the intrinsic geological interest of this anomalous volcanic belt, but because it is region of active volcanism. Volcán de San Martín, the dominant volcanic edifice of the Tuxtla volcanic field, last erupted in 1793 (VEI=4) and 1794 (VEI=2), if more recent uncertain reports of activity are disregarded.

However, a detailed study of volcanic activity and potential hazards in Los Tuxtlas is now under way, reports the Veracruz newspaper El Golfo (drawing upon a report in the Mexican university periodical UniVerso). A team of experts from the Universidad Veracruzana are working to compile a detailed hazard map of Los Tuxtlas which will help local authorities plan for better civil protection:

In addition to studying past eruptions and estimating future ones … [the team] will assess the hazards faced by local communities through mud and debris flows generated by the rains and storms that constantly sweep the region with its abundant vegetation and proximity to the sea.

In communities of Pajapan municipality important effects have already occurred, including the loss of human life because of debris flows caused by the heavy rains, comments Sergio Rodriguez Elizarrarás, an expert in geology and volcanology from the Centro de Ciencias de la Tierra (CCT). ‘What we want is that these tragedies are not repeated’.

The project involves mineralogical and soil studies throughout the Tuxtla volcanic complex, and detailed study of the little-known eruptive history of San Martín volcano. Funding for the project, to the tune of more than 4 million pesos (around $300,000 or €200,000), is being provided by the Mexican Government’s Fondo Nacional de Prevención de Desastres Naturales (Fopreden).

Information
Global Volcanism Program: San Martín – summary information on San Martín (1401-11=)

News
Realizarán mapa de peligros volcánicos en Los TuxtlasUniVerso, 13 July 2009
Especialistas mantendrán vigilancia en volcanesEl Golfo, 14 July 2009

The Volcanism Blog

Saturday volcano art: an Aztec volcanic vision 7 March 2009

Posted by admin in Mexico, Popocatépetl, Saturday volcano art, volcano art, volcano culture, volcano images, volcanoes.
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Codex Telleriano Remensis

This image comes from the Codex Telleriano Remensis, a copy made in Mexico in the 1560s of a contemporary Aztec manuscript consisting of calendars and registers of historical events. It is part of the page covering events in the years 1507 to 1509. There is an accompanying text in Spanish referring to 1509 that describes ‘a brightness in the night’ that was ‘very great and very resplendent’ and which ‘rose from the earth and reached the sky’. This phenomenon lasted for ‘more than forty days’ and was visible ‘from all New Spain’.

It is not clear what this ‘brightness’ may have been, but the image looks very like an erupting volcano. This has led to suggestions of an eruption at Popocatépetl, and a 1509 event is accordingly listed – usually with caveats about its uncertainty – in various reference sources. It has also been suggested that another volcano in the east of Mexico may have been responsible, such as Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) or San Martín, or that the cause may have been non-volcanic, such as a forest fire or a celestial phenomenon such as the zodiacal light. This latter explanation seems unlikely, however, given that both the text and the image are so clear about the brightness rising from the earth towards the sky. It is also notable that the depiction of the volcanic plume (if that is what it is) is similar to representations of steam/smoke elsewhere in the codex, as on the subsequent page with its illustration of ‘steaming stones’ which produced smoke or steam that ‘reached to the sky’ in 1512.

Codex Telleriano Remensis

The 1509 phenomenon is annotated as mexpanitli, which means ‘banner of cloud’ or ‘banner of smoke’. In the Codex Ixtlilxochitl, a later collection of the histories of the indigenous people of New Spain, it is described as ‘a great brightness that rose from the eastern horizon and reached the heavens; it was shaped like a pyramid, and it flamed’, a description not inconsistent with a volcanic eruption. In a 2001 publication on Las Cenizas Volcánicas del Popocatépetl y sus Efectos para la Aeronavegación e Infraestructura Aeroportuaria, the Instituto de Geofísica of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México suggested that ‘The large plume or eruption column in the codex, which reaches to the stars, with ash or sand falling like rain, could be indicative of plinian activity’. Overall there is no doubt that the illustration in the codex looks more like an erupting volcano than anything else.

Whatever the 1509 phenomenon may have been, it was regarded with awe and wonder, and subsequent historians (such as Ixtilxochitl) interpreted it as one of the omens which presaged the landing of Hernán Cortés in 1519 and the ultimate fall of the Aztec empire.

References
Codex Telleriano-Remensis, at the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI)
Elizabeth Hill Boone, Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007)
David Carrasco, Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982)
Las Cenizas Volcánicas del Popocatépetl y sus Efectos para la Aeronavegación e Infraestructura Aeroportuaria (Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres & Instituto de Geofísica de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2001) [PDF]
Eloise Quiñones Keber, Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Ritual, Divination and History in a Pictorial Aztec Manuscript (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995)
Robert Louis Kovach, Early Earthquakes of the Americas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)
Stephen A. Nelson, ‘Volcanic hazards in Mexico: a summary’, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Instituto de Geología Revista, vol. 9, no. 1 (1990), pp. 71-81 [PDF]
Dirk R. Van Tuerenhout, The Aztecs: New Perspectives (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2005)

For all ‘Saturday volcano art’ articles: Saturday volcano art « The Volcanism Blog.

The Volcanism Blog

Saturday volcano art – José María Velasco, ‘Volcán de Orizaba’ (1892) 14 February 2009

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José Maria Velasco, 'Volcán de Orizaba desde la hacienda de San Miguelito' (1892)
José María Velasco, ‘Volcán de Orizaba desde la hacienda de San Miguelito’ (1892). Oil on canvas.

José María Velasco (1840-1912) was the foremost Mexican landscape painter of the nineteenth century. He was an academically-trained artist who brought his own vision to bear on the classical European tradition of landscape painting, transforming it to give expression to the vast, dramatic, elemental landscapes of his native country. Velasco had strong scientific interests and sought to express an objective, naturalistic vision in his works, meticulously recording the details of foliage, atmospheric conditions and geology, but he also imbued his art with an intensity of vision that takes it beyond the realm of the purely objective, drawing on natural history, archaeology and topography to construct a monumental and harmonious vision of national space. He is probably best-known and most celebrated for his panoramic views of the Valley of Mexico, in which the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl feature many times.

The painting shown here, however, is of another volcano in another part of Mexico. Volcán de Orizaba desde la hacienda de San Miguelito, painted in 1892, shows the volcano Pico de Orizaba or Citlaltépetl in the south-eastern state of Veracruz, the highest peak in Mexico and the highest volcano in North America. At this time the volcano was regarded as active, having last erupted in the 1840s. In contrast to his sweeping panoramas of the Valley of Mexico, Velasco here selects a low viewpoint and a more enclosed composition. The canvas is divided into two sections: the lower is filled to overflowing with the lush vegetation typical of sub-tropical Veracruz, while the upper evokes the vast empty spaces of the arid uplands, dominated by the great sunlit peak of the volcano, soaring into the cold blue purity of the sky. The contrast between the two encapsulates the character of the Mexican landscape, both richly fertile and starkly barren, with the volcano, symbol of the eternal spirit of the nation, standing sentinel over both.

The Volcanism Blog

Increased activity at Colima 28 October 2008

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Colima volcano, February 2007 (Juan Marquez)

The Colima State authorities in Mexico reported an increase in the activity of Colima volcano over the weekend. In a quite remarkably wordy bulletin issued on 27 October, the Unidad Estatal de Protección Civil Colima reports that there were eleven explosions producing plumes varying from white to grey between 08:36 local time on Saturday 25 October and 10:22 local time on Monday 27 October. The greatest height reached by any of these ‘exhalaciones’ was 650m.

These are the first plumes observed since mid-August, and ‘the activity represents an increase compared to that recorded on recent dates’ (Milenio.com). Colima is among the most active Mexican volcanoes. The current eruptive episode began in 1997, and significant eruptions in 2005 caused the establishment of an exclusion zone around the volcano and evacuations of local villages.

Image: Colima volcano, February 2007 (Juan Marquez). [source]

News
Volcán de Colima registra 11 emanaciones desde el fin de semana – Milenio.com, 27 October 2008 (Spanish)

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Colima – information about Colima (1401-04=)
Gobierno del Estado de Colima – volcanic activity reports from the local State government

The Volcanism Blog

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