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Unrest at Turrialba: new NASA image, and an overflight 27 January 2010

Posted by admin in activity reports, Costa Rica, NASA Earth Observatory, Turrialba, volcanoes.
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Unrest at Turrialba volcano, Costa Rica, 21 January 2010 (NASA EO-1 ALI image)

The image above, from the NASA Earth Observatory, shows ongoing activity at Turrialba volcano, Costa Rica, captured by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite on 21 January 2010. The damage caused to vegetation to the west of the volcano’s summit by acidic gas emissions is clearly visible. Hazy grey-blue fumes can be seen drifting north from the active summit crater, which is the westernmost of Turrialba’s three craters.

The current cycle of activity at Turrialba began in 2007 with an increase in fumarolic emissions and the opening of cracks in the summit area. Turrialba’s gas emissions caused severe problems for local agricultural communities during 2008 and 2009 because of acid burning of vegetation: crops have been damaged, and pasture for livestock has also been affected. On 5 January 2010 there was a small eruption, the first since 1866. Gas emissions fell in the aftermath of the eruption, but have increased again subsequently.

Turrialba volcano from the NE, 20 January 2010 (E. Duarte, OVSICORI-UNA)
View of Turrialba volcano from the NE, showing the plume being produced from the new cavity opened by the recent activity. Photograph taken by E. Duarte on 20 January 2010 (OVSICORI-UNA).

On 20 January 2010 an overflight of Turrialba took place (OVSICORI report PDF here) which reported a ‘revitalization of the column of gas and steam with suspended particles’. The photograph above was taken during this overflight. A sustained emission was reported on that day, with a thick, dark plume from the summit moving WNW, the strong wind preventing the plume from rising much above the altitude of the volcano. Some light ashfall was reported in areas near the volcano. ‘Although the transport and distribution of volcanic particles (old ash) is a new occurrence for this eruptive period of Turrialba volcano’, notes the report, ‘the minimal quantity carried this morning could be the first of much more in the near future’ as material eroded from the internal walls of the active conduit is carried up into the plume.

For all our coverage of Turrialba: Turrialba « The Volcanism Blog.

Global Volcanism Program: Turrialba – summary information for Turrialba (1405-07=)
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica – Ovsicori website
Volcán Turrialba – information from Ovsicori
Turrialba webcam – Ovsicori’s webcam at Turrialba’s summit
Monitoreo Volcanico (Red Sismológica Nacional) – volcano monitoring updates from the Costa Rican national seismological network

The Volcanism Blog


1. mariana - 1 February 2010

Thanks so much for these updates and your great blog! My parents live on the slopes of the Turrialba Volcano, and it’s great to have an English language summary of the situation. They’re not getting much info on the ground, and what little they have been told can be a bit contradictory.

2. Paul Pickering - 3 February 2010

Our very best thanks for your information and for the wonderful photos. The mayor of Turrialba came to a meeting in our village last week and confessed that the town has no idea what to do because they are receiving conflicting reports from different sets of Costa Rican volcano experts. They are, however, promising to pave our road, which loops off the Turrialba-Pacayas road between San Rafael and Santa Cruz, passing through San Antonio, where we live. It has been unpaved for years, ever since a flood tore off the road surface. Now it will be part of the evacuation route if this side of the volcano is threatened. We are, I think, the only side of the volcano not to have experienced a fall of ash. Recent shots of the volcano from our house have turned out quite beautifully because of the increased emissions.

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