The Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador erupted on Friday for five minutes. It’s one of 8 active volcanoes in Ecuador, and in its latest eruption, the Tungurahua (“Throat of Fire”) volcano spewed volcanic ash over 6 miles high into the sky. Tungurahua has shown increased activity in the past few months, which might indicate that a yet bigger eruption is soon to come.
Ecuador sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire, one of the world’s most active volcanic areas. Though it currently has 8 active volcanoes, there are 50 altogether in the country.
Previous eruptions of the Tungurahua volcano
Previous to the blast of ash that spewed into the air, pyroclastic flows of molten magma went down the northern and northwestern sides of the Tungurahua volcano. Pyroclastic flows can often be extremely fast, currents of hot gas and rock (tephras), which can reach speeds moving away from a volcano of up to 700 km/h (450 mph).
According to the Geophysical Institute, there was a third eruption that was weaker. the third one spewed further volcanic ash, gas, and rocks into the air.
February was the last previous eruption of the Tungurahua volcano. Reportedly, after the volcano blasted out columns of ash, the ash could be seen in the air over Quito, which is the capital of Ecuador. A third of the provinces of Ecuador were affected by this eruption in some way, and a regional airport was temporarily closed.
No casualties have been reported due to the three eruptions on Friday. The last casualties that the Tungurahua volcano was responsible for was eight years ago, when four people in a village close to the volcano were killed by lava.Two other villagers, missing after the eruption, and are also presumed to have died.
The Tungurahua volcano is some 90 miles away from Quito. It is a 16,480-foot (5,023-meter) volcano. According to Ecuador’s geophysics institute, the eruptions on Friday began at 6:10 p.m. Ecuador time. They reported that the first two blasts were followed by five minor earthquakes, or tremors.
The Ecuadorian volcano, Tungurahua, is an “andesitic-decitic stratovolcano,” according to the website VolcanoDiscovery.com., and it has been active and erupting periodically since 1999. It’s technically referred to as Tungurahua III, as Tungurahua and Tungurahua II both collapsed. Tungurahua II was constructed directly inside the caldera of Tungurahua II.
It has resulted in casualties in the past, but fortunately, the most recent eruptions on Friday did not add to the numbers of victims that the volcano has claimed. However, as a precaution, part of the population around the base of Tungurahua III has been evacuated.
Before 1999, the last major eruption of Tungurahua was in 1995, when the city of Banos was temporarily evacuated. Previous to 1995, the last major eruptions of Tungurahua occurred between the years of 1916-1918.
The website VolcanoDiscovery.com also mentioned that the eruptions of Tungurahua on Friday “rattled the windows and doors of the Tungurahua Volcano Observatory.” Though clouds of ash obscured Tungurahua for much of the five minutes when it erupted, observers could see “the expulsion of incandescent blocks that rolled down the upper flanks.”
The Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador is in one of its most active phases since 1999. The Friday eruptions appear to point to more eruptions occurring in the near future. They may be harbingers of bigger eruptions yet to come.
Written by: Douglas Cobb