Mexico Weeks 11,12&13 – Colima Volcano!

The last few weeks have been busy, and then I was ill, so I’ve fallen a little behind with my blog posts! I can’t believe I’m almost 2/3rds of my way through my time in Mexico! I I think it’s about time that I tell you a bit more about Volcán de Colima.  (I probably should have started with this – but better late than never!)

Volcán de Colima, also known as Vulcan de Fuego or simply Colima Volcano, lies close to the western Pacific coast of Mexico, on the border between the states of Jalisco and Colima. It is one of the most active in Mexico, and in North America.

Colima volcano is a stratovolcano that displays explosive activity. Lava domes are a common feature in the crater, and indicate that magma is rising to the surface and cooling in the crater. The volcano usually produces vulcanian eruptions – short, violent explosions lasting a seconds to minutes. They can generate plumes of ash and gas above the volcano, and can produce pyroclastic flows. About once in every 100 years, Colima volcano produces a plinian eruption – a large explosive eruption capable of throwing out a large about of material and causing serious problems for those living and working around the volcano.

The volcano has had over 30 periods of eruption since the 1500s. Colima volcano erupted in 1991, 1994, between 1997-2011 and has been erupting from 2013 to today. The last explosion was in January 2017, but the volcano still shows evidence that it is alive and kicking!

The volcano produces plumes of ash, pyroclastic density currents (PDCs, popularly known as pyroclastic flows) and lava flows.

PDCs are super-heated clouds of gas, ash and rocks that speed down the flanks of a volcano at average speeds of around 100km/h (62mph), although they are capable of reaching around 700km/h (430mph). They are one of the most deadly volcanic hazards. You can learn more about them in this video!

The lava flows on Colima are very different to those you may see in pictures from places like Hawaii. The lava has a high silica content, which makes it thick and sticky instead of runny. This means that the lava doesn’t travel very far, often staying on the upper flanks. This is also the quality that makes the volcano explosive rather than effusive.

The volcano produces other hazards that don’t result directly from an eruption. Lahars are volcanic mud flows can travel at high speeds are capable of dragging trees and huge boulders, as well as other debris, down channels miles away from the volcano. These can pose a danger to those living around rivers and valleys around the volcano. This video shows some great examples of what lahars can do to an area!

The volcano is not the only hazard faced by the people of Colima and the surrounding states. Earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, hurricanes and tropical storms are amongst the natural hazards that central Mexico faces.

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This is just a very brief summary of the volcano I work on. The volcano has hundreds of thousands of years of history, and will continue erupting for a long time to come! A Google search of ‘Volcán de Colima’ or even just ‘Colima Volcano’ will give you much more information, news articles from recent eruptions and videos of explosions!

I haven’t done much work over Christmas, but my I will talk about my Christmas in Mexico in my next post!

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