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Gran Canaria volcanic hazards newly mapped 19 January 2010

Posted by admin in Gran Canaria, Spain.
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Mapa de riesgos volcánicos en Gran Canaria 2010

Researchers have compiled a comprehensive study of volcanic activity on the island of Gran Canaria from 11,000 years ago to the present day and used the data to produce a new hazard map of Gran Canaria (see above), indicating the areas of potentially greatest volcanic risk in the future. The findings are published in the Journal of Quaternary Research (full reference below).

Alejandro Rodríguez-González of the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, lead author of the study, explains:

We have identified 24 volcanic eruptions that have occurred over the last 11,000 years on Gran Canaria. We know that the volcanism was concentrated in the northern area of the island and produced small monogenetic strombolian cones (eruptions of little violence, emitting lava and pyroclasts) and, occasionally, phreatomagmatic calderas (expulsion of ash).

The research involved advanced Digital Terrain Modelling which revealed geomorphological changes produced by volcanic activity and the precise mapping of individual units of volcanic activity and their products. Combined with geochemical and stratigraphic data this enabled a detailed picture of the unfolding of volcanic activity on the island during the Holocene.

Not only does the study indicate that the areas at highest risk of future volcanic activity lie in the densely-populated north of the island, it also reveals that the intervals between periods of active volcanism are becoming shorter and the eruptions are becoming more voluminous and explosive:

The new findings highlight that during the Holocene there were three clusters of volcanic activity ‘separated by four periods of inactivity’. The earliest occurred over 10,000 years ago and consisted of a single eruption in El Draguillo, to the east of the island. The other eruptions occurred between 5,700 and 6,000 years ago, and between 1,900 and 3,200 years ago … the researchers explain that currently ‘the number of eruptive centres is increasing and the periods of volcanic inactivity are becoming shorter’. In the same way, they also warn that over the past 11,000 years ‘the amount of magma emitted and the explosiveness of the eruptions have been increasing’.

Ironically, however, the researchers note that damage to the island’s ecosystem may restrict the impact of future volcanic activity. The deforestation of Gran Canaria and the over-exploitation of limited water resources has left the island very dry, reducing the chances of water interacting with magma to produce explosive activity. The next eruption in Gran Canaria, which may be in ‘200-300 years’, is expected to be a strombolian event: quiet, non-explosive, with no casualties expected.

  • Rodríguez-González, Alejandro; Fernández-Turiel, José L.; Pérez-Torrado, Francisco J.; Hansen, Alex; Aulinas, Meritxell; Carracedo, Juan C.; Gimeno, Domingo; Guillou, Hervé; Paris, Raphael; Paterne, Martine. ‘The Holocene volcanic history of Gran Canaria island: implications for volcanic hazards’ Journal of Quaternary Science, vol. 24, no. 7 (October 2009), pp. 697-709. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.1294 (abstract).

UPDATE. A translation into English of the SINC (Servicio de Información y Noticias Científicas) news release is available at EurekAlert: Volcanic hazard map produced for island of Gran Canaria.

[Found via: Actualidad Volcánica de Canarias.]

Presentan un mapa de peligrosidad volcánica de la isla de Gran Canaria – Servicio de Información y Noticias Científicas, 18 January 2010
Un volcán despertará en Gran Canaria dentro de 200 años – Público.es, 19 January 2010
Presentan un mapa de peligrosidad volcánica de la isla de Gran Canaria – Actualidad Volcánica de Canarias, 19 January 2010
Volcanic hazard map produced for island of Gran Canaria – EurekAlert, 19 January 2010

Global Volcanism Program: Gran Canaria – summary information for Gran Canaria (1803-04-)
Actualidad Volcánica de Canarias – news and information about Canary Islands volcanoes and earthquakes
Canary Islands volcanoes and volcanics – information from the Cascades Volcano Observatory

The Volcanism Blog


1. bruce stout - 19 January 2010

Very interesting stuff. I am amazed at how you manage to dig out this information all the time.

We often neglect the Canaries because they have been so dormant recently but the extent of the lava field on Lanzarote, for instance, is a sight to behold, not to mention the rather steep cone of Teide on Teneriffe, topping out at over 4000m.

Moreover, the hot spot theory doesn’t appear to work too well on them as volcanism should be trending westwards but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Another lava field on Gran Canaria the size of the one on Lanzarote would be devastating.

2. George - 20 January 2010

If there was only one scientific journal that I could have, Quaternary Research would be the one. In fact, it is the only one to which I actually DO subscribe and I must pay full price for it as I don’t qualify for any academic discounts or have access via any research libraries. I consider the subscription fee as “tuition” for my own learning. I highly recommend that journal.

3. admin - 20 January 2010

Thanks Bruce, but really the credit’s due to Actualidad Volcánica de Canarias (http://www.avcan.org/), an excellent Spanish-language source of volcano news. That’s an interesting point about the Canaries hot spot, have to look into that.

I agree with George about the Journal of Quarternary Research. Excellent content. I’m currently cut off from my academic library, and seriously missing all that wonderful free electronic access…

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