Taal: Multiple new fissures reported, total evacuation within 14 km (8.6 miles), Philippines


Multiple new fissures (cracks) were observed around Taal volcano on January 14, 2020, two days after intense unrest began. Fissures, accompanied by intense seismicity activity, are an indication of an imminent explosive eruption, PHIVOLCS warns. The agency strongly reiterated total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and areas at high risk to pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami within a 14 km (8.6 miles) radius from the volcano. Areas around the volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. New eruption could force more than 200 000 additional people from their homes.

Taal volcano entered a period of intense unrest beginning with phreatic / steam-driven eruption at several points inside the Main Crater at 06:04 UTC on January 12, 2020. The activity progressed into a magmatic eruption from 08:49 to 20:28 UTC, characterized by weak lava fountaining accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning. According to the Tokyo VAAC, volcanic ash cloud reached an altitude of 16.7 km (55 000 feet) above sea level. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission was measured at an average of 5 299 tonnes/day on January 13, 2020.

In 24 hours to 00:00 UTC on January 14, the activity was characterized by the continuous eruption at the Main Crater due to magmatic and hydrovolcanic activity. This ongoing eruption generated 500-meter (1 640 feet) tall lava fountains topped by dark gray steam-laden plumes reaching approximately 2 km (1.2 miles) that dispersed ash to the southwest and west of the Main Crater. Flashes of volcanic lightning were observed at the base of the degassing plumes.

New vents opened up on the northern flank, with 500 m (1 640 feet) tall lava fountains, and within the main crater where steam plumes, have emanated.

Heavy ashfall from the ongoing continuous activity has fallen on the municipalities of Lemery, Talisay, Taal, and Cuenca, Batangas. 

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By 02:00 UTC on January 14, PHIVOLCS registered a total of 336 volcanic earthquakes, of which 133 were felt — M1.2 to 4.1.

At 05:00 UTC, lava fountains generated 800 m (2 620 feet) tall dark gray steam-laden plumes that drifted to the general southwest.

New fissures or cracks were observed in Sinisian, Mahabang Dahilig, Dayapan, Palanas, Sangalang, Poblacion, Lemery; Pansipit, Agoncillo; Poblacion 1, Poblacion 2, Poblacion 3, Poblacion 5, Talisay and Poblacion, San Nicolas. A fissure was also documented across the road connecting Agoncillo to Laurel, Batangas.

PHIVOLCS said that fissuring on the caldera region means that the top of the volcano has been depressurized and the high volume of magma continues to rise, indicating an imminent explosive eruption. Another indication of an impending explosive eruption is an intense seismic activity.

The agency added that similar fissures have appeared before the explosive eruption of 1911 (January 27 – February 8; VEI 3).

A total of 40 752 people were affected; of which 38 203 are taking temporary shelter in 198 evacuation centers, NDRRMC reported at 10:00 UTC today. 

The eruption grounded 603 flights (362 domestic and 241 international) due to volcanic ash. Of which, 177 have resumed operations by 18:00 LT, January 14.

Power interruptions were experienced in 7 cities/municipalities on January 12. School classes were suspended in 260 cities/municipalities in Regions II, CALABARZON and NCR. As of January 14, classes in 118 cities/municipalities have resumed.

Agricultural damage is estimated at 1.45 million USD in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite.

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Alert Level 4 still remains in effect – this means that hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.

PHIVOLCS strongly reiterates total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and areas at high risk to pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami within a 14 km (8.6 miles) radius from Taal Main Crater. Areas around Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall.

Geological summary

Taal is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines and has produced some of its most powerful historical eruptions. Though not topographically prominent, its prehistorical eruptions have greatly changed the topography of SW Luzon. The 15 x 20 km (9 x 12 feet) Talisay (Taal) caldera is largely filled by Lake Taal, whose 267 km2 (103 mi2) surface lies only 3 m (9.8 feet) above sea level.

The maximum depth of the lake is 160 m (525 feet), and several eruptive centers lie submerged beneath the lake. The 5-km-wide (3.1 miles) Volcano Island in north-central Lake Taal is the location of all historical eruptions. The island is composed of coalescing small stratovolcanoes, tuff rings, and scoria cones that have grown about 25% in the area during historical time. Powerful pyroclastic flows and surges from historical eruptions have caused many fatalities. (GVP)

Featured image credit: Paul Quiambao


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One Comment

  1. I have been focused for the last year on the possibility of a large quake on the New Madrid to occur this winter. I eventually concluded that the quake will strike around the new moon on January 24th. The prime window being 36 hours either side of the 24th.

    However, since the many events of this last weekend (3 volcanoes, major Puerto Rico quake series) during the full moon, I am now very curious to see what this new moon will trigger. I was in a conversation over at SpaceWeather in mid December which had an earthquake/solar tangent. I related my idea about a solar/New Madrid possibility for 1/24/20, but I also mentioned that the 10th through the 12th of this month would be a likely active period for large quakes. And look what took place.

    The largest quake in 100 years strikes Puerto Rico. That occurs towards the end of the last Gleissberg cycle in the early 1900s. Then the Taal volcano has a strong eruption. Looking up info on Taal I find that the four major eruptions at Taal all take place close to or at the solar minimum. The eruption in 1911 was during the Gleissberg as well. The largest of the four was in 1754. This takes place between SC 5 and SC 6, both of those solar cycles were weak just as the current solar cycle was weak. We are in a Gleissberg now just as in 1911, and 1754 looks like a Gleissberg.

    We are definitely at the heart of the current solar minimum which brings me back to my quake prediction. Volcanic activity is also correlated with Gleissbergs/grand minima. So my prediction which is centered on the 24th means that Puerto Rico could potentially have one last main quake. PR is still ringing like a bell. Then there is the potential for the New Madrid quake at this time. Lastly, Taal now comes into this cyclical picture. If it is going to have a major eruption, then the upcoming new moon becomes a strong contender for the break point.

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