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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]

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