Increased eruptive activity at Cotopaxi – one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, Ecuador

cotopaxi volcano ecuador november 18 2022 f

Activity at Ecuador’s Cotopaxi — one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes increased during the afternoon hours of November 25, 2022, when the seismic network started detecting tremors associated with strong gas and vapor emissions. Minor eruptive activity was observed on October 21, 2022, prompting IGEPN to raise the Alert Level to Yellow (2 of 4).

  • After an increase in seismicity since mid-April 2015, Cotopaxi finally erupted on August 14, 2015, for the first time since 1940. Volcanic ash reached an estimated altitude of 15.2 km (50 000 feet) a.s.l. by the end of the UTC day. Highways, homes and cars near the volcano were coated in ash as a result
  • The last significant eruption of Cotopaxi took place in 1904
  • Cotopaxi is an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, located about 50 km (31 miles) south of the capital Quito, Ecuador
  • This is one of the world’s highest volcanoes, reaching a height of 5 897 m (19 347 feet)
  • It is considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes due to a glacial cover that makes it prone to fast-moving volcanic rock and mud flows, or lahars, and its proximity to a heavily populated area

Constant volcanic ash and gas emissions were reported by Washington VAAC early on November 26, with plumes rising up to 6.7 km (22 000 feet) above sea level at 00:50 UTC.1

A new volcanic ash emission to 6.7 km a.s.l. was reported at 10:00 UTC followed by yet another at 17:20 UTC — this time to 7.9 km (26 000 feet) a.s.l., lasting several hours and reaching a distance of about 85 km (52.8 miles) N-NW of the summit.

Ashfall has been reported in districts of El Pedregal, Tambillo, Guamaní, Amaguaña, Chillogallo, Quitumbe, Solanda, Lloa, Conocoto, Wholesale Market, Villaflora, and Rumipamba.

Authorities advised people to avoid the outside environment and to close their doors and windows tightly during ashfall. People leaving that must leave their homes are advised to wear appropriate clothes — long pants, gloves, shoes, long-sleeved shirts, hats, and facemasks.

A new emission was registered at 11:40 UTC to 7.6 km (25 000 feet) a.s.l.

cotopaxi 1043z november 26 2022
Image credit: IGEPN
cotopaxi 1039z november 27 2022
Image credit: IGEPN
cotopaxi 1109z november 27 2022
Image credit: IGEPN
cotopaxi 1234z november 27 2022
Image credit: IGEPN
cotopaxi 1250z november 28 2022
Image credit: IGEPN
cotopaxi volcano ecuador november 18 2022
Credit: IGEPN, B.Bernard

Geological summary

Symmetrical, glacier-clad Cotopaxi stratovolcano is Ecuador’s most well-known volcano and one of its most active. The steep-sided cone is capped by nested summit craters, the largest of which is about 550 x 800 m (1 800 x 2 600 feet) in diameter.

Deep valleys scoured by lahars radiate from the summit of the andesitic volcano, and large andesitic lava flows extend as far as the base of Cotopaxi.

The modern conical volcano has been constructed since a major edifice collapse sometime prior to about 5 000 years ago.

Pyroclastic flows (often confused in historical accounts with lava flows) have accompanied many explosive eruptions of Cotopaxi, and lahars have frequently devastated adjacent valleys.

The most violent historical eruptions took place in 1744, 1768, and 1877. Pyroclastic flows descended all sides of the volcano in 1877, and lahars traveled more than 100 km (62 miles) into the Pacific Ocean and western Amazon basin. The last significant eruption of Cotopaxi took place in 1904.2

References:

1 VAA – Washington VAAC – November 26 and 27, 2022

2 Cotopaxi – Geological summary – GVP

Featured image credit: IGEPN

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