Popocatépetl, in southern Mexico, is North America’s 2nd-highest volcano. This volcano has been erupting for millennia—and the recent activity beginning in late May 2023 is bringing additional concern about the possibility of a significant eruption. The tectonic setting of this volcano has some interesting and unusual characteristics.
Erupting volcanoes are forming new real estate all around our planet. Beneath Iceland and Hawaii, hot lava upwelling from deep underground is hardening into rock. Hotspots create chains of volcanoes on these islands as a tectonic plate slowly crosses a mantle plume. In Iceland, there are also volcanic eruptions occurring from the location astride the spreading center known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The result: LOTS of lava.
The tsunami associated with Hunga Tonga eruption has sparked renewed interest in hazards associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. A recent article about geologic hazards and preparedness especially caught my attention: “A Tsunami Could Kill Thousands. Is Escape Possible?” in the New York Times. The focus is on the Pacific Northwest- –specifically coastal communities along the states of Washington, Oregon, and northernmost California.
Our planet has a high level of tectonic activity. In the past few decades, disastrous earthquakes have captured our attention. A careful look at historical records, however, demonstrates that a major volcanic eruption would cause immensely more devastation that any natural event our world has experienced recently.
Large earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis can create shock waves felt around the world – literally. The blast from the volcanic eruption on January 15, 2022, near Tonga caused spikes in air pressure recorded around the planet. We can add this eruption in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean to our knowledge of pandemics, climate change, and numerous other interconnections that tie our planet and our societies together.
Iceland is a fabulous showcase for volcanoes. The easily accessible locations to view explosions of fiery lava and ash provide unusual opportunities for volcano-appreciators of all types, giving them ringside seats for the action. In the past few decades, there have been several spectacular volcanic performances. Attempting to control volcanoes is a major challenge, although people have tried, and even achieved success.
The volcano recently erupting in Africa–Mount Nyiragongo–is one of the most active on our planet. Eruptions in 1977, 2002 and now beginning in May 2021, have resulted in a significant number of fatalities and extensive damage in the nearby and densely populated city of Goma. If scientists were calling the shots, they would relocate Goma and designate the region beneath this active volcano as a national park.
A huge volcano erupted violently about 760,000 years ago on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, forming a large depression called the Long Valley Caldera. This “super-eruption” was estimated to be more than 2,000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens...Today, the Mammoth Lakes resort area is on the western edge of the ancient caldera.