New vents open at Cumbre Vieja volcano, more evacuations ordered – La Palma, Canary Islands


The magnitude of volcanic tremor at Cumbre Vieja, La Palma, Canary Islands increased on September 24, 2021, reaching the highest intensity since the eruption began on September 19.

Two new vents have opened, producing new lava flows, with power Strombolian explosions generating impressive shock waves. 

As a result, new evacuations have been ordered for Tajuya and Tacande.

"The fountaining is remarkably stable, although at times briefly interrupted by giant lava bubble explosions that eject glowing lava bombs in all directions to more than 1 000 m (3 280 feet), often showering the whole cone with red-hot lava ejecta," said Dr. Tom Pfeiffer of VolcanoDiscovery.

"Some of these produce cannon-shot loud detonations with visible shock waves that are felt in many kilometers distance."

At least 420 buildings have been destroyed as of September 23.

The lava flow now covers more than 190.7 ha (471.2 acres), representing a change of +10.6 ha (26.2 acres) in 18 hours.

In addition, 15.2 km (9.4 miles) of roads have been destroyed.

Authorities said firefighters were forced to retreat amid intensifying volcanic explosions.

In total, since the beginning of the seismic activity on September 11, a total of 1 451 earthquakes have been located, with 87 of them felt by the population with a maximum intensity III-IV (EMS98), IGN said on September 24.

The deformation of the terrain has remained stable in recent days. Since the beginning of the activity, 22 cm (8.6 inches) of vertical deformation has been recorded in the GNSS station LP03, the station closest to the eruption. The total accumulated deformation using the Sentinel-1 images of the European Space Agency and InSAR methodology is 28 cm (11 inches).

The inclinometer has seen its signal disturbed since the beginning of the eruption.

The eruption has produced a lava flow with several fronts, which after advancing at about 700 m (2 300 feet) per hour during the first days, have been slowing down to less than 10 m (33 feet) per hour.

Since September 23, the volcanic ash column has exceeded 5 000 m (16 400 feet) in height above mean sea level.

Geological summary

The 47-km-long (29 miles) wedge-shaped island of La Palma, the NW-most of the Canary Islands, is composed of two large volcanic centers. The older northern one is cut by the massive steep-walled Caldera Taburiente, one of several massive collapse scarps produced by edifice failure to the SW.

The younger Cumbre Vieja, the southern volcano, is one of the most active in the Canaries.

The elongated volcano dates back to about 125 000 years ago and is oriented N-S. Eruptions during the past 7 000 years have originated from the abundant cinder cones and craters along the axis of Cumbre Vieja, producing fissure-fed lava flows that descend steeply to the sea.

Historical eruptions at La Palma, recorded since the 15th century, have produced mild explosive activity and lava flows that damaged populated areas.

The southern tip of the island is mantled by a broad lava field produced during the 1677-1678 eruption. Lava flows also reached the sea in 1585, 1646, 1712, 1949, and 1971. (GVP)

Featured image credit: TV Canarias

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