SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA – Almost five months after the eruption in La Palma of the volcano Cumbre Vieja ended, glowing lava can still be seen. This, while some of the affected residents are still waiting for compensation or to return to their homes.
The Canary Islands Institute of Volcanology (Involcan) reported Thursday that volcanologists are still seeing glowing lava in some vents of the crater. Despite the official end of the eruption on La Palma, experts near the volcanic cone continue to conduct various analyses.
Casi 5 meses después de finalizada la #erupcion de #CumbreVieja2021, aún se puede observar la incandescencia en algunos respiraderos presentes en el cráter/Almost 5 months after the #CumbreVieja2021 #eruption ended, the incandescence in some vents in the crater can be seen pic.twitter.com/80Iuq3dPb4
— INVOLCAN (@involcan) May 5, 2022
High temperatures remain after the end of the eruption
The eruption of the volcano La Palma, in Cumbre Vieja, lasted three months and reached an end almost five months ago. However, there is still magmatic material with temperatures up to 1,000 degrees and high gas emissions. This is true in coastal areas such as La Bombilla and Puerto Naos.
Volcanologists at the National Geographic Institute (IGN) posted on social networks in April an image of a temperature reading of magmatic material, still glowing, in the crater south of the cone showing the result: 977 degrees Celsius.
The huge volume of magmatic material
María José Blanco, director of the IGN in the Canary Islands, told the Efe news agency that “it is normal” that such high readings are still being measured. This is because there is a “huge” volume of magmatic material that continues to cool.
She predicts that “it will take a long time to lower the temperature”. And adds that the material is covered with a layer that acts as a thermal insulator. Therefore, it could take years.
Water vapor and gas emissions
In addition to incandescent material, there is another threat; water vapor and gas emissions, which require the use of specific protective equipment. María José Blanco clarifies that the areas open to the public to visit the volcano of La Palma “are not close” to those “dangerous” points that are harmful to health due to high temperatures and gases. In addition, the ground is “very hot” at those points. Therefore, special footwear is required there such as those used by firefighters.
No decrease in gas emissions either
Like the temperatures in the cones, no decrease in gas emissions is currently observed at the points on the coast. This is where the lava moved during the eruption of La Palma until it flowed into the sea and created the ‘fajanas’ (new pieces of land in the sea).
María José Blanco points out that the IGN is taking daily measurements. They do this in Puerto Naos at one of the stations in the La Bombilla area. Values are recorded here that exceed the limit levels of the sensors: 50,000 parts per million.
“There is no forecast of when gas emissions may decrease,” she admits. She also indicated that the scientific committee will meet on Friday to analyse proposals to refine the monitoring of values. This is important because hundreds of people are still unable to return to their homes.
The idea, Blanco explains, is to deploy more monitoring points. This will enable “those who make decisions” in the civil defense field to have more detailed information.
IGN volcanologist Stavros Metetlidis tells Efe that gases may have been released in other parts of the island before this latest eruption on La Palma, such as in the Fuente Santa or near the Fuencaliente lighthouse.
His theory about the high gas emissions in La Bombilla and Puerto Naos is that they were exacerbated by the contribution of fresh magma, with a higher percentage of CO2, at a shallow depth and by the fracture of the bottom caused by the seismicity associated with the eruption. . This can happen at other points as well “but we don’t measure there simply because no one lives there,” he says.
When will gas emissions stop?
Meletlidis does not have an answer to the question of when the emission of gases will stop. “If it was a pool that you would like to know how long it would take to empty, you measure the capacity and the diameter of the tap. But in a volcano you don’t know how much magma that gas contributes,” explains the volcanologist. He adds that in an eruption, “very little” material comes to the surface. “Some say it’s only going at 10%”.
See below: Amount of direct damage from volcanic eruption La Palma known