Science: A Lull (at Minimum) in La Palma Volcano Activity

The Story:

Since Tuesday of last week, (Dec. 14) there has been a marked lull in the volcanic activity from the Cumbre Vieja on the Spanish island of La Palma, the most northwesterly of the Canary Islands. This allows optimism that at last the three-month-old eruption has ended. Geologists are itching to start crawling around the peak as its students.

Cumbre Vieja (“Old Peak”) volcano began this eruption on Sept. 19. There was a lot of warning: weeks of increased seismic activity before that date.

Cumbre Vieja is spread out over the southern two-thirds of the island, with a spine trending in a north-south direction. Both the ridge and its flanks are pockmarked with craters.

Cumbre Vieja is continuing the process of volcanism that created this island in the first place. Eruptions are rare (as mere humans measure time) but dormancy is always provisional. There were two eruptions in the seventeenth century, only one in the eighteenth, none in the nineteenth, but two in the twentieth (1949 and 1971).

Strange New Worlds: 

Lava from the flow first reached inhabited areas of the island soon after initial reports of the eruption in September. Five distinct fissures were noted on that first day, and municipal authorities ordered the evacuation of four villages. There were then three months of shifting lava routes and necessary evacuations.

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