Monday, 6 June 2011

Volcanism In Southern Chile

Licancabur, one of the 500 or so
potentially active volcanoes found in Chile
There has been increased volcanic activity in southern Chile over the past couple of days, with the eruptions in the Puyehue-Cordon-Caulle volcanic range. The eruptions have caused disruption, and the evacuation of 3000 residents. Communities in Argentina have also been affected due to the wind direction. The volcanic activity was preceded by several minor earthquakes, with no recorded major earthquakes yet. 

Although the volcanic eruption is quite prominent in the UK/USA news, it is not entirely unexpected. The particular chain of volcanoes in question has not erupted for around 50-years, however prior to that had erupted fairly regularly. Monitoring of seismic activity in the region has been ongoing for some time. The Chilean authorities are very used to evacuations and responding to natural hazards. Volcanism in the country is not a significant problem/threat for the vast majority of the population (despite having around 2000 volcanoes, of which 500 are potentially active), only a few villages at the base of them, as Dr John Cobin writes. Seismic activity, on the other hand, affects many more people.

Images of the ash cloud and the effects on local communities can be found on many news sites - a few good examples are the BBC News website, Denver Post Site, and the Guardian