Calbuco Erupts a Third Time, with New Mudflows

Summit view of current eruption (source:SERNAGEOMIN)

The glacier-covered volcano Calbuco in southern Chile has erupted for the third time today, after a few days of relative inactivity. It is sending forth a plume of ash 5 kilometers into the atmosphere, and it has created new mudslides, which are  associated with melting of glaciers as well as with recent rainfall.

As in its first eruption, seismic activity resumed only briefly before the eruption itself, just after 1pm local time. Though this eruption is, at least at present, smaller than the previous ones on 22 and 23 April, it is still sizable. And it has elicited a stronger reaction, including a public announcement by President Michelle Bachelet within hours of the event. She stated, “All measures are being taken. We are committed not to rest in our efforts to attend to this emergency as quickly as possible.”

Police directing evacuation near Calbuco. (source: YouTube/M.Klebek)

Both the National Service of Geology and Mines and the National Emergency Office have issued a red alert, the highest level. 6600 local residents have been evacuated, a larger number than for the previous recent eruptions of the volcano. Non-residents have been prohibited from entering the area near the volcano as well. National police have been instructed to enforce this restriction.

The new ash fall, and other volcanic debris, are likely to cause additional damage in southern Chile, which has not yet fully recovered from the ash falls of last week. The Washington Post quotes one local resident as saying,  “We were working, cleaning the ash and sand from our homes when this third eruption took place. I feel so much anger and impotence it just breaks me apart.”

Aerial view of current eruption (source: Chilean Air Force)

Meanwhile, the European MetOp satellites have been tracing the plume of aerosols from the earlier eruptions of Calbuco. As this animation shows, the aerosols have now crossed the Atlantic Ocean and have reached South Africa, where dramatic sunsets are now expected.

The webcams of the National Service of Geology and Mines have images which are a bit grainy, but are striking nonetheless.

For further details about the current eruption, read Erik Klemetti’s recent post  in WIRED.


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